Friday, April 29, 2011

Bob Bryden's Recent Work at Caprice Bistro, Opening May 1.

Mr. Bryden extended an invitation to visit his studio so I crossed the Cape Fear and its wetlands to his home. While near a busy section of New Hanover county, the home remains quiet in a thicket of trees bordering marshlands and estuary. “There are still many rice canals through the property” he says, explaining that the tract of land that was once a rice plantation now salted over. Parallel to the driveway is a weed-choked path that once nested the railroad tracks that began Wilmington's trade dominance. “You could take it all the way to Fayetteville,” and Bob suggests a day hike sometime.

The house lays into the land with a gentle footprint and pulls sublimely from the surrounding nature for many requirements. The construction conforms to practices of minimalism and has no excess to tame or muffle. The artist's home is designed from the same philosophy as his art, and that intricate weave of philosophy and design is a direct result of aesthetic maturity. Mr. Bryden is clearly a deep and quiet thinker of things, a still type, who moves deliberately and thoughtfully into a labor, whether designing a house or executing a print. And that takes us into his studio.

Natural light pours across the workspace from surrounding windows and a tabby cat rests in a corner beneath a chair. File cabinets roll with prints in various stages of completion. A new print hangs on a drying line, clamped with tissue between the rubber-tipped clip. Nearby are two floating frames exhibiting prints which baffle language, imposing a wordless appreciation for his work. Watercolor pencils flow through fields of wispy wash and burnishing, playing among numerous sequences of masking: a meditative scene of melodic color.

A printmaker's studio is a rare thing of meticulous cleanliness and methodical organization, harmony and balance: conscious placement. These terms are equally relevant descriptions of Mr. Bryden's work.
He rolls open a drawer to a new set of print-drawings that vibrate with turquoise and cadmium orange and new greens. Colors are bound in separate geometric forms with prismatic edges, sharp but for a delicate fray. Mr. Bryden says, “I don't like to work directly on the surface of the material.” Raw pigment is thus applied with unusual technique to fresh and luminescent effect with various cloths, inks and additives. Layers of masking and application. Images of brightly pigmented old-growth forests come to mind. Aquatic drifts of light. A centrifuge of linework gradating, a dizzy prism. He details his process and how the work from conception to execution can easily consume 50 working hours per piece. Distillation. When I ask if he could name an influence, he says “no.” He then laughs, pauses, “Maybe Kadinsky.” His work could also show unobtrusively with Diebenkorn, Rothko, Marden.

The pieces never display the copious labors. Instead the processes move and dance and gradate through layers into a smooth controlled image. The colors are dazzling and clean, really diamond sharp, with the world's spring in his palette, making it a perfect May show. The movement of the non-objective compositions is pure design, with an occasional landscape reference giving way to an enigmatic non-pattern. Explaining the prints, conjuring their effect by language, is an impossible thing, a strong indication of the talent at work behind these prints. You must really see them for yourself.

The opening reception will be held May First from 6pm until 9pm in the Sofa Lounge and Gallery.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mangum Track Club-- a run with kindred folks.

Mangum Track Club held their shirt run on saturday and I am now a proud member, a lifelong member, of the Mangum Track Club. What is the MTC and what is the shirt run?  
The MTC is a self-described rural running group that has no dues or fees, no endless emails and  nothing to prove to anyone.  A history can be found at  Many of the members are ultrarunners, several are canines who completed the necessary challenge, and some are casual walkers who enjoy the roads.  Some members win 50k or 100m or 12hr races, while others sweep up the loose back-pack of runners, but everyone is open and kind and passionate about soles kicking the horizon.  

Completing the shirt run is the process by which one joins the Mangum Track Club.  Its a point-to-point run that puts one deep in the rural NC piedmont for fifteen miles.  Saturday April 23rd found 67 runners clogging down a road known merely as a state abbreviation and a number. I was one of the 30ish newbies and this is how it went down.

