Crack the Plates went down recently, and briefly, and was brought back up thanks to the work of my amazing friend Kyle. (Thank you, Kyle!) I found out that it was down not through the usual server notifications, but through folks like you – readers who had come to access the site and found it, disappointingly, unavailable.
And then last night I was dining in at Go Vegetarian, waiting for my food, when I overheard someone chatting with a cook: “So it’s your first time at Go Vegetarian, yeah, what brought you in? Did you see our website?” The customer’s response, to my surprise: “Actually I read about you on a site called… Crack the Plates? Do you know it?”
I don’t know why I was surprised. Crack the Plates has been a huge part of the lives of many vegans since I moved back to Atlanta in December 2010 and started writing about the food scene here. I’ve been recognized as “Crack the Plates” while out shopping for groceries, checking out live music, eating at restaurants (so many times), and even when I hosted a yard sale and was selling my old copies of VegNews. Though I can get a little bashful about the more public recognition, I’m really proud to have been able to be a part of what makes veganism in Atlanta exciting and accessible.
Stopping writing for Crack the Plates last year was a deliberate decision. As much as it was a food blog about Atlanta, it was also, to me, a chronicle of the life I share with my former partner. Those restaurants you see featured were always ones we dined at together, where we shared our conversations and dreams as much as our meals. When that relationship ended last September, I was too depressed to even think about what might happen with Crack the Plates.
But it’s been a year now, and I’m slowly starting to think of where I might take this project. There’s clearly still a strong desire for the blog to exist. I’ve got friends making local products who want their awesome stuff featured, to say nothing of my absolutely packed inbox, full of pitches from companies all over the word. I know the Atlanta Vegan Guide resource, though currently out of date, has been a huge help to folks getting into veganism, moving to Atlanta, or simply exploring the options here.
I also really miss the joy of cooking for folks as a personal chef. Crack the Plates Personal Chef Service was a profitable, fun way for me to do hard work and think creatively on a weekly basis. I took a lot of pride in serving quality, thoughtfully-prepared vegan meals to families throughout the city. Yes, it was a ton of work, and to be sure, my former partner was a crucial part of why it was successful. If I were to start it up again, it would necessarily take a different form. That’s okay.
So, I’d love to hear what you think: what you think Crack the Plates could be, what you’ve missed, and what you want for the future. And I promise I’ll keep thinking seriously about it, too. Thanks for reading.
A few of my favorite images from late 2014.
Cave Bat at Respite VII.
More from Respite VII.
The Twinhead Christmas Party.
When Liz & Khalilah visited.
Alec & Jina & Neil visited.
I hung out with a nice baby on Christmas Eve.
Christin & Ross threw a great party.
I made my mom’s biscuits on Christmas morning…
…and spent Christmas afternoon with Laura.
Perl & Lua were the only Christmas presents I needed.
I travelled to NYC.
John welcomed me with “Troop Beverly Hills”, milkshakes, and Blossom via Seamless.
Mark came down from the HV to hang out for a day. We walked around ate food and talked about important things.
Cocoron Soba is one of my new favorite places.
Bagel and coffee for breakfast daily.
Saw a play.
Ate well at Pukk thai.
And the ice cream place.
An afternoon at the spa refreshes.
Especially when you meet a friend who brings you cookies.
Franchia is another new favorite place.
The Morgan is my old favorite place.
I returned to my cats…
…got fancy for NYE…
…and had New Year’s Eve dinner with Sar. A sweet ending, indeed.
The truth is, this week has been incredibly kind to me. A given week will usually have a couple of cool things going on, but this one insisted on delivering 100 day and night. In fact, I’m writing this through deeply sleepy eyes, as my bedtime has been in the two o’clock hour most nights. Here are the highlights:
A**hole Santa at Criminal Records. Headed over after brunch at Radial to see if there was any way I could be of service to my dear friend Lillian (pictured; photo by Ian Cone), who has been running the event for years (forever?). Last year I helped decorate the stage. This year I played the unofficial “Mrs.” and managed donations to Ahimsa House, a local nonprofit benefiting human and animal victims of domestic violence. I enjoyed talking to folks about the cause and encouraging them to give as able. By my charm or folks’ charity or the magical combination of the two, we raised almost $400!
