Vibrating Through the Body

ParisI_sm

Lucinda Bliss, Paris I, graphite and gouache on paper

A week after returning home from Paris, I packed up the car for a three week residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. On route down, I spontaneously veered off track to see the Antietam National Battlefield, in Sharpsburg, Maryland. Getting to know the land and the echoes it carries is part of my creative practice, and I drove south filled with questions about how the history of the country would feel different, and be held differently, from the southern perspective, particularly in a period in our history when we (once again) seem to be growing increasingly divisive.

Antietam

The Fields of Antietam

bloodylane

The Bloody Lane

 

 

 

 

 

 

With 23,000 soldiers killed or wounded, Antietam was the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. Though the September 17, 1862 battle was supposedly not won by either side (the guide at the welcome center was emphatic about this), it was claimed as a Union victory and inspired Lincoln’s strategic Emancipation Proclamation.

bridgeWitnesstree

Burnside Bridge and Witness Tree

I had just returned from Paris a few weeks before my trip to Virginia and hadn’t really begun to process my experience of the November 13 attacks (The  Runner’s Glance in Paris). As I navigated the Antietam grounds, it felt right to be reminded of the deeper history of human violence, particularly as I prepared to enter the protected creative space at VCCA that would allow me to begin to translate my recent experiences through creative process.

 

Monticello2.jpg

After a few days of settling in and meeting the exceptional group of writers, composers, and artists at the residency, I set off to run the Monticello Holiday Classic 5k on the historic site where Thomas Jefferson built his home. I left on a frosty morning before dawn, arriving on the site as the sun was rising. Chatting up runners at local races is a great way to learn about a place, in addition to getting a tactile experience of the land. Since my days studying Art History at Skidmore College, I’d been curious about Thomas Jefferson, impressed with his inventions, progressive values, and commitment to creative enterprise, and disgusted by his lifelong racism and misogyny. I was eager to see how the complicated man would be represented at the national historic site.

warmup1

In the early hours of the morning, runners warmed up through the hilltop gardens, preparing for the starting gun. The race itself was rough–the air chilled my lungs and the course was filled with twists and turns. Still, I placed 2nd in my age group, which earned me a free ticket for a guided tour of the main house.

Thankfully, our guide spoke about the darker side of Jefferson’s narrative and incorporated stories of the lives of a few of the many slaves who worked at Monticello during the President’s lifetime. The architecture, design of the garden and grounds, and the natural site are spectacular. As our tour concluded, the guide instructed us to head over to the fish pond (where fish had been kept in “storage” during Jefferson’s time) for the iconic reflection shot.fishpond.jpgAs I continued to meander the grounds, I started thinking about classical models of architecture and design–how that application of proportion relative to the human body works, literally works, vibrating through the body with a balance of form, light, and negative space. At the same time, the authority signified by that very kind of structure points to the darker history of domination and oppression. I remain in awe of Monticello and fascinated by the contradictions it embodies. I’m holding in mind the more than 200 slaves that lived, worked, gave birth, and died in service of one man’s brilliant, complicated interpretation of classical and humanist ideals.

These are the kinds of contradictions that I try to hold onto when I return from a research exploration, and in the studio I attempt to build a mark-making vocabulary that can speak to multiple perceptions, in response to my experience of place.

ParisIII_sm.jpg

Lucinda Bliss, Paris III, graphite and gouache on paper

Advertisements

About lucindasrunningblog

Lucinda is an artist/professor who has fallen in love with running. Her current creative work (drawing, painting, and installation) is focused on the landscape--working with maps generated by running in order to explore environmental and other concerns.
This entry was posted in Art, Gardens, Monticello, Racing, Running, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Vibrating Through the Body

  1. OmniRunner says:

    Jefferson was a complex, flawed individual. I also respect and admire him and find it hard to understand how such an enlightened and bold leader could fall in line with the darkness of his time.
    Great photos and congrats on the race.
    Andy

  2. You are a voice I want to hear. Opening and loosening is showing up in the drawings. This recent drawing with it’s curved lines:like snakes, like lures – with eye openings. EYE OPENING.

  3. Cynthia, it’s been way too long since we’ve sat in your basement studio looking at work. I miss your eyes on the work!! And you too.

  4. Gee Vine says:

    A Vibe On Sally Hemmings After Paris

    The swank in all the lullabies
    of her hips
    and ass
    now set her apart
    Though she still peed in the woods
    Of Monticello.
    ” I pissed on the Champs ”
    she said to Tituba;
    both squatting;
    Both pregnant.

    Later, toward the millenniums’ end
    Langston sang of Sugar Hill

    Oxpoet SB

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s