Work finished at midnight Friday and I drove home, set the coffee pot for 4am, brushed the teeth and readied the gear.  At 4h05am I downed a hotdark cup of sugared java and grabbed my running bag to cruise carbonblack Hwy 74 for 2.5 hrs to find an obscure intersection on the outskirts of Ellerbe NC. Did I mention obscure-- the sudden surreal village of runners roaming the road to the left was not unlike a rainbow gathering or a gypsy caravan.  Rows of cars were parked on each side of the road.  Runners entered and exited the woods and sat in lawn chairs in the middle of the state highway.  I saw Mark, whom I'd met at the gator trail 50k and who orchestrates the group, and he introduced me to some folks.  I joined other runners in the back of a pickup truck to tear through the wet chilly grayness towards the start fifteen miles away.  Six of us huddled and curled against the cold wind and tight turns, an occasional wave/nod to a runner doing a “double shirt run” (out-and-back 2x = 30m), and the truck came to a stop.  Here was another obscure intersection with vehicles parked on the shoulder, runners milling and stretching, and several structures around including a house, a greenhouse structure, and a church.   A NC DOT green sign ahead read "Mangum" to note the location.
The first half of the shirt run is a pure exercise of faith.  

The fifteen mile run traversed the bending highway by various churches named after old testament stories, paced across cement bridges above deep rivers of muddy slowness, geared up long inclines that folded back from hardwood thickets into vast flat fields of perfect green reeves that sweep like fine bristles against the wind.  One could hear civil war armies marching across the fields into the pine-and-oak perimeters. One could hear birds and endless birds and maybe a turtle scratching against red clay and then the footsteps of runners spread through the countryside like synesthesia echo.  A white truck lapped the collective body of the mass offering water and we encountered few other cars.
A lively group in a steady groove ran the ribbon of asphalt and stories were exchanged.   There were stories of the mangum track club ranging from a naked runner to the origin of the group, brainstorms of reasons why we run, explanations of various routes we passed over that MTC coordinates into other runs (ellerbe marathon, boogie marathon or the boogie 50m, derby 50). A dozen miles passed like a glass of sweet iced tea. 

I had to keep a smooth, working pace to finish within my schedule.  Eventually I turned into a hill that glimpsed the parked cars as the double yellow line jostled beneath me to a stop-sign end.  Runners had resumed sitting in the middle of the road.  Mark handed me a fine trophy, the navy blue shirt with strong white letters spelling Mangum Track Club.  The shirt is traditionally paid for by the existing members of the MTC, and the generosity is a trait common to these people.  He gave me a few stickers, offered black olive pizza, and I shook some hands and changed shirts before returning home for work at 3h30pm.  

All in all it was a brilliant run in a beautiful part of the country with good folks.  Several will I meet again to kick up dirt and slap asphalt, and I look forward to it.  I am still reeling on my belonging to a track club and I am grateful to Mark and MTC for including me. The energies of those kindred folks and the fields and hills and rivers and the porcelain-white churches stay with me now as I write this, and I think thats a big part of being a Mangum Track Club member.

Monday, April 25, 2011

prelude to a shirt run and a snake like a boschian corkscrew in the morning.

Saturday april 23rd is the 15 mile t-shirt run for the mangum track club and i hope to participate despite easter concerns and busybusy shifts ahead for that weekend. Running with these guys would be a marker of sort for my running, not unlike finishing a 50k.  A brilliant thing-- to be part of a running group so involved in nc ultrarunning and the long-distance running subculture for 20+ years.

Sunday april 24th.  An Easter sunday hike with the family brought the first water moccasin sighting for the year, and he was a fat one measuring ~2.5 feet and laying across the trail in abbey nature preserve.  My dog spotted him first, and we were thankfully leading kas and ky when maya paused- cocked ears-  lunged into the space ahead.  Only then did I see the charred vine slicing off the trail into a pile of fallen wood where he perched himself, nose in the air.  Still and wary and fully alert but now eight feet away, his hieroglyphic body was the color of burnt wood with black-beaded bands framing areas of dull ochre. his neck was gold stretching around swollen jaws with patches of dark stain. He was a beautiful animal whose eyes were bottomless sockets, like shark eyes, primordial.
you can't really see him, but he's there.  lurking. 