Sunday was a lovely self-care day after a busy week. (Pretty sure I went out every night last week, too, but it’s not getting a post!) Took care of the things that needed to be taken care of in the morning and then walked to Pallookaville with a new friend for drinks and an overly late lunch. The weather, my company, that cocktail: all of it, delightful.
“Plates and Crates” vegan dinner and records at Ria’s Bluebird, hosted/cheffed by Dillon Maurer. Dillon is a musician and chef who is universally adored. He loved this picture I took of his tequila toast: “It’s Not that BAAAAAD!” Our menu:
- ‘Yo’stada w/ guacamole, shredded spinach, salsa roja, sour ‘cream’
- ‘What You Say About My Momma?’s’ Black Bean Soup w/ cilantro, onion, avocado & chipotle cashew ‘crema’
- ‘A Lotta’ Ensalata: Romaine, jicama, lime cured radish, red pepper, charred corn, toasted pepitas, with a roasted poblano vinaigrette
- ‘Quinoacos’: Flour tortillas wrapping red quinoa simmered with onion, garlic, carrot, squash, button mushrooms. Served with salsa verde, & cilantro-lime slaw.
Heads-up: he’s probably doing some kind of New Year’s thing, so you should listen out. Like so many good things in life, I have Lillian to thank for putting me in touch with this genius.
Went out to Wrecking Bar for vegan Tuesday with a cool new friend, Seth, who I met through my friend Molly and her/their/everybody’s favorite theatre company Twinhead. Ate seitan flautas, drank a good cocktail, and had frank, thoughtful, thoroughly entertaining conversation about things that matter. Above image from their December 4 show “FRIGHT STREET“. Goal for 2015: tell everyone about Twinhead!
Had to stay home because I wasn’t feeling great, but made the most of it by finishing Y: The Last Man and taking lots of naps. Met up with my darling friend Sarah for dinner and heard about her secret art projects and gossiped about the High Museum.
Stuck somewhere between an 8-bit apocalypse and a Technicolor daydream, local electronic artist Seanny Georgie produces some of the most chilling electronic music in Atlanta. Under his NO EYES alias, Georgie’s sprawling compositions explore the ways human identity is processed in an age of hyper-awareness and social technology advancing faster than our understanding of its possibilities. From skittering breakbeats to hypnotic synth washes, NO EYES can be thought of as a frenetic rumination on the intersection of technology and humanity, a soundtrack to a Blade Runner-esque world we already live in, an elegy for a dead pixel.
I mean, even if Seanny wasn’t a friend already, how could I not? It was a great show.
I left after Seanny’s performance to head over to Ellsworth Industrial Blvd’s sprawing compound for the Mike WiLL Made-It Ransom mixtape release party. My friend was DJing with her beau and I didn’t want to miss. Plus, I’d been listening to the mixtape on repeat and was really excited about the prospect of hearing “Drinks On Us” live. And do you know Mike Will? He’s hugely important.
Sure enough, I rolled up and was greeted by none other than the Swae Lee (of Rae Sremmurd), smiling and welcoming people. Like a prayer answered, I got to see him perform Drinks On Us with Future, who did a few crowd favorites as well. Everyone looked and sounded amazing. It was a really special experience.
Went to see Twinhead Theatre‘s production of “LOADED GUNS: Ding Dong Merrily We’re High” at Village Theatre. Met up with a few folks I like an awful lot to enjoy the show together. And enjoy we did: I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Cliche, but I was really in pain. After show drinks at Twain’s with this beautiful, funny, talented troupe: talked relationships and comedy, did some shots, and heard remarkable freestyle.
Tonight? Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll share my plans: dinner with a friend and then the monthly Ballers Eve party at El Bar. I try to make it out to El Bar on Fridays to see Speakerfoxxx and Cristo, but this one is particularly special because a guy I’ve been listening to on repeat for much of late November is going to be hosting (performing?): Key!.
Need something to do tomorrow night? Come enjoy “quiet moods, warm sonic sundries and deliciously cozy aural climes” at Respite VII at Eyedrum. Here’s a nice little article in CL about it. You can RSVP here, if you like.
