A Unique Setting
Since inception, we have been trying to define AW’s special magic. One aspect is certainly the year-round beauty of place – the sweeping Blue Ridge views, specimen trees, boxwood-lined paths, and the starlit skies provide daily inspiration. Or maybe it is as the photographer Sally Mann describes, that quality of Southern melancholy and a “moldering decadence”. We seek to expose/engage artists to/with the uniqueness of (rural) communities. We ask artists to reflect how the region will (and is) affecting their work and to consider ways in which to engage with the locality.
The Residency building is located in the Historic Old Southwest neighborhood in Roanoke, Virginia. Just a few minutes walk from Downtown Roanoke, this neighborhood is a living celebration of history, architecture, and the new “urban pioneer” spirit.
Developed primarily between the years 1882 and 1930, a period of tremendous growth and prosperity in the city's early history, the compact area is the most architecturally cohesive residential neighborhood of the inner city. Known for its remarkable collection of turn-of-the-century and early 20th-century residences ranging from modest bungalows to large mansions and representing such architectural styles as the Queen Anne, Shingle, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, American Foursquare, and Tudor Revival, the district has retained much of its architectural integrity and visual character as an early 20th-century neighborhood.
Many of the houses are highly individuated examples of the Queen Anne style; yet each possesses common features such as a multiplicity of gables and irregular roof lines and wraparound porches with decorative sawn work. Many retained familiar Queen Anne-style features like irregular massing, wraparound porches, and turrets, but many also featured Palladian attic windows and classical porch columns and pediments more characteristic of the emerging Colonial Revival.
The charm of Old Southwest comes from its eclectic and often exemplary architectural styles, its interesting groupings of homes together with its “streetscapes” and “green spaces”. Of its hundreds of structures, no two are exactly alike, and no single architectural style can be said to dominate. The neighborhood is blessed with styles ranging from the simple I-form to the flamboyant Queen Anne, playful Victorian, stately Colonial and Georgian Revivals, Tudor Revival, and Shingle, as well as vernacular mixes. After the turn of the century, the style now known as the classic American Foursquare, built in frame, brick, and occasionally cast stone began to appear, as did the Bungalow. Early twentieth century two-family and four- or-more-family apartment dwellings, built with the same flair and pride in craftsmanship as the single-family homes, add to the rich variety of the neighborhood. Expansive porches with classic columns, complicated roof lines of slate, pressed metal and shingle, interesting dormers and towers, fanciful millwork, leaded and stained glass windows, multicolor paint schemes – these and other fine details make Old Southwest the most architecturally exciting neighborhood in the Roanoke Valley.
Old Southwest would grow to become one of Roanoke's premier residential areas from its initial establishment through the years following World War Two when it would see the beginnings of a decline. By the 1970s, the neighborhood would begin to see a turnaround and the subsequent establishment of the Southwest Historic District in 1985. The neighborhood boasts a number of carefully preserved historic buildings, and more recent improvements to the neighborhood include the completion of Roanoke's first off-leash fenced dog park, which is located in Highland Park, Roanoke’s first public park (c. 1901), and the Cotton Mill downtown housing project.
After years of neglect, today the neighborhood is seeing a resurgence, as millennials move in and renovate and restore these century old homes. AW is proud to contribute to this revival. Residents should note that the neighborhood remains eclectic and economically diverse, and although safe, as in any city, please be aware of your surroundings.
Two Artists From Virginia
Cy Twombly, the late American painter, sculptor, and photographer, had one of those enviable, dual- city living situations: For exactly half of the year, he worked in Gaeta, a small seaport town in central Italy. For the other half, he returned to his hometown of Lexington, Virginia, where, improbably, he was not the only famous artist among its 7,000 citizens. The photographer Sally Mann lives on a farm there just out of town, and was a close friend, confidant and mentee of Twombly’s up until his death in 2011.
Mann was also a diligent documenter of Twombly’s studio, which was set up in an unassuming storefront in downtown Lexington. Mann has a way of photographing Twombly’s studio that show the inextricable connection between an artist’s work and his space—and her photos make a case for why the latter is worth documenting and preserving.
Mann’s photos capture a studio cluttered with found objects, splattered with paint and still reverberating with the energy of an artist at work, even in the years after Twombly’s death. Light plays a leading role: it comes in hot and strong through venetian blinds, it plays narrowly along sculptures and across walls, it glows fuzzy behind window panes like its being contained. But what’s most striking about her photos is a feeling of intimacy; Mann’s photographs of the space don’t feel voyeuristic or imposing. As art historian Simon Schama put it, Mann’s photos are as much an artist’s exploration as it is the house-wandering of a bosom pal and creative coconspirator, barefoot on the floor, pushing open the door of affectionate memory.”
Schama also affectionately describes Twombly’s “dumpster-diver’s appetite for junk,” a habit of visiting yard sales and collecting objects that show up on every surface of the studio—window sills, chairs, side tables, stacked up on the floor. Some early photos show mountain peaks of stuff, piled up in a way that makes it hard to distinguish his possessions from his work.
In an interview, Mann describes Twombly’s space as an “accretion of his enthusiasms,” and describes Twombly working with “such extravagant joy, with an energy that almost burst out of him and onto the canvas.” along the floorboards.
Some of the most striking photos are the ones taken after his death of the walls still white where the canvases were, but dripping with dry paint in a colorful fringe