Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn colors

equality march on Pennsylvania Avenue

Texans brought the biggest flag naturally

yellow dahlia with dark purple red leaves Smithsonian Ripley garden

an exotic orange relative of the tomato at Ripley garden

fuzzy orange relatives of the tomato

potted violet blue tropical flowers in the Smithsonian Haupt gardens

hibiscus at the Smithsonian Haupt garden

crepe myrtle leaves

crepe myrtle leaves

orange sun sets over turkey thicket

Turkey Thicket Community Center orange in the sunset

This time of year is golden orange and bright colors in the warm range abound everywhere you look in nature and in the culture that reflects our connections to the world around us. I have been watching my stack of images pile up while out on lots of interesting adventures in the past month. Yesterday we traveled down to a Poetic Art exhibit and reading which I donated some work for sale to raise money for the Yellow Ribbon Fund and had a great time visiting the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center. What a gem the Workhouse has become. I knew it as the place where imprisoned suffragettes were locked up after a early twentieth century demonstration for Women's votes. The leading ladies were kept in the work house and after a food strike protesting their imprisonment they were brutally force fed with funnels and hoses. They got out and the vote was eventually delivered to Women thanks to their work. Later it became a real prison where Washington DC sent our criminals to serve time and was closed due to over crowding and health problems. Now it is a wonderful open and clean modern arts center. Sadly the exhibition had rules about taking photos that kept me from pulling out my handy Kodak so when we got home Keith and I took a walk and made some local photos of the trees the sky in shades of my favorite orange.
A couple weeks ago we went to the National March for Equality as spectators and later enjoyed some garden time afterwards in the Ripley and Haupt gardens kept by the Smithsonian Institution. I made photos of flowers and fruits some orange and some the opposite blue. The flags and signs and people in the march were exciting and the crowd was much bigger than we expected to see after only six months lead time to plan and implement a national event.
Another project I am giving my time as a volunteer on a artists book project at the Pyramid Atlantic Studios in Silver Spring, Maryland not too far from home. It is a project that started last year as a funds raiser by ten book artists who went to the rehearsals and performances of the City Dance Company and made book art in response to their dances. The story of it's inception is explained nicely by this film excerpt Moving Parts. I am helping to assemble 50 black and red clam shell boxes to hold books for those ten artists dance related books. These boxed book sets are going on sale next month to raise funds for the Pyramid Atlantic and City Dance. While I work with a team I am learning new techniques and meeting new people with who also love book making.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Solar Decathlon 2009 Germany Wins!

View of the winner's house from south facade where we waited in line to get a look inside Germany's house Tuesday morning. Their flag pole doubled as a camera mount for the live feed internet camera shown on the team's web site.

German's house was full of hosts and visitors on Tuesday morning as the sun shinned brightly. This home had a loft (not open to us) that included a bed room and other areas to live above the dinning room and kitchen and bathroom. One unique feature were two hide-a-way beds that were on rollers built as double long steps on the ground level just past the dinning room table.

Photo Voltaic ( PV ) panels covered the entire exterior of German's solar house. The colors black with orange (red) and yellow details reflecting the German flag.

Some of the PV panels were on louvers that opened to let in light on German's solar powered house.

They did it again! Technical University Darmstadt of Germany won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon after a week of testing and evaluations for ten categories of energy efficiency and aesthetic excellence. This time I got to tour the house on Tuesday it was the first one Keith and I visited when we arrived with all the school K-12 tour groups visiting that day it was a long wait but worth the visit. I got a few photographs while we were waiting in line. I was impressed with Illinois and California's entries who came in second and third place. German team says this house will go back to the University campus and be placed next to the 2007 winning house where they serve as education tools and inspiration to future teams and students from all over Europe. They beat American teams showing even our best schools are not producing savvy architects and engineers because everyone used commercially available solar products to build their houses. We need more money for schools, grants for education and focus on the future of energy production. Buildings use about half of the energy in this country to run and to be built so this is an important technical weakness for America that needs to be addressed to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and cut green house gases.
More photos are posted on my flickr pages.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Solar Decathlon 2009

Hard hat area, caution California men working
pure chaos around the proverbial glass house
VA Tech Team installing decking panels
VA Tech's Solar house
Cornell team with water filtration system of tall grasses
German Team