When I was a kid, I was usually doing one of two things: reading or exploring the outdoors. I grew up on fourteen acres surrounded by many hundreds of acres of farmland and forest. It was not unusual for me to spend whole afternoons roaming, greeting the cows, comparing wildflowers, and splashing through streams. I’d walk two miles through pastures to the country store for a biscuit and a can of beans, paid mostly with coins of course, only to return home, make a quick lunch, and head back out. I hopped hay bales until I collapsed onto the prickly just-mowed field, which dug into my back as I traced the constellations. It was a fairly feral childhood, and, in that regard, was totally to my liking.
While the landscape of my family home has changed a lot since then, my desire to ramble really hasn’t. In recent months I’ve especially felt the urge to start hiking. Now that it’s cooled off a bit and the mosquitoes have abated, I’m thrilled to have my pal Jonah’s book “Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out” as my guide. Jonah is a writer, storyteller, outdoor guide, and Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who I had the pleasure to get to know through the community at Atlanta Friends Meeting. Here’s a great interview with this remarkable guy.
So far I’ve been on four of his hikes:
- Hahn Woods and Lullwater Preserve, October 15
- South Peachtree Creek Trail, October 16
- Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, October 18
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, East Palisades, October 19
I started with Hahn Woods and Lullwater because I was embarrassed I hadn’t done it already. This hike sits in the center of Emory University, AKA, where I am employed. So on the first day of my three days’ vacation, I did what any sane person would do: I headed to work!
It was a curious sensation, knowing that I was a stone’s throw from the office, and yet feeling so far away. I really lost myself in the fun of this first walk. I did a little field recording by the waterfall and under the bridge – the cars bumping along overhead made spooky echoes.
The mud was a challenge. The day before we had rain for nearly eight hours straight. (I remember the day; I wished my vacation had started one day earlier so I could be at home enjoying it.) I slipped and fell at one point, but it wasn’t a big deal – I just laughed and wiped my hands on a tree and kept moving. Unfortunately I was not able to complete the hike. As Jonah says near the close of this one, you must cross a sewage pipe over a feeder creek, “which can be slippery even in dry weather.” I was Durin’s Bane at Khazad-dum, and that mud-caked pipe was my Gandalf – only I knew better than to attempt to pass. Though I briefly considered launching my pack across the creek and sliding over, I’m glad I turned back because I got to meet a fluffy old dog. Sometimes prudence is rewarded!
I learned a valuable lesson about using this book: as with cooking from recipes, make sure you read the whole thing thoroughly before you get started!
The next day I went out to the South Peachtree Creek Trail.
This was a fine hike. As with Hahn and Lullwater the day before, it was still quite muddy, making certain parts a challenge. But I enjoyed it and was rewarded with several mushroom sightings, including the exciting jelly types picture above. The marvellous magenta clusters of American beautyberry were also a pleasure to encounter.
Saturday was a very sad day for me for personal reasons. I knew the only thing that could get me out of my own head was going for a walk, so I picked one close by: the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve. It was already nearly dusk when I got started and I was a little nervous about going out alone, but the upside was getting to hear all the early evening bird calls.
These three hikes have several things in common: they’re all close to my house, short, and easy. Before returning to work I wanted to go a bit further out for a hike that was longer and moderate to strenuous. I woke up at 6am today, made tea, and landed on the East Palisades route at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a half-hour drive from my house. I checked the sunrise and saw that if I arrived at 8am I’d be in good shape. Sure enough, I was one of the first cars in the lot, and was happy to spend most of my four miles completely alone.
I was there from 8am til about 11:30, which means I took the route incredibly leisurely. This was the morning to front only the essential facts of life, to borrow Thoreau’s famous phrase, and so I sat on the outcrops and did just that. I hope I’ve captured some of the peacefulness in the images above.
As the morning wore on and warmed up, I started to see more hikers. I felt a little surge of pride when anyone stopped me to inquire about landmarks or where they were headed. (The bamboo grove was the hot destination.) I was happy to help but always directed the praise back to Jonah and his terrific book.
While I enjoyed these hikes solo, I’m definitely looking for friends to join me in the future. I’ve asked my friend Sarah to pick a hike for us since she has the book too, and I know she’s actively soliciting friends for dogs to borrow. If you’re in the Atlanta area and you’re outdoorsy, let me know! It’d be a pleasure to explore Atlanta’s hidden forests together.
