Saturday, April 10, 2010

Brad Stroman's "Black Mountain Fever"

We recently traveled to Black Mountain, North Carolina to visit Brad and Ellen Stroman in preparation for Brad's upcoming exhibition at Lynden Gallery, aptly titled "Black Mountain Fever", a nod to the obvious inspirational feast he's found since moving there in January 2009. The photo above is of the two of them, walking sticks in hand on the trail one morning. It was hard for us to leave, surrounded by the gentle signs of early spring in the the elegant, misty mountains that ring the small town they've come to call home.

We spent our first, and only sunny day, hiking in the woods outside of Asheville, the trails heavy with rhododendron which grow stories high, and bending with their weight create enchanting tunnels. The first blooms won't come until May, and we missed them on our visit last fall. Brad has created furniture for their stick built, timber home out of rhododendron branches he finds just behind their house. The dried curled up leaves were inspiration for an elegant ceramic wall triptych he created for the show.

Communing with the earth, uneven earth and rock beneath my feet, the water twinkling in the sunlight and rushing by below, the wind rustling the leaves far above my head, the warmth of early spring sunshine on my face - the constructing of my own stone totem reminded me of my own precarious nature of self, in this bigger picture we call Life.

Leaving this piece of active self-expression to the elements, along with the cares, concerns and joys of that particular day, was in a sense, an act of leaving the blessing or sacrifice of myself behind. "Leaving behind" being the operative words. We tend to be so thoroughly ego-centric, rendering our view of the world through tunnel vision, insular in our limited perceptions,unopened to the insight and guidance before us - if only we'd Look.

Atop an old, primitive cabinet in Brad's studio, sits this collection of dried gourds and Humpty Dumpty - who I understand was a bit scary to son David in his younger years! The gourds were a gift from a friend, and Brad has taken to carving lids, varnishing, and painting images upon them, some of which will be included in the upcoming exhibition. Snakes, ginkgo leaves, herons, crows and the Man on the Moon, all find their identities in this unique medium.

Dinner at an Asian Fusion restaurant in downtown Asheville, beginning with an order of steamed and salted edamame pods, was an ethnic treat like nothing I've had in awhile. It was Palm Sunday and we were seated next to several young families. I enjoyed watching the chubby little 2 year old next to me struggle with his chop sticks to get the long marinated noodles to his mouth - he was obviously enjoying the whole process, and mom appeared to be not a bit concerned about the mess!

Across the way was a little blond girl about he age of three, all dressed up in poofed up white taffeta and chiffon, struggling a bit more adeptly, with the same noodles - must be a local kids favorite, and the ideal "fast food". The vegetarian stir fry David and I shared was sweet, with a hot bite behind it - the Asian beer the perfect accompaniment to the meal. I detected fresh ginger, a breath of garlic and cardamon, but don't think I could recreate that lovely dish if I tried. Will definitely go again, pay a bit more attention to the ingredients, and ask some questions.

David, undaunted by the raining, overcast weather that weekend, took a long hike on Overlook Trail from Montreat one morning, and found himself on a peak overlooking Graybeard, where he'd hiked the previous day. The misty, purple mountains have become his latest painting exploration, and from where I sit to write, I can see these peaks and trees on his easel across the loft from me.

Brad Stroman's, "Black Mountain Fever" opens Friday, April 23rd, 5:00 to 8:00 at the Lynden Gallery. Featured band for the evening is "Furnace Mountain" from Appalachian West Virginia, and special guest, my brother Brandon Hollinger. For more information on this event, the artist, and the Lynden Gallery, visit our website