I Break For Art

Bright and early this morning I took the dogs for a two mile walk in the neighborhood. I wanted to get them taken care of so I could run off for a day trip to Richmond, VA. As a former art teacher and still practicing artist, I have a strong passion for the arts, and when something good comes through I have to see it.

Several years ago I took a summer educators class through the National Portrait Gallery called Learning to Look. The class was excellent. It taught us different methods of getting our students to look at and understand works of art. It was one of the rare courses that can be useful for all subjects and grade levels. Each educator walked away with a stipend, and a behind the scenes experience you can’t get any other way. I fell in love with a Kehinde Wiley portrait of LL Cool J while I was their. I had never seen his art before, and I was blown away. Since then I have been looking for his pieces. A few months ago his work came to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and because I spent so much time touring the country, I hadn’t had an opportunity to see it. It leaves September 5th, so I had to get there soon or totally miss out. My art teacher friend and I made a day out of it, and even with traffic and 5.5 hours of driving, it was totally worth it. Check out my favorites.

Known for his larger than life portraits, ornately detailed wallpaper like backgrounds, and saturated color schemes, his works can capture your attention from across a busy street. Wiley began as a portrait artist, inviting african american men into his studio to strike a pose from famous classical paintings. He would photograph them, then turn the photos into large scale portraits. He continues to be the portrait painter, but now employs apprentices to create the ultra detailed backgrounds. The backgrounds add to the symbolic meaning of the composition. If you look closely you may find gold sperm, or notice that the tapestry shown is a specific cloth that is important to a certain culture, or a pattern often found in a country’s ceramics. Each piece has meaning in its posture, color, culture, gaze, etc. Each one could be explored for a lifetime.

And who knew he did sculpture too?

Hike 37, It’s the Humidity, Not the Heat

Shewee! Do you see that sheen on my shoulders and forehead? This is some serious sweat’n weather. It probably isn’t even over 90 degrees, but the humidity is out of control. I took this last dog free day to get in one more hike on a path that doesn’t allow dogs. Today I hiked the Fox Hollow Trail in the Shenandoah National Park.

I have repeatedly glanced at this trail on the map wondering what its appeal is, and why dogs aren’t allowed. It’s a short short at just a little over a mile. I picked it up from the Dickey Ridge parking lot at mile marker 5. It turns out that this was once someone’s home. There is an old well and a family cemetery. My guess is dogs are not welcome because they want to minimize the disruption to the property and the land.

As I said, this trail is short, so I continued walking to the Signal Knob Overlook on the Snead Farm Loop to increase the mileage. If you love traversing lands that were once worked by man, discovering all of the little relics left behind, you will love the Fox Hollow Loop. And if you want to make it a challenge, throw in the Snead Farm Loop for a great overlook and an old foundation and farm. You can’t go wrong here, but you might sweat like you’ve never sweat before.  The humid Virginia summers can be even more brutal when you hike at a moderate pace in what feels like a humidor. I’m certainly not in the desert anymore.

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Back Home; Hike 36

Well I’m home. Back from the cross country adventure time. Back from the Jamaica destination wedding. But not quite back to reality. I still a few days before my dogs return, so I might as well make the best of it. There are some hikes around that do not allow dogs. I chose to do the 2.8 mile Wildcat Mountain Trail in Marshall, VA with a 665 ft. elevation gain for my first hike back.

This is a cool little trail that I found on Hiking Upward. If you like to hike in VA, MD, WV, or NC, but haven’t been to Hiking Upward, I suggest you go there immediately to check it out. This site has helped me find all sorts of gems. Run by the Nature Conservancy, this trail is marked with yellow diamonds. It has a great map at the parking lot with handouts you can take with you if for nothing more than to fan the sweat from your dripping skin as you become with the mid summer humidity. But seriously, it’s helpful to carry a map. The trail is well maintained, and offers educational markers on particular trees. I love learning more about the trees that surround me, so this was fun for me.

The parking lot was empty when I arrived. Clouds had been gathering out to the west, rumbles of thunder were threatening, and the humidity, did I mention, it was thick. I walked along remembering the hikes I did out west, and how fearful I had been in regards to the mountain lions and snakes. Now that I’ve returned those things seem to stay on my mind with the addition of more snakes, spiders, and bears. I’m happy to report that, even though I heard some strange sneezing coming from behind me when I first started, I only encountered spiders along this walk. I became a human web wrecker, but these webs were not as annoying as the early morning monstrosities I saw in Missouri. These were dainty, and stopped when I arrived at the Smith Family House and passed a young woman, the sneezer from earlier no doubt, who had knocked her fair share down along the portion of the loop I was about to travel. She should be happy to see that I did the same for her.

Wow, I haven’t seen another loan female hiker in quite some time. I wonder if she gets a lot of flack for hiking alone or if anyone even knows where she is. It was exciting to see her out on the trail. I realized that at the end of the lariat where I had stood and pondered which direction to turn, she had chosen to go left while I had chosen to go right. I made my choice based on what appeared to have the most gradual ascent. Had I chosen to go left we would have never crossed paths, and I would have destroyed all of the spider webs on my own. I would have returned to the parking lot to see her car, only to wonder who it belonged to and how far behind me they were. Only a few more days before I get my pups back. I’ll have to get at least one more dog unfriendly hike in before then.

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