Random.org has spoken, and the winner is…
You won with the following comment:
Additions to vegan friendly: Chow Baby (Howell Mill & Ponce locations), Big Chow Grill (Cobb Galleria), Seasons 52 (Perimeter & Buckhead) – they have a special vegan menu), add the Uncle Maddio’s location in Buckhead on Roswell Rd, Souper Jenny (Buckhead & Decatur), Barrelhouse (Midtown – vegan wings), Sufi’s (Brookwood, they say they have 9 vegan items), Noodle (Decatur & Midtown) and Addition to vegan: Juicy Jenny
Please send me a note at cracktheplates (at) gmail (dot) com and I will get “Salad Samurai” shipped to you!
I did love some of these other comments, though:
Saniel, Kristine, and Felicia dig Drink Art – check their praise:
Drink Art–unique, delicious, and truly artfully done food. A fantastic addition to the vegan food scene in Atlanta. –Kristine
Dinner: Drink Art. New, fresh and exciting cuisine. –Saniel
My new fav vegan place for Thai and have some Phad Khi mao noodles with soy chicken for 9.95. –Felicia
Sarah can’t get enough of Ru San’s:
Hit it up RuSan’s if you’re in the mood for tempura zucchini maki, edamame, and miso soup.
Revolution Doughnuts got love from Jane and Kristine:
Breakfast: Revolution Donuts–who doesn’t love a sweet treat when they’re visiting a new place?! Plus, the coffee is fantastic too so you really can’t go wrong. –Kristine
Breakfast – Revolution Doughnuts – what better way to start the day than with coffee and donuts?! Some of my all-time faves also happen to be vegan, including the vanilla bean, raspberry sprinkle, and chocolate. Wishing they were open now! –Jane
Nate and I cooled off with their doughnut ice cream sandwiches after a bike ride yesterday, and can I just say? YUM.
Thanks to everyone who left a comment!
This weekend I threw out (recycled) a stack of at least two hundred crisp Atlanta Vegan Guides. Straight from the printer to a folder in my desk, they never even had a chance. Never displayed at Dough, never posted on anyone’s fridge, never amended with personal comments or shared with friends visiting from out-of-town.
It was hard, but what was I to do? They were over a year out of date! That’s right: the last version went out Spring 2013, and it’s been 2014 for a while now. For cryin’ out loud, we’re nearly to fall!
So much has happened in the vegan world since last spring. Ammazza serves vegan pies with house-made cashew cheese! We have a freakin’ vegan thai restaurant! Pure Abundance is selling the world’s best vegan cheeses all over the place! (And Dulce Vegan is using Pure Abundance’s Pan in a swoonworthy sandwich called the Green Goddess Grilled Cheese.)
Friends, it’s time.
It’s darn well past time.
I must update Atlanta’s only paper version of a vegan guide: THE Atlanta Vegan Guide.
(It’s also time to update Atlanta’s only online vegan guide, but we’ll tackle that next, okay?)
I need your help.
I started this money-savin’ project a few months ago, you see, to try and pay off some of my student loans at an accelerated rate. So I haven’t been dining out as much as I used to, and I’m not as aware of all the fun stuff that’s out there. The shameful truth: I haven’t had Ammazza pizza yet! I haven’t slurped noodles at Drink Art! (Although I did try. The place was packed and the waitlist a mile long.)
I need you to tell me what you think should be in the next edition of the Vegan Guide. Tell me what’s new, of course; but also tell me where YOU actually like to eat. The next edition should not only reflect the most recent additions to Atlanta’s culinary landscape, but it should include the places you actually go, so that when you hand a guide to a new friend, or someone visiting from out of town, you can say “This is a great a guide, and here’s MY favorite place!”
To sweeten the deal, I am offering another giveaway with this post. (!!!!!!!!) Please answer the following question in a comment:
A fun-loving vegan celebrity chef shows up in Atlanta with $100 burning a hole in their pocket. They want to spend the whole day with you. They need breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Where would you take them?
In addition to answering the question above, you can gain another entry by suggesting places that have not been featured in the guide before, OR, if you wanna get tendentious, tell me who should be removed from the guide (hee hee hee). The winner will receive a copy of Terry Hope Romero’s just-released book “Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love”.
