Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sitting in a room full of talent

(Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, March 26, 2015)

Wednesday nights are hopping in Tryon. It’s hard to believe how busy one can be in such a small town, but as I’ve noted before, Tryon isn’t just any small town.
When I first moved here, I spent many of my Wednesday nights in Jim Cullen’s pottery class at Tryon Arts and Crafts. Once I changed to some of the day classes, Wednesday became the night Paul and I often saw a movie at the Tryon Theatre, as that night marks the beginning of the week for each new film.
When a small group of women asked me to start a women’s writing workshop—to duplicate the kind of workshop that started my writing six years ago in Los Angeles, I said yes, and we picked Wednesday nights to meet. We started with every other Wednesday, and now meet once a month.
It was on one of those Wednesday nights that Rich Nelson of Skyuka Gallery asked if I’d like to sit for a portrait class at Tryon Painters and Sculptors. I said no and cited my writing workshop as a reason, but agreed to sit the following Wednesday night.
I had sat for artists before, but it had been a long time. I once posed for a fashion drawing class at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. This was sometime in the 80s when I was working as a model. The job involved striking severe fashion poses on a stage with other models for long stretches of time in heels holding a boa constrictor (they’re very heavy and stinky). I felt certain Rich’s class would be less uncomfortable. And smell better.
I had also posed for a sculptor when a mannequin company in California made a mannequin who looked like me. That involved several 2-hour sessions over the course of a month or so at which I was mesmerized by a lump of clay that gradually evolved into my silent clone. The result of that gig sits on top of the cabinet in my laundry room. If you’ve got a better idea how to display a mannequin head of your younger self, please feel free to share it.
Rich assured me I could keep my clothes on. Nude models are like gold to artists, but the days I’d consider flashing a room full of people are far behind me.
I arrived at 7 and found my chair in the center of the downstairs studio at Tryon Painters and Sculptors new Trade Street building. There were six artists setting up their easels all around me, choosing their positions carefully.
I knew Rich, of course, and Christine Mariotti and Marie King—artists I’ve admired greatly. I was introduced to the others as we got started. Christine collected money from the group for the use of the studio, plus a tip for me.
I sat as still as I could, finding a fixed point in the room to watch while the artists began to draw. Some chatted while they worked, but it was often quiet in a kind of shared camaraderie that I’ve felt while working in the pottery studio at Tryon Arts and Crafts with my fellow potters.
Rich told me I could take breaks whenever I needed to, so when we decided to stretch our legs, I walked around the room studying the portraits so far. They were fascinating—six completely different styles, different versions of my face, different media. Watercolor, pastels, charcoal. They were all wonderful and completely unique.
I got back into my chair, finding my pose and point in the room to watch, and the time passed quickly as the artists finished their work. Several took a photo of me so they could tweak their portraits at home later, adding their final touches if inspiration followed them home. Several promised to email me photos when their pieces had been completed.
I left with a little money in my pocket, a continued awe and admiration for our local talent, and a sense of how lucky we are to have such an active arts-nurturing community here.
If you find yourself free on a Wednesday evening, you should consider posing for the group. If you’re an artist, you might want to join them. If you’re the model, all you need is a face and a little patience, and you’ll be rewarded with an experience that puts art and artists in a new light. I highly recommend it.
Portrait by Rich Nelson

Life in Our Foothills

Thank you to Life in Our Foothills Magazine for my third cover story this month!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Whining in a Winter Wonderland

(Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, March 12, 2015)

One of my California friends is considering a move to Tryon and asked me recently, “What are the winters like there? I mean really.”
She’s heard me brag about the Isothermal belt and use words like moderate and mild when describing the weather.
But let’s not sugar coat it. Compared to L.A., this is the North Pole. My kitschy orange glazed planters sit shattered on my patio, victims of sub-freezing temperatures. They’d survived in California since the 60s until I found them at a flea market and dragged them here only to bust in the cold. It’s a tragedy.
It’s easy to become a carefree (read: lazy) gardener when you never have to worry about your patio plants freezing. Let’s face it, I’m spoiled by California weather.
My first winter here saw no snow, but we had a power outage due to wintry winds. I was watching Chris Tinkler perform SantaLand Diaries at Sunnydale, when suddenly the stage went dark. Chris reappeared almost instantly beneath the illuminated exit sign at the back door and finished his monologue without missing a beat. I felt like I was back in L.A. witnessing experimental theater until I realized we’d lost power, and Chris was just a very enterprising actor.
Paul and I came home to a dark house that night that got cold pretty quickly and stayed that way for a day or two until the power was restored. I’m no stranger to power loss, of course, having been through two serious California earthquakes, but I’m not a fan of being cold.
I arrived in North Carolina with the right clothes because like every actor in L.A. who’s worked on night shoots (not my favorite, I have to say), I have the obligatory down coat, fake Ugg boots, and silk thermals that can easily be hidden beneath even the fanciest cocktail dresses. I’m a film set veteran, and my wardrobe reflects that.
Here, I use my warm clothes all winter long (minus the cocktail dresses that can hide long underwear). We have a winter weather car here too.
Paul bought an old Land Rover from a guy in Spartanburg for $800 when we first moved here “for winter driving.” Don’t ask me the price tag for tricking it out until it looks like it’s ready for a safari. I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.
I don’t complain though because he loves it, and it’s even handier than my fake Ugg boots when the streets are slick.
Yes, we do get ice and snow, but not a lot. It creates a stunning photo op for a day, but melts pretty quickly, and then we get on with our normal routine. It’s enough to make a sled day a very special occurrence. Enough to remind us how cozy a fire can be, especially with hot chocolate and marshmallows. And enough for Land Rover owners to get their manly-man fix looking for cars to pull out of ditches.
Sometimes pipes freeze, and make a mess. Sometimes cars won’t start. Sometimes California Chihuahuas refuse to go outside and later you might find your favorite bed skirt christened with a little something. Winters here aren’t without their challenges.
But of course, it could always be worse, and it is worse even just a few miles up the mountain. Generally, Tryon’s winters aren’t bad.
My favorite thing about winter here is that it’s temporary, and no sooner than you’ve pulled out your pretty wooly scarves, you’ll find that spring has sprung. What that season brings to Tryon will take your breath away and knock the cashmere blend socks right off your feet. Just wait and see.