Smoky Mountain Adventure

No morning game for us this today.  It works out that Mike and I are out the first set and I didn’t have to be at the game until 2:30.

Mike is taking his walk, then staying in his room watching cheesy movies on his laptop.  My housemates are taking their annual drive to Cherokee, NC to eat pancakes, but I’ve been there, done that and got the T shirt.  Then they take a hike to the top of the highest peak in the Smokies, Klingman Dome.  I’m not the hiking type.

Instead of all this fun, I decided to take the drive to Asheville, NC, which is reputedly a very artsy place, some kind of eastern Santa Fe perhaps.  It is the home of University of North Carolina, Asheville, which makes it somewhat more liberal than the rest of the state.  Stress the “somewhat”.

The drive was exciting.  Google took me the shortest way, which was truly beautiful on a good two lane road with no traffic and incessant turns, just swinging the car left and right in a rhythm.  All was fine until I saw the sign “Pavement ends, 1500 feet”.

Yep, Google led me to a dirt road.  I was worried, but decided that I’d either end up where I was headed or get shot for being a damn Yankee intruder revenoor.  The drive was scary, downhill on windy wet mud.  My rented Nissan Sentra isn’t exactly a good off-road machine, but I cinched up the seat belt, put the car in low and drove carefully.  The dirt road finally gave way to pavement, then freeway, and after an hour and forty minutes I was in the big city.

Asheville is a nice looking town, with scads of galleries large and small, book stores, coffee shops and boutiques.  I went to the the insanely large, well appointed, heavily staffed visitor center and left with maps and guides to the arts district and the best galleries.

The big gallery in town is Blue Spiral 1.  Three floors of art and craft.

The main floor of Blue Spiral 1.

The main floor of Blue Spiral 1.

What I liked the most in the gallery was the work of Carole Hetzel, who creates basketwork that I found to be entrancing:

Double woven reed and stainless steel cable.

Double woven reed and stainless steel cable.

Colors and shapes not usually associated with basketry

Colors and shapes not usually associated with basketry


I very much liked this work, and was amazed at the pricing–$675 each.  I think you could buy these at retail, bring them to the Bay Area and double your money.

There was one painting that caught my eye:



In the Studio, by Daniel Robbins.  At $6000, I thought this was priced more in line with current values.

There is a lot of glasswork here in the Southeast, and one piece in particular called out to me:

A wine glass too fine to use.

A wine glass too fine to use.


At $750, this lovely glass by Shane Fero is for display, not for sipping.

The 90 minutes I spent wandering Asheville were pleasant and instructive.  After about 3 galleries, I started to notice something–a serious lack of figurative art.  In fact, the self portrait above was almost the only thing I saw with a person in it. I saw one nude in a gallery of glass work, the Bender Gallery.

Remember, I said the town was “somewhat” more liberal. This is still the deep, deep Bible belt, full of parochial, insular, stiff necked Evangelicals incapable of discerning the difference between fine art and pornography.  Thinking about it, the galleries are full of landscapes, abstracts, geometrics and craft-work.  You can’t make a living offending you clientele, you have to sell them what they want to buy.

And that’s what I have to take away from my trip to Asheville.  It’s a great place to buy some beautiful basketwork, fantastic glass art and any number of craft pieces.  The cutting edge of the art world is somewhere else, but you knew that already.


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