When Terry came to town for the first annual Atlanta Veg Fest, I took her to Dulce Vegan.
Here we are!
We also had sandwiches and treats Dough Bakery with our pals Seth and Elena of VeganESP.
For obvious reasons, contest is open to Atlanta-based or former Atlanta residents only*, and will be shipped within the US. C’mon, give me your suggestions!
Please, be a friend: share this post on social media. But note that only comments posted to this entry count as Official.
Winner selected on Monday, July 28!
*If you’re neither and can make a really good case for yourself in your illuminating comment, you’ll be entered to win as well.
I wish I had ten copies to give away; one to each of you for your thoughtful comments. But alas, there can only be one winner… and the Random Number Generator has blessed:
“The Veg Abides”! Congratulations! You won with the following comment:
What a great party! I am knew to your blog and a new vegan. Your dinner party has inspired me to share my foodie love with others! Seriously, I was drooling looking at Joshua’s food. I want to eat chilaquiles all the time =) I wonder what vegan Greek food would be like: tofu feta cheese on the Greek salad, vegan flaming cheese, maybe even a vegan baklava? The possibilities are endless!
Please e-mail me your physical mailing address at cracktheplates (at) gmail (dot) com so I can send you your cookbook and an additional recipe from Joshua’s new book.
Thanks for playing, y’all!
Three weeks ago I sent out a teaser e-mail to a group of area eaters to gauge interest in a potential dinner at my house with Joshua Ploeg, the touring vegan chef.
I guessed that our dining + living room could be stretched to accommodate around twenty, so I asked that folks RSVP quick.
Many already knew his work, but for those who didn’t, I named his cookbooks:
In Search of the Lost Taste
Image by Buy Olympia / Preview several recipes and buy the book at Buy Olympia
To further stoke the flames of excitement, I shared Adam Gnade’s florid description of his cookery:
Joshua Ploeg’s cooking blows my mind so much that a secret door opens in the back of my head and white doves, musical notes, and winged horses fly out. His cooking is transcendent: Dangerous, strange and perfect. It¹s full of colorful tastes that explode in your mouth like Pop Rocks flavor combinations you never thought possible. Crazy alchemy. Freaky magic. Joshua’s the Traveling Chef; you make an appointment, he shows up at your house with a load of groceries, makes an incredible multi-course vegan meal using your pots and pans, and then he’s gone like the Lone Ranger riding into a big Texas sunset. Joshua’s been in a bunch of hardcore bands and he brings all the good things punk rock gave us: risk, passion, creativity, and weirdness; then he applies them to his meals. I randomly lucked into one of his dinners last year. I usually eat really fast and mindlessly, but I had to take this one slow and let all the flavors develop and do their respective stuff. Each had its own distinctive note its own voice that rang out to let it be known that it was something special and unique. It was an experience in the finest sense of the word.
I became a fan after trying Joshua’s food at a Dinner & Bikes event two years ago. We’d stayed in touch since then, and every time it seemed like there was the possibility that he might be passing through this area, I let him know I was still up for hosting. Finally the stars aligned and we picked a date!
I expected there to be some enthusiasm, but was thrilled to find that within an hour reservations were full and we even had a wait list. The date set, RSVPs triple-confirmed, and wouldn’t you know it? On Saturday, July 12, Mr. Ploeg arrived via Greyhound to fix a feast for me and my friends!
I picked him up at the train station and after chilling a bit at home and chatting about the menu, we took off to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market for ingredients. An accomplished cook myself, I was surprised to feel like such a kiddo tagging along while my cool older brother shopped. Joshua buzzed through the massive produce section – a little epazote here, some Mexican zucchini there, and sacks of peppers in every hue — and navigated the dry aisles just as deftly. I learned about a cheapo vegan sugar, the story of canary beans, and made mental notes as he perused spices.
Once home, he got to work. Nate took a much-needed break from cleaning while I went out and shopped for flowers for our tables. I’m glad I left – I would have gone crazy at the smells had I stayed. Nate sent frequent texts in disbelief of how quickly things were coming together: our chef always seemed to have at least five things going at once. Baking a cake, stuffing chiles rellenos, tending the refried beans, dressing tamale cupcakes… what can’t he do?
