Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Takes on the Bridge Theme

I dug in along the canal today, down from the bridge that- when I was a kid- was the only way to cross over the canal and follow the towpath. That was before all the development on the south side of the canal, development of which I largely approve. The canal's longevity will depend upon people appreciating it, and I'm so glad those attractive offices and apartments have been a success. This bridge was pure, squealing delight for us kids when my dad would take us biking along the canal, and later it represented a bridge to solitude for this angst-ridden mod teenager of the 1980's. Now that the Crescent Trail exists, I usually bypass it when I go biking, but I do relish the challenge of making that turn up the north ramp without putting my foot down. Here's to the bridge of squealing delight and liberation!

Bridge to Younger Days (16 X 20"). Collection of Thomas Wentworth.

Taft Bridge, from Rock Creek (16 X 20"). Sold.
The Taft Bridge is the Connecticut Avenue bridge over Rock Creek Park. It's arguably the most elegant and lyrical of Washington's big bridges. It went up when my dad was a kid, and he grew up calling it the "million-dollar bridge", because it was reportedly the first bridge built in Washington that cost a million dollars. It doesn't exude quite the power and majesty of Key Bridge, but I'm always impressed by how it works with the landscape and how the landscape works with it. This is a big part of what excites me about bridges. They represent such artificial impositions on the landscape, and yet the landscape adapts and ultimately doesn't give a damn. And bridges make such a difference in terms of improving the quality of human life. One notes this when one goes to a country like Laos which has almost no bridges. If the people knew what they were missing, they might rise up and complain. But they don't and so haven't... and ironically are a happier people than we are... but I do think they'd find more delight in a few more bridges.

In process, after leaving Jack's Boathouse

Now complete

KeyBoom! (30 X 40"), sold.

This was started the day after KeyBam! was done. Paul of Jack's Boathouse and his staff were very generous and accommodating of this scruffy painter who wandered in. Jack's Boathouse is an amazing resource, by the way. For $12/person/hour you can rent a kayak or a canoe and cruise all over the river. People file in on their lunch breaks, and they are set up in a jiffy and on their way. No hassles, no standing around. Very well-run outfit. Get thee to the river!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Take it to the Bridge!

This September I've been taking the easel to some bridges by our house here in Georgetown. First I did two studies of a little wooden bridge over Montrose Creek that has funny criss-crossing jumping-jack construction. It's in shady, lush woods that drop down to Rock Creek. Study #1 looks upstream, and the next day I came back and painted looking downstream. The light was so smooth and neutral, with occasional bursts of yellow to break it up.

Montrose Bridge #2 (16 X 20")

Montrose Bridge #1 (16 X 20)

Then I found this great spot on a dock right under Key Bridge where, if it isn't too windy, I can really get the full effect of that monumental, jazzy, sensuous beast. Wow! I banged out this study in just a few hours and was very pleased and came back the next morning with greater ambitions and a much larger canvas (30 X 40"). It was nerve-wracking working on a larger scale down there. The wind gusted periodically and finally the sun grew too strong and I lugged my piece back to the studio where it now languishes, awaiting either a rainy day or very serene conditions by the river. I guarantee it will be grand when it's done!

KeyBam! (18 X 24")

Yesterday I went back to Mt. Zion cemetery, on 27th & Q Streets, NW. It is a traditionally black cemetery owned by Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The cemetery is pine-shaded and is now being tended after decades of neglect. It contains a vault overlooking Rock Creek that is reported to have been a station on the Underground Railroad. The big trees, wild breezes, and the presence of so many long-overturned and forgotten tombstones give the place an otherworldly feel. My grandmother and her sister are buried in the traditionally white Oak Hill cemetery, visible through the trees, across a ravine, and over a fence from Mt. Zion. This painting was done facing toward my grandmother, who rests right across R Street from her old house.

Through to Grandmother, from Mt. Zion Cemetery (16 X 20"). Collection of Silvana & Abraham.

These will all be hung, with a number of others, at the office of Hancock Legal, PLLC, at 1803 Connecticut Ave, NW, on the 3rd floor. There is an open house scheduled for October 1, and my old friend Manuella Hancock invited me to take advantage of the space and the discerning audience due to descend for her open house. Let me know if you want to come, and I'll put you on the list.