Every two years in October the national mall comes alive with architects, engineers, carpenters, landscapers... electricians and others who are busy at work rebuilding small houses. This year twenty teams from all over the country and some from other countries for the Energy Department's Solar Decathlon are setting up on the mall. I got a preview on Sunday October 4th and took a few pictures and had a few conversations with the crew members and one very nice orange bearded architectural professor from Wisconsin. The sun was slipping down towards the horizon and the teams were working very hard to get their buildings up, outfitted with solar panels and wired so they could be inspected and begin collecting solar energy to run their homes and a car by October 9th when they open to the public. I have fallen in love with this event. I don't know why exactly but it is such an optimistic experience to see real people working so hard to create a sustainable and energy neutral home right now, right here in DC.
Each team has a website with the story of their design construction and trip to DC as well as galleries of photos of the homes and some have movies too. They are all listed on this web site Get Smart Energy NOW! in an overview article : A Quick Cheat Sheet to Solar Decathlon I enjoyed looking over some of the team web sites once I had been down for my preview in person. I was surprised to see how much of the materials were recycled wood from grain towers and barns in the University of Illinois at Urbana's house for example.
Virginia Tech had a full 10 minute video about their house which was kind of interesting. This time the house looks very slick and shinny compared to the house that VA Tech. built in 2007 but you can find out about all the teams by going to the cheat sheet article. I am looking forward to returning to visit when the work is done and the houses are up and running 100% on their own power.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September in Colonial Williamsburg VA

The shed with raw dry green bricks protected from rain.

The kiln and some finished bricks from last year's firing.

Colonial Williamsburg brick maker telling us about his job standing next to this year's kiln.

This week I catch up after a really nice week in Williamsburg,VA taking pictures and walking through all sorts of formal and working back yard gardens. I had a nice break from DC down there in the slower pace of Colonial Williamsburg. Keith and I picked up my mom and drove down to her Powhatan Plantation time share to meet Mildred Cunningham her buddy and my sister, brother-in-law and his mom for a week. It was a nice ride with Keith volunteering to do all the driving down interstate 95. We all unpacked and settled in while Mildred and Phyllis (my mom) got our first meal prepared with all the goodies they brought. It reminded me of earlier days when they worked this magic for our families two or three times a day. Now as an adult we had to take up some of the duties of meals and Keith and I did a roast pork dinner one night. Brother-in-law Frank and his mom Elizabeth fixed their speciality Hungarian Chicken Paprika which is in a rich creamy sauce over noodles on another evening. As usual we had plenty of delicious food for every meal including pies from the pie shop and White House rolls from a bakery in Richmond that we all love.

Days we all went our separate ways to follow our own interests reuniting for those delicious dinners and visiting evenings. Keith and I set out the first day on a trip to Colonial Williamsburg (CW) and walked taking pictures all day. First stop was the brick yard where they discussed the way all houses were built in Virginia of the 1700s with home made bricks made on site by itinerant brick makers. They used local clay and created the bricks two at a time in forms. Those wet bricks were laid out in the sun to dry then were stored in a shelter till it was time to build a kiln out of raw green bricks and fire it for almost a whole week round the clock. In CW they make bricks every summer which are fired in the kiln in October and we sat around under the tent as one interpreter explained the process and another laid bricks into the stack to create the brick kiln that will soon be ablaze below with continuous burning wood. This was a very interesting talk and he showed us green bricks, salmon colored bricks, my favorite color orange red (half done and still soft). Then the finished hard red brick and the over done purple gray bricks that are close to the fire. I asked about the pattern we see of bricks in many colonial buildings where they appear to have glazed brick ends between red bricks and he said that all the bricks ends that face the fire are put aside and used to create that decorative brick laying pattern. Those he noted are the hardest bricks and most valuable. Something I have wondered about for years finally answered by a professional brick maker. Where else could you ask that question?
I took some 300+ photos and a couple of videos and I would like to tell you about all of it but I think that might take the rest of the month of October to write it all and instead I have to concentrate on my books and preparation for the Light in October show coming up in just a few weeks. You can go see the pictures from Williamsburg as I edit and post them on in my Colonial Williamsburg Set as time allows.
I am also working on a few other interesting projects this month. Neighboring poet and friend Peter Montgomery and I collaborated and got accepted to show one of my figure watercolor drawings with one of his poems. It will be in a exhibition of poet artists collaborations, honoring a heroic local poet soldier, opening Oct. 25th at Old Lorton Work House Arts Center. There is a catalog planned along with the art for sale to raise funds for the families of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital and Bethesda Navel Medical Center.
In addition I am helping to build boxes for a Pyramid Atlantic fund raiser project of artists books honoring City Dance and Pyramid Atlantic's book artists.