Sunday, May 30, 2010
Yesterday I took a long walk around Leesburg, VA, and took my camera along for the stroll. I haven't done something like this in a long time. Probably not since last Fall, when Kris and I went around town with our cameras in tow. Unfortunately, Kris, who works part-time at a local, major shopping establishment, was stuck there all day, dealing with the hoards of bargain-happy customers. She got home wiped out and exhausted, telling me about how much people spend without much thought about it. Crazy thing is, this kind of thing happens every time she works there. Though I did do lots of work around the apartment, I still felt kind of bad for enjoying such a peaceful, quiet day outdoors in the gorgeous weather. When I dropped Kris off and later picked her up from her workplace, I was astounded by the onslaught of cars. Normally the lot is pretty full to begin with, but this took things to a whole new level of absurdity. To me, it was quite a hellish spectacle and I felt bad my wife had to deal with it. Luckily, she's a far more happy-go-lucky person than I, and she can roll with the punches and has a lot of fun with her fellow employees, seeing the humor in just about everything. It made me wonder how people could waste a beautiful day away shopping for clothes, but then again, we live in an area where many people feel the need to keep up with the Jonses. This strange behavior has always baffled me. Buying clothes you need is one thing. I guess this is why we as a country (and increasingly the world) are in some massive, dangerous debt. If I'm coming off as a bit judgmental, I make no apologies. I don't envy these people but instead, feel pretty bad for 'em. The need to fill a void with things and more things and not everyday experiences is sad. I know I've been guilty of it on occasion. Who hasn't? Anyhow, I think many people need to stop and begin to question their values. In the meantime, these are some photos I took while on my walk yesterday. Maybe I should go to my wife's workplace where there are still sales going on amidst droves of shoppers, and take a bunch of photos to illustrate the contrast between a peaceful walk and a day of shopping. On second thought, maybe not.
* see these photos much lager, and more of them HERE
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I had never been to NYC until July, 2006. My friend Chris, from Pittsburgh and I decided to go that summer, mainly to check out some of the well-known art museums. It was both a miserable and fun experience for me. Most of the misery came from both my full-blown bout with poison ivy and the extreme heat while visiting. With such an awful combination, I could barely hold my sanity together. Still, there was so much to see and do, and the many sights and sounds served as somewhat of a distraction. It seemed strange having to pay so much to get into the art museums when I've been spoiled by all the great free museums here in the DC area. The expensive parking and food prices were off-putting as well. Strangely enough, the things I enjoyed most about NYC were unexpected surprises such as the Virgin Megastore's superb selection of music. Also, things like reflections on buildings and shadows cast from structures both natural and manmade were in abundance. My friend, who has a good eye for design and interesting shapes and forms (but never carries a camera) kept pointing out things to me, like the content of the photo you see here. It was taken right outside the MoMA on a sunny afternoon. Taking this, and similar photos made me think how often we look at things but don't really see them. The same can go for sound as well, and I find it takes a real effort sometimes to stop, or at least slow down and get into the sights and sounds we might normally take for granted. Imagine that - modern art found outside the Museum of Modern Art. It's all about how we frame things.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
On Pittsburgh's Northside, there is a big old brick structure that once served as a mattress warehouse. The place was eventually converted into what is known today as The Mattress Factory - one of the world's premier installation art centers. At first glance you wouldn't know it was an art space, since most of the structure blends in well with much of the run-down architecture in the area. The Northside, and much of Pittsburgh itself seems to have gone to the dogs, however, there are diamonds in the rough, and much of it has to do with the arts, despite the 'burgh being a sports-obsessed town. One of my favorite things about the Mattress Factory is the surrounding exterior, which has an almost eerie resemblance to a post-nuclear fallout zone, after nature had begun to reclaim it's place once more. You can walk around and explore hidden spaces, and if you listen carefully you'll hear some beautiful noises emanating from a permanent sound sculpture installed in the "garden" by German sound artist Rolf Julius. In the photo above, I noticed a man who had been sitting for a long time, almost completely still, in the one chair sitting outside at the Mattress Factory. At first I thought he was a sculpture himself, then I thought it was a possible act of performance art. I don't recall ever sitting in the chair myself during my many visits to the Mattress Factory - it always seemed so fragile and kind of dirty. This didn't appear to have any effect on the man sitting quietly in the chair however, who appeared to be lost in a state of deep thought.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
For a couple of years I lived in Winchester, Virginia because the rent was so cheap. Soon gas prices began to skyrocket and the morning and evening commute got too long and congested. By then, I was ready to return back to Leesburg, where I've been ever since. During my stay in Winchester, there wasn't a whole lot going on unfortunately. One of the things that made staying out there worth it for a little while was the Handley Library, only several blocks down the street from me. The building itself is a beautiful and unique historic structure, which includes the glass dome pictured here. Usually on Sunday, around 11:30 AM I'd grab a coffee or tea and wait at the coffee shop across the street until the library opened at noon. By then, a line of people had usually formed outside the library doors and it was always nice to be greeted by the big, illuminated glass dome above the entrance walkway. The place had an amazing collection of independent films on DVD, most of which were screened at the library in their beautiful underground theater, every two weeks. I'd usually walk out of there later that afternoon with a stack of those films on DVD and return them the following Sunday. The library was always a good place to unwind after work as well, and often times I'd grab a newspaper and some magazines and leaf through those for an hour or two in the magazine room. You would occasionally find some homeless men or train jumpers hanging out in there, but more often than not, they were never a problem. For me, the library was always a place of comfort and refuge, and while I've spent time in many, the Handley will always be my favorite.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The first time I visited the animal park in Leesburg was in 2007, when I took this photo while on a hay ride. There's a big, shallow pond at the edge of the park full of big fish, as well as ducks and geese. They seem to coexist peacefully, minding their own business - something I've seen in many ponds in many places. It was interesting to see their response when the tractor, full of people along for the hay ride, would drive on by the pond and stop, so people could throw a hand full of complimentary seeds into the water. In no time, the fish would all appear, flopping over and under each other in a mass feeding frenzy. It was a surprise they could even find any food at all. Several ducks (I counted six in this photo) would also converge, not frazzled by the wild, moving mass of fish, looking for their share of food as well. I was going to attempt to make some semi-deep, pretentious analogy about the fish and human behavior, but instead I'll just say, this was really cool to witness and made for a great shot.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Happy May! Finally, the weather is warming up some out my way. I'm trying too hard not to think about Summer Break - it's still a long way off, but the temperatures are starting to suggest otherwise. I find one of the biggest challenges is living in the moment, rather than planning ahead all the time. When I'm most "in the moment" is when I'm working on some kind of art. Kris recently asked me why I don't draw all the time like I used to (when she first met me). I should have told her it was because I got married, but I don't think she'd have found that quite as humorous as I might have. Truth is, she's very supportive and encouraging and is always pursuing something creative herself. This is why I started my new A Splotch Monster A Day blog, so that even if I didn't have much time to draw or create, at least I made some effort. If you've been following that blog, you're already familiar with some new friends featured below. Above is some work from a couple of sketchbook exchanges I belong to, as well as a tattoo design, which is one of several I've been commissioned to draw. I think this might be the last time I feature Splotch Monsters here so they don't end up taking over this blog. I think they'll be quite happy residing at their new found home from now on.