Thursday, July 26, 2012

William Wells Brown Lecture

Two days ago I received an email announcing the Rare Book School (RBS) was featured in the New York Times. After perusing the RBS website, I discovered they host a Summer Lecture Series. Unfortunately, there was only one lecture remaining but I did make a point to go.   It was held in the beautiful Small Special Collections Library on campus next to the Alderman Library.  I had about 30 minutes to spare so enjoyed two exhibits. One being Sound in Early America which showed off numerous wonderful old music related manuscripts and books in their collection.

Last night Dr. Ezra Greenspan, "an archaeologist of the written word", spoke about the nineteenth century writer William Wells Brown.  For many years, Dr. Greenspan has been meticulously investigating physical locations, archives, and publications in attempt to recreate Brown's footsteps and will publish a book about his findings, due out in 2014.  Dr. Greenspan presented his fascinating journey and the twists and turns encountered while researching the nearly unrecorded history of the man he classifies as the most important African-American writer of the nineteenth century.

Familiar Childrens book for sale
I was unsure exactly what the lecture encompassed... was it on Browns life, or one of his published books, or the actual printing process of a book?  Given the short timeframe between my discovery of this lecture and the event, I went rather blindly to it but with eyes and ears wide open.  Dr. Greenspan enthusiastically led us on a journey through the history of an African-American that began his life as a slave and ended it as a renound writer.  An intriging journey of his attempt to research a mans life who had very few early family documents to support his existance.  In the early 1800's there were few mentions of slaves , other than number and if lucky their "American given" names. The only documents Dr. Greenspan had to use were slave owner family histories, which he has meticiously pieced together to ascertain the early history of William W. Brown.

The lecture brought back wonderful memories of my cousin Lee and I researching our own family history in the nearby library and driving around town to discover an actual road named after our family!  It was a great discovery and led us down another path to find more links to our past.
If you are an antique book lover, as I am, you must visit the Small Special Collection Library.  My Grandmother Hall was an avid book reader, school teacher, and writer, publishing one book.  I moved into her home 25 years after her death and the renters of 25 years had lovingly left her books throughout the house in various bookcases!  Twenty years after that, just a month ago, my mother and I were "cleaning the garage" and discovered boxes and boxes and boxes of more of my Grandmothers books!  We sorted through, donating a car trunk load to the Goodwill (of god forbid hopefully) non- valuable books.  What remained is mostly at my house... "mostly"... there is MORE.

Dr. Greenspan continues to look for leads into the past to fill in more missing links of William W. Brown and has given me the motivation to seek out old family history that might not be obvious on the written page.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Lesson in Botanical Photography

Jackie's Studio Loft in Sperryville.
The Gardening Group of the Newcomers Club of Greater Charlottesville took a trip to Sperryville, Virginia to hear a presentation given by Botanical Photographer, Jackie Bailey Labovitz.  Not only were we all thoroughly blown away by Jackie and her description of botanical escapades but the Studio where her artwork is housed is nearly as exciting.

 River District Arts Building.
The River District Arts (RDA) building within Rappahannock Central was once the home of a 1930's Apple Processing Plant.  RDA is now a converted Artisan Loft.  The building compound contains several interesting businesses; Artisan Studios, a Distillery, and huge Antique Store.  I was so impressed with the conversion of the Apple Plant to a beautiful open sunlit space.  This gem is a block off the main drag and is not to be missed if you are planning a drive to the Shenandoah National Forest.  Sperryville is a small town at the scenic mountain foothills convenient to Charlottesville and Washington, DC. 

Mary B. Allen - Studio work in progress.
We enjoyed perusing various works of art (coincidentally all by women) of approximately a dozen different artists, each having their own little "art stall" in which to work and display their creations.  We had prepaid for a catered lunch which was delicious and held in a beautiful space where a restaurant once operated (the owner is looking for a new restaurant to come on board).  We also were treated to coffee and snacks prior to Jackie's presentation.

