Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ruins of the Old Laurel Sanitarium

Halloween seems to be the appropriate day to go back to my older portfolio of paintings and post an image of this canvas, completed in 1991 when I was still living in Maryland. The subject is the remains of the main building on the grounds of the Laurel Sanitarium, an early 20th century mental hospital and farm that once operated in my hometown of Laurel, MD.

When I was young I lived on a street that bounded the sanitarium grounds. In 1964 the entire complex was razed in a controlled burn. My family sat in our front yard and watched as each structure was purposely set on fire. For six years after that day, the ruins stood empty and crumbling, and were easily accessible to me and my friends. My sister and I especially loved to ride our bikes on the old driveways and explore the derelict buildings, making up creepy stories about what might have taken place behind its walls.

In 1970 the grounds were finally bull-dozed over and a large department store and shopping center addition were built on the site. Over the years several apartments and housing complexes were constructed nearby, and today nothing remains that would ever indicate it even existed. This link, however, includes two photos of the sanitarium buildings circa 1910-1914. It was quite a bucolic setting in its heyday.

"Ruins of the Old Laurel Sanitarium." Oil on stretched canvas, 18 x 24 inches. Completed December 1991.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Hang It Up!" at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design

This past Thursday I attended the opening reception for the exhibit "Hang It Up!" at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at NC State University (pictured above). As a staff member at the university, I was eligible to enter two works in this group show, which runs until December 21. I chose to include "Fourth and Montgomery" (just returned from the juried show at the Rocky Mount Arts Center) and "Biltmore." The exhibit turned out wonderfully, especially considering the huge variety of media represented. Kudos to the staff of the Gregg Museum for such a great job!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Biltmore, the massive estate in Asheville NC created by George Washington Vanderbilt in the 1890s, has long been one of my favorite destinations. I've traveled to it many times, and each visit amazes and intrigues me. The magnitude of the mansion - America's largest private residence - is humbling, and its location in the Pisgah National Forest (also created by Vanderbilt) is spectacular. While expensive to tour, I feel it is worth every penny.

I have wanted to work on a series of canvases depicting Biltmore for nearly two years. This summer, I began the idea with the canvas seen above, simply entitled "Biltmore." It shows the main house in a severely cropped composition and highly simplified. While I wanted to capture the building's grandeur and immensity, I didn't want to create a sterile portrait. Rather, I hoped to imbue it with a feeling of lost luster and a haunting sense of mystery.

"Biltmore." Oil on stretched canvas, 28 x 34 inches. Completed June 2009.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

August Sunset

This is my most recent work, completed in August. Based on a house in Cumberland, Maryland, much of the composition is actually developed from my imagination. Rather than depict the structure in its original setting, a crowded Victorian neighborhood, I wanted to give it more of a feeling of loneliness and abandonment.

I chose this painting as the front piece on the exhibition postcard for my upcoming solo show at the Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, NC. The exhibit will run from December 6 to 23 and coincides with the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill's Holiday Home Tour. Hopefully my architectural works will provide an appropriate backdrop to the tour groups that will begin and end at the Society's headquarters.

"August Sunset." Oil on stretched canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Completed August 2009.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

South on Allegany

My sabbatical from painting has continued in September. While I didn't plan this break, I think I must have needed it emotionally and creatively. Although I haven't been working on new pieces, I have continued to stimulate myself artistically.

On September 19 I visited the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to see the new exhibit "Picasso and the Allure of Language." Picasso, and cubism in general, has never held a strong attraction for me, but this exhibit was interesting in that it explores his relationship with writers (especially Gertrude Stein) and displays lithographs and published illustrations that are not typical of Picasso's main stream body of work.

I also attended an artist's reception for Susan Parrish at the Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill on September 27. This is the same location that will host a solo show of my work in December. Ms. Parrish is a potter and collage artist, and it was very helpful to gain a sneak peak at an opening prior to my own. Today I am going to finalize the invitation for the show in Chapel Hill, and I'll post the final copy in a future post.

The painting above, "South on Allegany," was completed this past spring. It is another in a series of canvases I have produced this year that depict street scenes and structures in Cumberland, Maryland. This work will likely be displayed in my 2010 exhibition at the Raleigh Municipal Building.

"South on Allegany." Oil on stretched canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Completed March 2009.