This year's South Eastern College Art Conference was in Durham, NC - home of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team, lots of tobacco and some good food. I presented a paper about my sculpture process in a session chaired by my own department chair Jim Slagle which meant he and I would be travel buddies for this trip.
Durham has a great little downtown area where the past meets the present in odd ways. Many of the old tobacco plants had been turned into upscale shopping centers or restaurants.
The signs still pay tribute to the cash crop that I assume built this town.
And the trains still run through town several times each day. Not on this track, but the ones to the left.
I took a hike around town and walked down to the baseball stadium to see the snorting bull on the left field wall. Smoke blows out of his nostrils during the games.
The Carolina Theater houses old cinemas and was the host of the SECAC keynote speech.
The old buildings and signs made the hike worth taking.
I also sat in on presentations by other professors. There's some interesting sessions and it's nice to get input and expertise from others who may be dealing with similar situations.
Jim and I have a lot in common. Besides looking alike and hating vegetables, we also love to eat good food. This turned the dining portion of our trip into a food tour. We had some great meals. Pictured above was my meal at Dames Chicken & Waffles. So many amazingly indescribable flavors on one plate. So good we ate there twice. Well worth the 4 hour drive to Durham.
We also love pigs so we sniffed out the best bbq in town. I forgot the name of the place but it had the letter "Q" in it somehow. Great bbq and fries but be warned, they put onions in their mac and cheese. Jim was angry.
You should always try an Irish pub when you travel and if that Irish pub shares your last name....you should also take a picture of the sign and fist bump the manager. Great fish and chips.
Before our presentations I had to choose between going over my notes to make sure I was prepared or driving over to the Duke campus to see some art. I'm sure I made the right choice.
In Duke's Nasher Museum of Art there were some great surprises. John Chamberlain's crushed car sculpture above.
A huge Richard Deacon sculpture in the main lobby.
It's always nice to see a Picasso, of course.
The head of a saint from way back in the art history book.
And some beautiful Flemish masters.
There was also a great contemporary show from the private collection of one of Duke's former graduates. It included work by Keith Haring, Bruce Nauman, Eric Fischl, Robert Gober, Cindy Sherman, Jessica Stockholder, Sol LeWitt and Jeff Koons. Photography was not allowed in that gallery and there were just enough dudes in black uniforms to make sure I obeyed the rules. Very inspiring work though, and also well worth the drive.
My presentation dealt with my process of using hollow form construction to create organic forms with steel. Since my dad taught me to weld when I was seven and he taught me everything I know about steel, he figured prominently in my presentation. It felt good to give him the credit for his influence in my work and to be able to show images of the first body of work I've made since he passed away last spring. That body of work features imagery inspired by my dad and his great stories.
His birthday would have been Thursday, the day before my presentation.
If you've read other posts about my dad you'll remember that he had an interesting relationship with red tailed hawks. Friday morning I went running near the hotel around a mall parking lot. As I ran, I went through the presentation in my head and at one point a red tailed hawk of substantial size swooped down and buzzed by me no more than 10 feet away. Hawks do not normally fly at humans and my lack of hair makes it certain he did not mistake me for a squirrel. I'm not sure what an appropriate response would have been, but I laughed out loud at the event. What else could I do?