This is my third snake sighting in two weeks, with the most recent being a yellow rat snake at the nature preserve thursday on the same trails.  Southern snakes act on the runners mind with a bifurcating effect, the slippery diagonals cut the trails in half-- the first half being the free easy-moving trail before the snake, the second half is the paranoid searching of the trail's tell-tale scurry after the sighting.  A run can never be restored to a pre-snake condition following an encounter.  Heads up y'all.  (or heads down, 'cause snakes are on the ground, in the trees, eye-level and groin level.  Consider road running for the spring.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

roche. snake. ramble.

April 15 2011

La Roche.  Basque word implying the loss of senses, a sort of derangement of the senses rimbaud and later the surrealists strove towards.  Early coastal heat begins the assault of the senses, a mile-marked delirium, intervals of mindsmoke.

observations on a friday morning trail run at carolina beach:

1. a field of dragonflies blurred my vision and obscured my feet as I ran across a rooty passage of trail; must've been 50+ dragonflies.  Dali may have appreciated the image-morphosis of feet becoming dragonflies.  what freudian symbolism would be attributed to dragonflies? (ants = anxiety.  Melting clocks = mortality and flesh-decay.  Giraffes = ?)

2. a lethargic snake baked on the trail by a sandy bend.  Sand and pine needles and the leaves of dwarfed oaks had pushed up against the roots of a tall pine; and he folded into the bed of debris.  he was an optical curiosity, a pattern in a patternless array.  startled by his presence and my near-miss of his body, I assumed his dangerous nature and determined him to be a water moccasin.  But that wasn't the case; he was a garter snake: harmless, common, basking. An unfortunate ignorance on my part, a (fortunate) total immersion in the moment.  fear-defined moment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

the habit of movement, a sunday run, april 10th.

April 11th. Irascible monday but here: an essay drawn from y'day's tempo ten miler across my backyard.

Its been a monday horror-train since first light but yesterday's lit'ary run is the focus, the locus, the heart of this wolf-lunge of language. And sunday morning was late at 8am, my alarm deferred to kyote's mayhem then slow coffee then slow shoes and a slow start around the block beneath gray flat sky and air clasped skin like sedated anxiety and the mind was reeling on warhol's paintings, his illustrations done on a tiny kitchen table long before the factory, his window designs (like de kooning or oldenberg or rauschenberg: windows seem to be a gateway thing) and his psychotropic colours and electric linework and his piss paintings and the “models” brought from the street to down various beers resulting in various pigment-stains of urine and warhol watching like some demented conductor the cowboys and queens standing on the raw cotton duck and its personally a bewildering concern that they didnt stink up the gallery (did castelli show them?) but then I was chasing the miles ahead and was thinking that a run is a devouring thing with the long distance runner eating the distance or the distance eating the runner but a total wolf-down nonetheless, man vs. distance and what honor in either then warhol jetted with a final flash of sequence paintings, his repeated themes like faux film stills, a moment of fugazi and escher jumped in, images unclear & shaky like an epileptic slide projector but his bird-patterns were seizing on anaerobic displays and the pattern of pace and the designs of identity, the architecture of ideology, barthes and derrida and even sillitoe's antihero, the craving of revolt and simultaneous asceticism, my dream at age 22 of being handed an old burlap monk's robe, the nightmare that preceded it that I won't discuss now, but to work the body and kick from lungdepths to grind at the symmetry, to defy the symmetry to punish the familiar, to adore the epic ephemera but a hotspot on my right arch pulls me back into my body and its so difficult sometimes to be one's own body and gordon road motors on and the aleph of set theory while reading escher godel and bach (a badass book) and painting in salisbury charlotte boone & her ripping ten years of life drawings up into small squares and laying them beneath the table where I painted, those luscious/poverty mornings painting the foods that would soon be served as breakfast and then i'd paint empty bottles and origami figures and the landscape started fizzing out towards a rothko thing so I gasped deep, lung distance logs here, and kerouac was somewhere out there in the tribe of the tragic, the tribe of the transcendent, who declaimed the long life routine for his roman candle exit but then I stopped to consider the Doolittles, who one week before at that very time of the morning were struck by a total stranger who either was or was not in the fabric of the Universe and running is a philosophical/ spiritual thing but that answer would require a helluva lot more miles than one lifetime can bear and certainly more than either of them could have understood beforehand but at that realization I had to stop and breathe. A bend in the gravity, a flex of the archaic bulge, a soul's pyre lapping. My body flashed spinechills and ogden park was barely populated but for a few dogs and a metronome tennis volley put the legs back to work as I sped on the edge of my breath towards home, images of a monk robe embedded in my acts cause you see dope or writing or running or prayer, it is devoutness-- its all in the habits of movement and the need to be moved, a pentecostal thing, a bitter rejoice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A new april run followed by a memorial, a requiem.

