Wednesday, January 19, 2011

North Rochester, December 13-15

In early December, when three people walked into the old frame shop near Culver and University where I was looking through a stack of abandoned moldings, I didn’t really expect one of them to be my next host.

Among them, though, was Danny Deutsch, the owner of Abilene, whom I'd met before. And he had heard of my project.  I explained that for my last stop of 2010 I wanted to stay in a north Rochester neighborhood.  Did he happen to know anyone who lived there and might want to be a host? He sort of grinned and pointed to his friend, Cheryl Bagley.  This is the view from her window:

Serendipity plays a big role in my Itinerant Artist Project (IAP). Before I started doing art tours I attempted to control a lot more of the painting process and my life in general. I was especially cautious about exposing myself to unexpected influences, other people’s ideas, and new places.

The IAP and related projects like ROC-ART have encouraged a shift in attitude. Being fretful or guarded doesn’t work too well. So I at least try to welcome the unexpected and see where it will take me.

Nye Park, off of Norton Street, near St. Paul, is a street I’d never been to, in a part of the city I barely knew. I have to confess that I’d only been through the general area two or three times in my life, and the neighborhood was somewhat alien to me.

It was late afternoon when I arrived, with a bitter wind and lake-effect clouds bringing dusk on early. My host wasn’t home yet, so I drove a few blocks to the Genesee gorge, to get my bearings, more contact with nature, and a walk.  Nature felt inhospitable in the gorge – icy cliffs, a roiling, dirty river, more wind – but I was glad for it. Glad also to recognize the Seth Green Trail, the paved road that took me from a parking lot off St. Paul down to the river, at a point more or less directly beneath the Driving park Bridge. I’d been there on a geology field trip in the ‘90s. And once more, several years later, to put in a canoe.

The painting of the bridge that leads off this blog entry was done from a photo I took near the low end of the Seth Green Trail. When it's 10 degrees, dark, and snowing outside, I tend to paint inside and sometimes will work from the 2" monitor on the back of my digital camera (with memory and sketches playing an important role).

Painting from life was pretty much confined to views from inside the house looking out, two of which I tried the second day.  And I did some other paintings based on a snowy walk I took with Cheryl on the second day:  north to Seneca Park, across the Genesee on a pedestrian bridge, and back, via the Route 104 bridge. It was a wonderful, long trudge. The best part was the elegantly engineered ramp that  leads gradually up the west gorge wall from the pedestrian bridge. Half way up the ramp we were met by a large, mixed flock of birds, one of which I later painted.  This next panel is really 2 small, separate paintings:

That evening, after a second exceptionally good dinner and a game of Dazzle (a board game of my own devising that I play with friends)... I wanted to do another painting from life, which meant finding a window to look out.  I'd already noticed the Christmas lights next door and sort of wanted to paint them.  So I did.  Cheryl later told me that the curious mound of snow in front of the bush that I saw and suggested is a shrine to the neighbors' deceased daughter.  If I'd known I might have avoided painting it out of respect, but maybe painting it was not a bad thing:

The Nuthatch painting and the second painting shown in this entry (a view of the neighbor's house) were actually done on the third day.  By the time I left -- after a few days of getting to know my host and her cozy house, and after several exploratory walks at all times of day -- I felt a curious attachment to the neighborhood. Going back to Brighton and Pittsford, my usual stomping grounds, felt like a bigger transition (and almost a longer journey) than coming back home from California.  The suburban world I was returning to did not make as much sense and somehow did not feel as real or honest after my short stay in north Rochester.

I found myself unwilling to drive straight home and instead drove further north, to the lakeshore, where I stood a while, as churning gray-brown waves battered the long, snowy beach, and the wind blew light flurries from ragged snow clouds. 

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