Preparing to say goodbye to Norfolk PT. 3

What does it mean when you never feel like you ‘fit in’ where you live? Is everyone supposed to be able to ‘fit in’ to every place or situation? Is it because the place is lacking, or the person? Does there really need to be blame? I find myself asking these questions a lot this last week in Virginia. I’ve lived in VA for about 12 years now, and have never felt completely at ease, but I’m not sure whether that is just a part of me or partially locational.

And even if it is all self created, perhaps it will be easier to escape this feeling within myself as I move around this coming year. Different situations and scenes will probably help me learn more about myself and develop new coping strategies. 

This is my last week here, and still I find myself avoiding large social situations. I have a hard time being at loud, mingling events, and this is going to be a problem that I can’t move away from. While not diagnosed with any specific condition, I know I have difficulty sorting through sounds coming at me. Very quickly it all begins to mush together into one roar, and I am essentially alone in a very crowded room, unable to understand or respond to others polite attempts at conversation with me…and then there is the fact I can’t drink without getting ill and don’t smoke marijuana(and don’t particularly enjoy being around others that are drunk or high) but perhaps could that, at least when it comes to alcohol, be linked to my inability to deal with escalating volume?

Norfolk is not a bad place. As I walk around Ghent lately I find myself realizing that if I was just a visitor I’d find it very charming. Specifically during Spring.

Wisteria and fast growing passion flower vines crawl up fences and hang over walkways. The air smells of dirt from freshly planted gardens and dinner being cooked in kitchens with windows wide open to let in temperate air. The Hague hasn’t started stinking from cooking in the summer heat yet…it will eventually, but right now it’s lovely.

And the pets! While I may have a hard time getting to know people here, I sure do know the names of all the dogs in my neighborhood. It does feel good to live somewhere that openly loves their fur friends. It tickles me to see the restaurants up and down Colley offer bowls of water to dogs, or allowing patrons to enjoy their dinner while their dog rests at their feet.

Another thing I’ve recently realized I’ve taken for granted is that Norfolk has good food! And this can’t be taken for granted! This may sound small, but it’s so important. On road trips I find myself seeking local restaurants, not chains, to eat at in an effort to support small businesses and get a more authentic experience of a place, and I’m usually disappointed by freezer burned fries and some typical form of ‘hotted up’ chicken. And then I wish I could walk down the street and eat at Luna MayaTen TopPasha or any of the other excellent restaurants Ghent can boast. Even getting a good cup of coffee can be an ordeal elsewhere. I wish I could put a mini Fair Grounds barista in my pocket while traveling.

While Ghent and downtown Norfolk are very walkable, I still find myself wishing I could take the city and rearrange it as if I were playing The Sims. There are a lot of interesting shops, restaurants, lovely houses and views. Sometimes I feel like they are all hiding from each other. Shops and galleries that would pull in lots of foot traffic if clustered together are tucked here and there out of each others, and customers, sight. 

With Lavender and Lace was a last minute discovery and there I was able to turn some of my vintage clothing into road trip cash. And I’m sure everyone can agree that Kitsch is a welcome addition to Ghent’s main strip(and you can buy ginger ale scented perfume there).

I’m rambling and vacillating between being relieved to leave and regretful. Oh Norfolk, I’m confused by you, but that is very likely my fault.

I’ve met and become friends with many wonderful people here. There is a lot of creativity and ambition around Norfolk and I’m proud to know many of the best people in this town, but still, I find myself somehow unable to interact with the people here as a group/town/culture. I keep them all in individual friendship slots.

I’ll end this wobbly post by quoting Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins –

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
– Bilbo Baggins

PREPARING TO SAY GOODBYE TO NORFOLK PT. 2

As I prepare to depart from Norfolk I’ve decided to try to attend as many local events as possible, which sounds easy and simple but with all the errands and chores I need to accomplish before leaving for NC, combined with my shyness, it has been a bit of a task.

This past weekend Norfolk embraced Team Better Block and decided to transform a dilapidated section of Downtown Norfolk into a temporary arts district, an important move while the proposed Norfolk Arts District is being reviewed by the powers that be.

Read more about the event at AltDaily. There is a lot more to see and talk about then my little snippet here.

One of the more promising exhibits was Alchemy NFK. The hope is that the building will become a permanent facility, housing gallery/shop space and working studios. This is important because while as fun Better Block was and appeared, it is temporary. The test is to see what sticks, what Norfolk will allow to flower, what will receive consistent support from the city and citizens. Part of me feels a bit wistful about leaving at a time when things suddenly seem to be happening…but honestly, I’m not sure what will happen with Norfolk, and I am solitary, therefore making me not even likely to be much of a help to the community even if I did remain. I hope this next year will make me a better and more useful person. Perhaps I can return in the future and be a better part of the community.

Wall of Litho Prints by Heather Bryant, Sculpture by Diana Caramat, Paintings by Kelly Herring.

Check out the food trucks in the background!

I’ve been walking a lot, hoping to find things I’ve been too busy or self absorbed to notice or appreciate. I’m sad to be leaving Norfolk during Spring. I love the way Ghent residents live on their porches and let their gardens run wild. I love the variety of buildings and walkability of the neighborhood.

On my walk home from the Better Block event I found a hidden gallery full of early 19th century paintings, very much mariner themed, but it was nice to find something new very close to the proposed arts district. There is going to have to be variety to maintain sustainability…

Kellam Galleries was a neat secret space. I took some photos while inside, but the only thing that matters is this painting of a mermaid fighting a black belt in karate. It is called Karate-do, by Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr. and can be yours for $14,000.00!

