Reentry

I  just woke up in my own bed for the first time in a month . Yesterday morning, up at 3 a.m., I drove through the French countryside, village after village, on the slowest route I could find to the airport. The spectacular full moon hovered all the way.  I noticed a while back that if I drove in the country with my windows down I could hear cricket sounds the whole time. This morning in North Carolina, I drove to the grocery near dawn so I could have milk for my coffee.  Over and over I have forgotten I’m …

Spring Planting

A week from today I’ll be trapped in the airless confines of multiple airports and planes working my long slow way back home. I’m feeling the things one feels at the conclusion of a residency, the end of a journey. I noticed, at other less exotic residencies, how the artists bond, share their stories, thrash through opinions about art, and ideas about the making of it. As the door begins to close on that magic space, it seems one first withdraws emotionally, then physically. There’s a hole in the shape of that person when they are gone. It’s as painful …

Visiting the Deep Past

Finally, I have managed to shrug off the strangeness. I have found a level of ease with everything from starting a new painting to driving a different car. Yesterday I explored outside my circle of familiarity, traveling to a village about 10 km away to see a storied chapel, and really, to visit another time altogether. We drove on looping rhythmical roads over gentle hills, surrounded by nothing but agriculture. Lachapelle was the destination, with only about 100 inhabitants. Its centerpiece is a thousand year old chateau Templar. Beside it sits a tiny Baroque chapel built in the 18th century, …

Wood Smoke and Roses

  Twice today I had to climb the steep hill up into the village to the little grocery.  It was my night to cook supper.   At lunchtime I went up to finish my shopping, and then, when I poured my first glass of rosé at 5:00 and started cooking, I realized I had no butter, so I had to walk back.  The distance from our kitchen to the grocery store is the same as the distance from my kitchen back home to the backside of my farm.  Round trip, one mile.  The big difference is that hill.   On …

Good Food

Thursday nights in this little French village, the old hotel that clings to a precipice overlooking everything else plays host to a tiny organic market in the lobby. A couple of farmers sell their home grown carrots, cauliflowers, mushrooms and homemade breads. It’s on the honor system and you do the math. Meanwhile, on the terrace the hotel conducts  tapas night with local wines. We  picked a table on the end of the terrace, and turned our backs on the setting sun, after filling our bags with homegrown vegetables. We had the remarkable tapas and the lovely soft wines to …

Mining in France

    Staring at a stucco wall struck by sunlight, covered in vines, I find myself beside a river, beneath a hill, in the agricultural belly of France. It’s a rare opportunity to briefly live and work in this warm light, surrounded by a thousand kinds of patina. For a month I have a residency at Moulin à Nef in Auvillar. It is the French outpost of the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. VCCA is one of the midwives who delivered me into my current state as an artist. The opportunity to live and work in their community for the …

Time out of time

It’s been a daydream of mine for a long time– to find a little house to rent in France and stay there long enough to become chummy with the butcher. This was the year I finally did it.  I rented a cottage on the grounds of the restored 15th century Chateau de Lerse in the southwestern region called the Charente.   Though I thought I knew what to expect I did not know how truly rural and agriculturally focused France could be. I believe the grounds of the chateau were the quietest place I have ever been.  The fine old …

The Cinderella Experience

I’m just home from a true Cinderella week in Paris.  I love that metaphor because I’m literally cleaning the ashes out of the woodstove one day and sitting under 15 chandeliers in Paris having tea, the next.  My son Gordon had an exhibition which opened in Paris last week and I made the rash decision to take a week away from my students and be there.  Turns out it was a completely sound and life-expanding decision.  Everything conspired to make it magical and nourishing. There was time to joke around with my son, and share the discoveries that are around every …

My Old Friend

Call me corny and predictable, but I’m a huge devotee of Monet.  I know, there are a thousand bathrooms in a five mile radius where a Monet poster hangs.  I know.  But I fell in love at 13, and I never recovered. My parents took me to NYC that summer.  We went to the Met.  The way I remember it, and the way I describe it to my 14, 15 and 16  year old students is:  coming around a corner in the museum, my eyes glazed over from Masterpieces,  I saw my first live Monet.  All my synapses fired.  I …