(All images to follow by Seth P. of VeganESP. Thank you Seth!)
My lovely friend Allison of Pure Abundance (above, far right) contributed two giant wheels of her terrific aged cashew cheese to the night’s festivities. Everybody adored it! You can find her tasty goods at Dough Bakery and bi-weekly at the East Atlanta Village Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.
Speaking of Dough Bakery: there’s Kevin and Laura on the left!
Plating dessert on our varied assortment of bowls, plates, and whatever else I could find in the china cabinet. Did I mention that we used every plate, cup, fork, and cloth napkin in the house? We did. (And that’s after my pal Sarah brought nine extra dinner plates!) Thanks also to all of the guests who contributed extra chairs. My first pop-up dinner felt like a real team effort!
Can’t get enough of Seth’s beautiful photography? Check out his and Elena’s blog, VeganESP and follow them on twitter: SethP23 and VeganESP. They cook and blog regularly and everything they make is delicious.
Now: time for a GIVEAWAY! Joshua left a copy of his entertaining cookbook “In Search of the Lost Taste” for a lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment and share your answer to the following: if Joshua were to cook a dinner party at YOUR house, which cuisine would you prefer? We went with Mexican-ish because it’s what a vegan feels is most lacking in Atlanta. How about you?
Entries will be collected through next Monday, July 21 and the winner announced that afternoon. US + most international mailing addresses welcome. Good luck!
Thanks to our touring chef for a marvellous, magical meal and evening. ‘Til next time…
A couple of weeks ago our dear friend Jenny made her annual visit from Chicago and, as always/promised/threatened, we tore up the town! Albeit belatedly, I want to share some images from our trip. Perhaps you’ll have visitors to Atlanta soon? Take these images as suggestions of fun things to do in the city this summer!
Desta has the best Ethiopian food in town! I love sitting on the porch by the trees. All levels of management and service staff insist that the vegetarian platter is default vegan unless you specify that you’d like your shiro drizzled with butter, but I always say “no dairy, no milk, no butter in the shiro” just in case. We haven’t had any issues.
This is an old picture from the archives (this post!) but still basically what it looks like. YUM! (Oh, and please pardon my mis-type of “injera” above! I really do know better!)
One reason I love Desta so much? It’s right next door to a post office. The inverted Jenny flies again…
On Friday we went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I love these sculptures! They’re “The Four Seasons” by Philip Haas and were formerly at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. They’ll be here through October, so go see! Smaller versions live in the Conservatory. They’re inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s 16th century paintings.
“Winter”: our favorite
Love those mushroom lips.
Nate with the scary berries.
Nate with his favorite plant, camellia sinensis(tea)!!
Kids losing it at the ogre
A redbird for my grandmother
Want more mosaiculture? See my post from last summer, and visit with butterflies, cobras, phlox, quails, a little lizard, and more!
In the children’s garden we discovered a BOG with pitcher plants! Please recall that last November Nate and I travelled to Pensacola, Florida to see pitcher plants for our anniversary. We had no idea they were closer to home!
Atlanta’s High Museum of Art isn’t far from the Botanical Garden, so we headed there next. Unfortunately the big exhibit was closed to get ready for “Dream Cars” (ugggggghhh), so we visited the large permanent pieces on the top floor.
Over the past twenty-give years, Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba 1948) has become internationally renowned for works that employ the language of photography to explore visual surprise and wonder. In 1962 Morell moved with his family to the Unite States from Cuba. He received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College in Maine, where he took his first photography course. He later completed an MFA in photography at Yale University, finding inspiration in the work of street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank.
Morell has turned his camera on conveyors of cultural meaning such as family, books, maps, money, and museums in extensive series that explore the perception of images. He has experimented with many techniques, including photograms, still-life tableaux, stop-motion studies, the camera obscura, and most recently the tent camera–a kind of portable camera obscura that projects the image of a landscape onto the surface of the ground. Now, after decades of working exclusively in black and white, Morell has embraced color, returning to old themes and series to view them in a new spectrum. This retrospective of more than one hundred works made from 1986 through the present traces Morell’s innovative carrer as he continues to mine the essential strangeness and complexity of images.
