The woods surrounding the school are history made visible. Artists passing through have left traces of their work, monuments, shards, tokens, and ballast. For generations this was the land of the Cherokees. Inevitably the settlers came, and if you know where to dig you can still find blue glass bottles and bones.
As I stood under these heavily pruned holly trees I sensed an energy that was almost electric. After listening carefully I realized that a buzzing hum was coming from the dense leaves above. Thousands of bees were probing what was to me a hidden sweetness.
On my third day I found this weight in the studio...oddly labeled 50. It was quite heavy. What was its purpose? After making this portrait I sensed that perhaps these images were about the process of turning fifty.
This May as I drove around the final curve in the road approaching the school I was startled by a flash of orange azalea, mistaking it for dayglo graffiti in the bushes. There were chilly nights and in the morning fog the robins and rabbits were up and about. The dogwood and tulip poplar were blooming. For more than twenty summers I had passed these modest trees unaware of their true identities.
Up a back road, a road I had never taken in all these years, I found a house with three entrances side by side. Why three front doors? I asked about the place and was told it is called Dora's House. Dora was widowed young and lived in this house alone until she reached a very old age. She must have been a self-sufficient woman. They say she walked down the hill and took weaving classes when Penland School first began in the late 1920s.
The long winters would have been very lonely. Did she talk to herself? My Grandmother Nettles did all the time as she wandered from room to room. She hummed and whistled through her teeth, oblivious to us grandchildren.
After I gave birth to my first child the early webs of varicose veins appeared on my legs. Like natural tattoos, they spelled out my new status as a mother. Unlike their pale twins, the stretch marks on my belly, these purple streams have never vanished.
When looking at these photographs a simple question comes up. If I find the aging of trees, with their knobs, twists, and cracks beautiful, can I learn to admire the same in my own body?Next