Sunday at 6h40am I chugged a final dark coffee and crunched the gravel driveway towards the beach for a sixteen miler. a beautiful start to april while predawn-dark and cool and quiet, homes unlit and dogwood blooms pale but open and white in minimum light. Sunless flat trees began to fill out in form and I passed two folks walking dogs and smiling and the second mile ticks off as I run slowly and casually across market street, an impossibility any other time of the week, with barely a car north or south of my chuk-chuk-chuk of pace.
Gator trail has drained from my body, the recovery swift and impressive, but my footfalls remain flattened, unenergized, and I dread roadruns after such a carpeted trail run.  But my saddle gait is passed and my jaw muscles do not ache and I contemplate eagerly the next long run.  the umstead 100 passes this weekend (people are still finishing as I turn on Cardinal), with all the legs milling it out across eight loops of 12.5 miles and the bareballed guts of that distance, with the men and women driving forward from fourteen to thirty hours straight with headlamps and mudcaked legs and I am interested perhaps for next year, but I also know I don't want to ruin a longer running-life with one run of 100 miles; some never fully recover from such a thing. My skateboard and soccer knees may reject that distance, protesting quickly and finally, but the idea of a 100 miler is enticing and burns the mind a bit like a longshot high-yield bet.
A slight breeze cools me as I run the cross-city trail down Eastwood to veer out Rogersville past barking dogs and early porch lights.  Time-caught churchgoers push me deeper down the road's shoulder.  Up Wrightsville I watch a congregation gather outside the Presbyterian church, I admire the red jackets and decorated hats on the gregarious ladies, study the starched dark suits hanging from the thin, coat-hanger shoulders of an elderly man smiling to a man of thick build and big voice.
Debate mulls and fades to back of mind.  I mentally mask a canvas for the next layer of image-application and I make a mental note to do so. I remember a poem I wrote about a tree in California.  Quiet overcomes the Umsteads, the paintings and their secret images, the lifegoals, folds up the language-rambles and the clips of aesthetic-concerned essays.  Airlie horses watch me pass from perfect rolling landscapes of viridian greens, king oaks, grey spanish moss, red barns of white framing beneath the fresh sun.  Monet-moments pause by the Intracoastal Waterway with the crystalline reflections across mist-muted colors, the dry hiss of sea grasses. The ocean spills like tiny cups from a green-glass stillness, and the gratitude rises like prayer as I turn left at Mercer's pier, looking forward to being home with my wife and child.

This is a moment to remember the father and son who were killed Sunday morning.  Trey Doolittle and his father Ronald David Doolittle II were triathletes pedaling out a training ride as they cycled River Road at 9h30am.  Behind them a fast car swerved wildly, running across grass and shoulder and 17 year old Trey and next his father.  The father was pronounced dead at the scene and Trey sustained injuries that he would not recover from, succumbing about 24 hours later.
The man had cocaine, an open container, and was intoxicated.  Personally the accident unleashes an anger, a rage so bleak and stark, so confusing.  A man of 63 years of age, on a binge, crushed to death two healthy, beautiful people. The brutal irony is overwhelming.
My wife's best friend was killed when she was struck by a vehicle, riding her bike home from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and this terrible thing thrusts the associated pain right back to her being.  Today I will run with thoughts of them, sending a white-light love to those who are also victims of this driver as they lose a friend, a partner, a brother, a father, an inspiration.