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Back from Lexington

charmaine caire--Self Portrait
Charmaine Caire, Self Portrait, chromogenic print

Terminal F at Philadelphia International Airport was sporting some of Charmaine Caire’s candy-colored photographs of toys depicting surreal social commentary. But by time I got to Louisville, I found myself humming The Banks of the Ohio and Lily of the West.

But this trip was not about folk music or culture shock. It was a visit with my daughter and a chance to meet her boyfriend Ben’s family–and to see the sights.

on the road
The green grass of horse farms ain’t no blue

Not included in the sights was any grass looking blue. But there were acres and acres of the green stuff, dotted with horses and edged with black or white or dry-stone fences.

Speaking of thoroughbreds, Keenland race track was closed, but we passed Calumet on the road and a lotta lotta stud farms.

travis townsend
W’s Detector, by Travis Townsend

The most interesting gallery art I saw (I only went to two galleries) was sculpture by Travis Townsend, an artist with a Pennsylvania connection, at Ann Tower Gallery. His whimsical wood tools have a deliberately unpolished look that made me think of Isaac Resnikoff’s work, but less reductive and with a variety of surfaces. I could definitely see this work in a Philadelphia gallery. Townsend is an assistant professor in the Art Department at Eastern Kentucky University.

In LexArts Gallery, work by Audwin Price veered from complex and loopy to somewhat simple-minded. I am hard-pressed to describe the complex, loopy ones other than to say they were resin-coated paintings with unpleasant animals in relationship to humans and things. I am not sure what the resin coating gained him–maybe a little extra creepiness or a sense of looking through glass. But I was intrigued. The gallery showing these seems to be run by a civic-minded non-profit group that supports the arts in Lexington.

I don’t want to give the impression that I went to a dozen galleries and these are my picks. I went to two galleries, and these were my picks there.

Zipa Gamzon
A drawing by Israeli artist Zipa Gamzon

The other art I saw worth a mention was not in a gallery at all. It was by Ben’s aunt, Zipa Gamzon. Although Gamzon lives in Israel and is not a kid, her work fits right into the American art zeitgeist. Some of the pieces reminded me of Rachel Bliss’s little figures. Some of them felt autobigraphical, but not hermetically sealed–accessible–thanks to a mix of self-deprecating humor, beauty, and a suggestion of an existential narrative. Very nice.

Minna listening
Minna and Ben listening to the Shaker song-and-dance man in the Meeting House at Pleasant Hill

We visited a few tourist spots, the best of which was Pleasant Hill, a Shaker village southwest of Lexington. The spare spaces reminded me of Siah Armajani’s Louis I. Kahn Lecture Room at Fleisher Art Memorial. The costumed volunteers, a la Williamsburg, were full of information about religious and life practices. The sense of order and spirituality there was attractive enough to appeal to a wide variety of people even though celibacy was one of the main tenets of the order. By the way, there are four Shakers still alive in Maine.

smoking still up closer
A visitor peers inside one of the three copper stills at the Woodford Reserve distillery.

The two other places we visited were a bourbon distillery that makes Woodford Reserve and Ashland–what remains of Henry Clay’s estate of the same name.

my pretty donkey
A detail of one of four diaramas at the Woodford Reserve visitor’s center

At Woodford there were some swell carved wood diaramas of the story of the distillery and some noteworthy primitive paintings, not to mention beautiful distillery equipment–one big photo-op.

Minna, me and Murray
Minna, me and Murray posing amidst human-shaped topiary in the post-Henry Clay formal garden at Ashland.

We also walked from my daughter’s place to Ashland. The original building had been replaced in the 1800s by a similar building built by descendants (the old one had become dangerous thanks to crumbling masonry), and the artifacts mostly post-dated Clay. I enjoyed it anyway.

For more images from the trip, visit my Flickr set.