PREPARING TO SAY GOODBYE TO NORFOLK PT. 1

As I prepare for my trip to Asheville I’ve been working to create a cache of reference material for me to draw in my fresh new moleskine…the whole point of this year is to draw, refine my drafting skills, refrain from painting till my foundations are stronger and hope that in the end I learn more than I already know and can become a better painter as a result.

I’ve been setting up still life compositions in my shadow box and photographing those, hoping to come up with something interesting, dynamic and steps beyond my past paintings while still building on a theme.

But my main love is portraiture, so I’ve enlisted some local artists into posing for me. Of course, drawing from life would be ideal, but currently not convenient. I’m just glad I have such interesting friends willing to pose for me, and it’s been a nice way to see people before leaving while still getting tasks taken care of.

I first fetched metal smith and ODU instructor Jane Ritchie from her studio in Norfolk, then was lucky to have Mallory Jarrell stop by my place after hanging a show at local boutique Kitsch. You should definitely click on their names and check out their work. It’s nice to see such diverse work being done around here.

I then actually made the effort(I am a recluse) to go check out a show happening at Fawn Street Studios and was glad I did. I hadn’t even know about the studios and warehouse till recently. I hope they have more shows there and put the space to good use. Below are pictures from the event, Peanut Butter Fluxxx. I especially liked the work in the second from the bottoms photo, all done by artist Will Clark.

Asheville Adventuring Around

I had a super awesome time last week visiting North Carolina’s Asheville area as a fact finding mission. I was put up by artist and designer Chelsey Barnes and her boyfriend(and their pug, Fig Newton)for the week. Staying with friends makes trips so much easier on the psyche and wallet!

I visited my future instructor, artist Angela Cunningham at Marshall High Studios, a renovated and repurposed former high school building in Marshall NC in the middle of a river, divided into studio spaces for artists of all kinds. I took photos but did a terrible job due to my lack of picture taking skills and the gloomy skies. Visit the above link to learn more about the space.

River Arts District

I feel like I only skimmed the surface. The combination of my horrible sense of direction and the dismal weather kept me to cozy cafes, darting out here and there in order to lurk the many open studios in the reclaimed industrial section of the mountain town. On my way out of town I was sad to realize I was driving by several other working studios that I hadn’t discovered during my visit…next time I suppose, and that won’t be too far in the future. Asheville is not a perfect place, but there is something very appealing about it. There is a lot of art being made there, not all of it great, but more importantly there is a centralized community. At least I think there is. It felt that way. In general the spaces were very walkable, the people interested and there was a distinct feeling I came upon again and again. There wasn’t a cagey sense of competition when speaking to other artists. There seemed to be an understanding that not everyone was vying for the same audience and dollars, or even if that was the case, it didn’t feel like it mattered. 

Please forgive my sad iphone photo skills.

Daniel Mcclendon at Lift Studios was a pleasure to talk to. The space was beautiful and completely full of his paintings, both complete and in progress. 

Wedge Studios was a fun space to explore. It was a bit of a hive and I liked that. Below are pictures from that section of buildings. I unfortunately am not currently able to identify every artist represented, but will edit as I discover who did what and so on…

Pictured below is the entrance to artist Julie Armbruster‘s work space. She was also kind enough to chit chat with me.

I really dug the airy feeling of Melanie Norris‘ section of the building.

Curve Studios, another cluster of buildings seemingly dedicated mostly to ceramicists, metal smiths and fiber artists.

Phil Mechanics Studios was pretty much deserted when I visited but I was still able to wander around the building’s floors and cement stairwells.

I traipsed through a few open studios on Clingman street, shown below…

Odyssey Ceramic

I stopped into the Pink Dog Creative stretch of buildings and talked a while with artist Mary Webster who was kind enough to tell me about her experience in the area since moving there. 

Not much further down the street I met artist Richard Christian Nelson. Again I was amazed at the willingness of the people I met to put aside their work for the moment in order to chat with me. He was especially enjoyable to talk to considering his work was closer to what I’m hoping to learn while studying with Angela in Marshall NC. He also teaches workshops in Asheville, emphasizing anatomy and observational skills.

I also popped into Cotton Mill Studios. I appreciated the atmosphere in Studio G. Below are pictures of what appears to be a life drawing class set up and master copies by Bill George.

Downtown Co-Ops and Galleries

Downtown I enjoyed how clustered the local galleries were together and near the Asheville Art Museum. They all shared space and together most likely pull crowds from place to place…which is how it should be! I was also impressed with how pulled together the co-op galleries were. None felt like a flea market. The work was diverse, hung well on clean modular white walls. They felt inviting and also professional without being sterile.

Blue Spiral Gallery was beautiful inside. It was a three floor gallery full of contemporary work and what appeared to be a traveling collection. The lady at the front desk informed me the gallery was designed with the help of a local architect. My favorite pieces seen there were the lil’ organic sculptures created by Amy Gross and paintings by Charles Ladson.

The Satellite Gallery was another space I am happy I got to explore. It’s a smaller space but efficiently used. I popped my head in late last Thursday to find the owner busy hanging a show, but he was kind enough to allow me to look around.

Over all I am eager to go back this coming May. There is a lot more for me to see and knowing that is exciting and gives me hope. It was especially interesting considering all the effort to create an artist district here in Downtown Norfolk. You can read about the project efforts on it’s facebook page, Norfolk Arts District. Being essentially an ‘art tourist’ in Asheville has made me want to approach Norfolk as one as well for another photo blog post. Asheville’s arts district has a working grittiness to it that I’m not sure Norfolk would embrace, but that I think isn’t something they’ll be able to avoid if in fact they want it to work here. Painting, sculpting, glass blowing, et cetera doesn’t happen usually in pristine spaces. It’s work and messes are made. It’s those messes that make the spaces relatable and appealing, at least it does to me. I hope Norfolk at large doesn’t remain afraid.