The Reverend Howard Finster is one of the best-known self-taught artists in the world. An evangelical Baptist preacher for most of his life, he worked as a bicycle and lawnmower repairman until 1975, when he heard a voice telling him to ‘paint sacred art’ and became a visionary artist. Finster produced a rich body of important paintings and sculpture, but the centerpiece of his creative activity was his four-acre art installation, Paradise Garden, intended to glorify God and commemorate the inventions of humankind.
In the early 1960s, Finster had begun to reclaim swampland around his home in Pennville, Georgia, and build his environment from cast-off materials and his own creations. Embellished with painted gourds, silver tinsel garland, and glass-studded “suncatchers”, the setting eventually included a small church, a tower of bicycle parts, architectural follies, large concrete sculptures, paintings, and innumerable signs inscribed with Biblical messages.
Visits to Paradise Gardens were an important part of my childhood and the cause for some of my earliest and most indelible memories. I remember sitting on Finster’s knee when I was quite young, and hearing him talk to my mom and dad, both lovers of nature. My dad is a self-taught artist as well whose work sometimes reflects Howard’s, and his handwriting is similar. In some ways, my parents’ property in Rome is like a mini-Paradise Garden, only it reflects to a much further extent my mom’s deep knowledge of horticulture and her meticulous collection and grooming of rare and heritage plantings. My dad’s welded creations dot the lush landscape. Finster’s Garden, on the other hand, was a tangle of metal, glass, and wood painted in his signature bouyant style. There was plenty to explore, look at, touch, hide in… and a bit to fear, too. After all, Finster was a born-again evangelist who had pretty strong ideas about the world!
Saturday was a big day because we picked up my newly-built Yuba Bike, the elBoda Boda, from the bikeshop! I’ve been using it for recreation and bike commuting to Emory. It’s my all-around car-replacer and I LOVE IT! And yes, I regularly bike in dresses and skirts. :-) Thanks to Mark Stosberg at Bikes as Transportation for recommending Yuba.
Our big event Saturday was going to the Center for Puppetry Arts to see Charlotte’s Web. Jenny and I have a tradition of taking in a puppet show. Now that we’re members, we got to sit on the second row! It was awesome, and I cried when Charlotte died.
We made Jenny’s last night in Atlanta count. First, dinner at our favorite place, Harmony Vegetarian on Buford Highway. We ordered WAY too much food. Unbelievable, really.
On my birthday this year Nate and I explored Plaza Fiesta and had a great time playing games in the little arcade. I was super excited to take Jenny when she visited. Skeeball is my favorite!
Side note: isn’t Plaza Fiesta wonderfully cheery?!
Today Nate and I took a lovely afternoon bike ride through Decatur. We like to detour through the large city city cemetery. Today was a bit overcast and cool, and perfect for bird watching! Here, a robin says hello from atop Cleland.
That’s one thing that makes bird watching in a cemetery so pleasant for Nate and me. When we spot someone terrific, we don’t usually have to do a whole lot of explaining! Just point and say, there! Atop McKelvey!, (or Harrison, or… you get my drift). Makes birdwatching a lot easier.
I snapped McDonagh and Lang for Nate’s mom, since they appear to have some kind of Irish or Celtic influence.
Today we had the great pleasure of seeing not one but TWO red-headed woodpeckers!
Here’s the first.
Giving us another view, before taking flight.
Here’s the second, a little further down, but in the same area of the cemetery.
Lookin’ at the looker
We often stop to read the gravestones, particularly if there’s an interesting name or if they’re really old or weathered. Here, Nate marvels at a large age gap in a presumed married couple.
Taking off! Decatur Cemetery is a lovely walk, but on a bike, you really feel the hills! They’re everywhere, and some are quite steep. Seems like you’re always either going down or coming up one.
Didn’t get any good pictures of me today, so here’s one from last weekend. We took our bikes up to Chattanooga, stayed overnight, and were able to get some great riding in Sunday morning before a bountiful brunch at our all-time favorite restaurant, Sluggo’s. Here I am outside the restaurant after biking there from the hotel via one of the city’s beautiful bridges. Chattanooga is an extremely bike-friendly city and we love visiting.