September 1st began my artist residency in Hot Springs, North Carolina. I had applied to this residency a year earlier, and had been looking forward to it a long time. My trip from Louisiana brought me to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, then Clayton, Georgia, and finally Hot Springs. The winding rattlesnake mountain road was tough on my little Louisiana flat-road sensibilities and found me stopping often to just...take a doggone breather.
Once i arrived, i received a tour from the legendary Camille, the woman and creative mind behind Azule. The story is much deeper and more beautiful than i had known, and Camille in herself is a character and force of nature. It seems to me, i would believe, she knows something about everything. It was a task i laid upon myself every day, to see a new intricate detail that had gone unnoticed the day before. In the three stories and vast landscape of Azule, it was an easy thing to do. When they moved to Hot Springs, in the mountains, it was just a small wood cabin - it has grown like the forest around it since then.
After the tour, i unloaded my car and groceries - a diet of tomato sandwiches, apples and peanut butter, and avocado with egg sandwiches were in my future. Then i began the first coat of paint on the many pieces of wood i had brought with me from Louisiana. There was no plan outside of that - simply to read and paint and be in nature as much as possible.
Not sure when it started, but once it did it’s been unstoppable - i’ve been carrying several sketchbooks and books, a diary and a calendar with me most of the time. At Azule i had five or six sketchbooks going, a book on historical Texas life, Firefox volume 1, and a book of short stories from southern writers. Painting began the second day, and i was able to finish about ten paintings in my four days there. A bit unexpectedly i had to leave for a trip to Richmond, Virginia, to attend a funeral. The thing i learned from my first residency in Georgia in 2018, is it seems at once like an experience in a whole, but after time passes the memories of the place, and the things you learned, sort of creep back to you steadily and surely. Hoping that my short time in western Carolina will treat me so good as that. The main takeaway, right now, is the experience of the ice cold water running through the mountains, getting into it among the slippery rocks and total solitude. Walking the mountain in cowboy boots, til the end of the road. The abandoned and secret old tobacco barns and fallow fields, building-bones left to collapse in the ridges. The very aloneness of being that far from the world and the silence. Azule is a part of the nature it inhabits so much that is is almost the same thing - deer, frogs, lizards, bees, plants of all kinds, creeks, snakes, birds, cicadas. The noise at night is astounding, the stars so bright and so close. The most striking thing i can think of in this reflection is the wild spooky sound of an eastern screech owl whinnying in the branches near my room. All of those memories and ideas i get to hold real close for a little while & reflect maybe on how this would have been for my ancestors up in those mountains.
You can find out more about Azule here: http://azule.org/