I left Atlanta on Monday Sept. 5th on a drive to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Pulling out of my driveway with my beautiful wife and 6 1/2 month old son waving good-bye has to be the hardest part of such a trip. As they say, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.
I spent 3 days driving in the rain, following a tropical storm from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to New Hampshire. I spent the first night in Roanoke, VA with our old friends Deane and Adrienne. It gave me the opportunity to catch up with them and play with Gigi, as well as meet the new addition to their family, Everett. This became a nice transition after leaving my son in the driveway. The next morning Gigi made me a Play-do muffin and sent me on my way.
It’s a beautiful drive through Virginia when it is raining, I can only imagine a clear day. I headed northeast, skirting New York City and making my way to Greenwich, CT. The US baby tour of 2011 continued when I met Samuel Kovacs. His parents Bret and Sarah, have become wonderful friends over the years. It was the perfect resting stop after 2 days of driving.
Leaving Greenwich meant that I had to actually get to work, as bitter sweet as that can be. So I headed northwest to Pocontico Hills, NY to visit a small church that happens to have stained glass windows by Chagall and Matisse. It is supposed to be Matisse’s last work of art. It is a beautiful place the reminded me a little of Christ’s Church on St. Simon’s Island, with its dark wood interior.
After the church I drove to New Canaan, CT to visit Philip Johnson’s Glass house and property. They happen to have a spot on the 2:00 tour, which I took with an architect from Stamford and a guy from Decatur, GA. Come on, what are the odds I meet a guy over a thousand miles from my house who lives down the street? I had a wonderful tour guide who let me peek into a few places I probably wasn’t supposed to. Honestly though, this is one of life’s “ask for forgiveness, not for permission” kind of times. I’d gladly take a slap on the hand to see as much of these structures as possible.
Philip Johnson refered to Mies van der Rohe as God. Johnson had designed his house after Mies had started building the Farnsworth House in Plano, IL. Now after visiting both homes, you can really see why. But I don’t think Johnson wanted to be God, only to walk and talk with one. The similarities are spot on, and the differences are astounding. Using many of the same materials in both houses, Mies raised his pure white house from the earth, and Johnson dropped his black structure to the ground. I think seeing both of these houses begins to explain the differences in people and how they really see and interpret life, and make it their own.
So I got on the road again and ended up on the phone with an dear old friend for an hour and a half. When the conversation ended, I found myself outside of Boston about 20 minutes looking for a fleabag hotel. The next morning I would be visiting the home of Walter Gropius. The thing I loved about this house was that it reminded me of the Schindler house in Utrecht, in the Netherlands. It was incredibly practical and beautifully designed. It had incredible views of the landscape and the apple orchard that it sat in. Gropius was actually aware that he had built a hard edge box in the middle of nature, and found ways to soften it a little though planting trees and grapevines on the property. The thing I love about the architects of this time, and even a little later, is that they made you aware of the landscape while you were in the house. Using huge windows, skylights, and glass block really allowed you to experience the outdoors from the comfort of your chair, or bed. It really begs to ask you the question, do you want to live in a box, or do you want to experience your world?
After leaving Lincoln, MA I headed and hour and a half northwest to Peterborough, NH. It had been misting most of the morning, but the sun came out just as I pulled into town. I will take that as a sign. It took me all of 5 minutes to find the MacDowell Colony in a town the size of the one I grew up in. I went to the office to check in for my tour of the property. Now right out of the gate, I know that residencies are not all created equal, and there is nothing equal to this place. I’ve been her for 24 hours now and I guarantee there is not another place on earth that compares.
I talk big as this is the first residency I’ve done, but honestly if they were all like this you would never meet an artist again. They would all be sitting in the woods working away, waiting for their lunch basket to show up. I often feel like I live a life of certain privilege, now I know what that really means. I was joking at breakfast that the 3 deer they scheduled had appropriately greeted me when I walked out the door this morning.
24 hours in, I still miss my family, but I have my studio set up and I am working away on some things that I have really wanted to do for some time. I just needed to take the time to do it, and that is what this is all about.