Jackie describing her beloved Trout Lily Photo.
On first examination of Jackie, she appears to be a small framed conservative woman that could not possibly hike in the woods alone carrying all the heavy camera equipment necessary to produce art worthy of gallery space in the National Museum of Natural History in the Smithsonian Institution.  We soon learn that this little dynamo has figured out exactly how to capture that perfect shot with a philosophy of less is better and practice makes perfect.  Housing all her equipment in a light weight small backpack prepared to hike as far and as long as required, she produces magic on canvas.

Highlighted in her presentation was her methodology of using simple and lightweight items and that photography is more about understanding the medium and being blessed with the tenacity to see a project through no matter what the challenge.  Given she has a degree in Fine Arts, her eye for detail and perfection is an obvious part of her work.  Her process is meticulously handcrafted, starting from the shooting and down to printing on canvas at home, all of which gives her work an ethereal hand painted feel.  Earlier in her career, Jackie published a nature book on Wildlife that is glorious and her photography style has been carried over into her recent botanical art series, Understory.

Jackie's description of searching for the elusive Pink Lady's Slipper and thirteen of Thomas Jefferson's favorite Wildflowers gave listeners insight as to how much time she has devoted to her art.  Hunting down teeny pinkie sized flower buds (or no buds at all for that matter), hiking in and around forests over and over, and combating extremes in weather proved to be a challenge that I would say most people would not see through no matter what the reward.

Stoneware Toad House by Michele M. Soderman.
There is nothing I love more than a good story about flowers and photography.  It didn't hurt that a strong woman over 50 (with a good man at home for a lot of support) was the hero.  It was inspiring to hear that success has no age limits.

Jackie's work can be purchased and viewed at her studio in Sperryville and will be shown next year at the US Botanic Garden in DC and at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lewis Ginter Butterflies Live Exhibit FREE DEALS DAY

Free Coffee at Starbucks to start the trip in full gear.
My husband and I took our annual July 4th road trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  We departed at 8:30 am planning to hit the Butterflies Live exhibit before the lines got really long.  Because July 4th is always FREE ENTRY DAY at Lewis Ginter, it is guaranteed to be busy.  Our first stop was Starbucks to get their July 4th FREE CUP OF JOE Deal.  No lines and no strings attached, picking up a Blonde and a Dark Roast, we were on our way. 

Amazingly we hit NO red stop lights leaving Charlottesville until we arrived in Richmond!  We wondered if possibly an alien space ship was hovering and had commandeered the traffic lights or our vehicle.  No lines at Starbucks and then no red lights --- QUITE STRANGE indeed.

We arrived an hour later at Lewis Ginter and there was already a line formed for the Exhibit.  We waited about 30 minutes and then entered into the warm moist Butterfly Sanctuary.  Over 250 Butterflies emerge during the span of the Exhibit.  It was so fun watching kids interact with the butterflies and adults trying to photograph that perfect shot.  If you have never been to a Butterfly Conservatory, YOU MUST GO! 

Husband in Loblolly Pine grove in the shade!

The good part about Lewis Ginter is that you can find shade and A/C along your trek so we lasted much longer than planned - 5 hours!  There is so much to explore botanically and they even have a Sprinkler Cool Off Area for the kids (I was ready to go in clothes and all). 

Entomologist, Laura Garrett Exhibit
A companion Butterfly Exhibit by Laura Garrett is located in the Library Building corridor.  I have to say that after seeing them flutter alive it was a bit unnerving but the coordination of the frames with the Butterflies was quite interesting.  Also it gives you a close up view of each Species... most not from our area. 

Veggie Pita w/BEST EVER Sweet Potato Fries
We searched the net to find a new place to eat in Richmond but were so hot and hungry that we ended up at the Lewis Ginter Tea House.  Surprisingly it was delicious.  I had a Veggie Pita Hummus Sandwich with a side of crispy steak size Sweet Potato Fries.  A fast meal in nice surroundings and decently priced, the perfect lunch spot!

After picking up a discounted library book about Shrub Species (a great find at $2.00) we headed to the Chinese market to grab some Ginger (another great deal).  Back to reality, our alien space ship no where to be found, hitting mostly red stop lights in Cville, we were home.


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