Friday, December 31, 2010

Atlantic Avenue, November 3-5

I’ve never been quite sure where – or what – the neighborhood of the arts is, but the area loosely defined by Atlantic and Anderson Avenues has always been one of my favorite parts of Rochester. 

In the comfortable mish-mash of residential, industrial, and commercial development I have found a lot that interests my eye (and mind). There are billboards and weeds, smokestacks and factories. Some of the city’s most important cultural institutions and cafes are found just few blocks from train yards, tilting houses, and crumbling wasteland. There’s something both dynamic and arresting in its endless array of odd juxtapositions, pleasing geometries, unexpected oppositions, and the fine balance between down-and-out and up-and-coming.

For some reason I’m especially intrigued that a place like the Barrel of Dolls is right across the street from the New York Figure Study Guild – one of the region’s more vital art centers, where the human body is studied attentively but (one assumes) with such different intention. Yet both are there, at the margins and off the beaten path for different reasons.

Here is an enlarged detail from the second painting shown above:

When I started the ROC-ART, the one thing I knew is that I had to make a stop in the Anderson-Atlantic area. Finding a host proved easier than expected. When I was at the Dryden Theater one day in early spring, I asked the sometimes ticket-taker (and sometimes writer for City Newspaper), Kate Stathis, if she knew anyone in the area who might want to put me up in exchange for a painting. She said she would, and that was that. 

Here's the view from the 3rd floor of Kate's house.  The back of the flatiron building is my favorite wall in all of Rochester:

Being a guest in unexpected places has its benefits.  I'd been curious about the Greek wine, retsina, but had never tried it.  Kate had some on hand, and it went well with her feta cheese, garlic and tomato pasta.

The first painting I did at this stop, of Anderson Alley at night, isn't shown here, as I have yet to make a scan of it.  That painting was made for of the opening show at the Shoe Factory, which took place a few days after the painting was finished.  Meanwhile, here's another view of Atlantic Avenue:

On a somewhat sunny late afternoon, at the very end of my stay, I decided to look for inspiration in a  different direction -- the other side of University Avenue. Because I'd met my host at the Dryden Theater and because we both like the Eastman House gardens, I used my last hour of daylight and energy to paint this final composition. 

It's something I'd wanted to do for years, but the complexity, the difficult scale, and my sense that the sundial garden (as I call it) is more an experience than a scene had kept me from trying.  On tour I think less and paint more. And there's sometimes a sense of urgency or necessity that keeps me from talking myself out of taking chances.


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