Wanda Faye


Wanda Faye Cooper Stilwell

Leslie's 82 year old mother Faye moved in with last this past July. She had lived by herself for the last fourteen years since her husband had died, but could clearly not continue to do so. She has dementia and Leslie is her only child. She is clearly not ready for institutional care so our choices were limited. Her daily presence in our home and in our lives has certainly changed our lives, but I take great solace in knowing that inspiration often comes from the most unexpected of sources. 


ShatterZone at Pink Dog Creative Gallery

Rob will be at Pink Dog Creative, 348 Depot Street from noon until 6 pm on Friday, December 5. Nothing formal or planned, only an interest in having people stop by to talk about pictures and solve the world's problems.. Hope you can stop by and visit.

Erich and Danni Playing at GoodStuff, Marshall, 2012.

ShatterZone - Up and Running

ShatterZone opened at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery in Asheville's River Arts District this past Friday, November 7. The reception was great fun with a mix of old friends and new acquaintances. It was a group effort. In addition to Randy and Hedi, Ralph, and Jamie who have been mentioned in previous posts, a special thank you goes out to Kelsey, Kate and Shu for their work at the opening, Lynn, Karen, Mark and Julie, artists at Pink Dog for their  timely assistance. And mostly I want to thank all of you who came out to see the work. The exhibit will be hanging until January 11, 2015, plenty of time to get down there and take a look.


Cheoah Webb Butchering Hogs, Dry Pond, Madison County, NC 2009.


I've attached a couple of articles about the show:

Asheville Citizen Times

Mountain Xpress





I-26 at Buckner Gap, Madison County, NC 2008.

ShatterZone will open on Friday, November 7, at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery in Asheville's River Arts District. The address is 348 Depot Street and the reception runs from 5-8 pm on the 7th. This weekend is also Gallery Stroll Weekend throughout the River Arts District and most artists and studios will be open to the public. I will be at Pink Dog Creative on both Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th, after 10:30 on both days, if you'd like to stop by. I hope you will.

The project, ShatterZone, has been in my head for a while now, but remains a work-in-progress. This exhibit has offered me the opportunity to bring together a large grouping of images that speaks to this theme. It's been valuable in moving the whole project forward. Thanks go out to Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer, the owners and operators of Pink Dog Creative. And my friend, Ralph Burns, who stepped in at a moment's notice to handle the multiple things that go into putting on even a small show. Additionally, for me personally, Ralph's long understanding of my work, his critical comments and thoughts, and enthusiastic support made the process easy and comfortable. Lastly, I cannot say enough about Jamie Paul, my associate for over four years who had a hand in every part of this project. It simply wouldn't have come together without him. 


Driving Lessons with Kate, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2009.


Pink Dog Creative

I will be having an exhibit of photographs at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery at 348 Depot Street in Asheville's River Arts District. The exhibit will run from November 7, 2014 to January 11, 2015 with an opening reception on November 7 from 5-8 pm.

This is my first one-person exhibit in Asheville since my Sodom Laurel Album exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum in 2002 and I'm excited about showing new work from a new project. I want to thank Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer from Pink Dog Creative for this opportunity in their wonderful space. I also want to thank Ralph Burns, my long-time friend and mentor, for his work pulling this exhibit together. Finally, my assistant, Jamie Paul, has been his usual indispensable self who often leaves me wondering what I ever did before he came into my life.

I have included a short essay on the project. Galleries always want an artists statement, or introduction, or something explaining the work. Over the years I've responded to these requests in various and sundry ways. Today's version comes after the image.

Shu and Griffin Shaving Cheyenne, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2012

These photographs are part of a work-in-progress titled ShatterZone, which is meant to accompany my two previous projects from Madison County – Sodom Laurel Album and The New Road.

Shatter zone is an 18th century geologic term that refers to an area of fissured or fractured rock. The phrase took on new meaning after World War II when political theorists began using it to denote borderlands. In this modern definition shatter zones become places of refuge from, and resistance to, capitalist economies, state rule, and social upheaval. Appalachia, and Madison County in particular, fit that definition.

Throughout its history, Madison has provided a haven for Native Americans, early Anglo settlers, Civil War resisters, Vietnam veterans, and refugees from the country’s cultural wars. The county’s present population includes long-term local families, young professionals, artists, retirees and back-to-the-landers. While the county is wired into the 21st century, many individuals understand it as a place where one can continue to resist modernity and be as “off the grid” as you want to be.

Madison County is not for everyone. It requires new skills, new tools, and new ways of interacting within your surroundings. It takes a rethinking of community and how one relates to it. And while that singular reason for being here – that idea of refuge – is almost universally felt throughout the county, there are also clear points of conflict. Zoning, land use, politics, religion, culture, language and many other beliefs and opinions offer potential for fracturing within the community, pitting newcomers against locals.

These photographs are not representative of the entirety of Madison County’s population or my work from the region. Most of the images are recent, while some are quite old, among my earliest from the county. These early images didn’t fit with other projects, but they are integral to this one, offering glimpses of a place that many continue to think of as unmapped, one of refuge and resistance.  

These are the dynamics of ShatterZone.

Living Portrait Series Kelsey Green Part 5

This vignette is the final installment of the Living Portrait Series glimpse at Kelsey Green. I can't begin to thank the Asheville Citizen-Times, especially Bobby Bradley and Erin Brethauer, for their generosity and encouragement in bringing Kelsey's story to the attention of their readers. I've thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the kind words and comments I've received about the Series, but in honesty, I feel I've done very little. Kelsey has made my job all too easy - her openness, grace and honesty of expression make her the ideal subject for my pictures and words.

While this Series has focused on one person, Kelsey is in a sense symbolic of the many young people I see and engage with in Madison County. As a group they are transparent, hard working and committed to place and community. Our county, like the whole region, has experienced dramatic growth over the last decade, some of it more welcome than others. The infusion of these young people - the baby hippies, the punk kids, the artists and musicians, the pierced and tattooed - has brought fresh energy to Madison County and tells this particular old guy our county is in good hands for the future. 

Here is the link to Part 5 on the Citizen-Times website: http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/08/28/living-portrait-series-kelsey-green-part/14764205/


Kelsey, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2012

This place where we live is full of blessings. If you come here from the outside world and it feels like you belong, then things will happen that make it work out. I feel that way. I stayed here because of it. Things have just happened in the sense that I’m supposed to be here. Things just continue happening to me that give me a sense of belonging. I’m so blessed to have grown up here.

 People don’t always accept the new people that come in, but really, you just have to show them you are willing to do the work. If you’re willing to show you can work hard and people see that, they’ll say, “well, you can be a part of this.”

 My community as a kid growing up here was church and school, but mostly, it was family. It was very much family – a lot of cousins and aunts and uncles. But now, my family has gotten bigger. I’ve made more connections and you and Leslie and Kate were a big part of that, introducing me into this community, and also working at the town watering hole, Zuma. I still get questions every day – “Where are you from?” When I answer, “right here, this is where I grew up,” people are blown away. There is a like-mindedness here that is like an invitation to stay. I think a lot of people had to leave to try to find something that was similar, or different, or whatever, looking to find that sense of community. But most everyone came back. That was what I realized - I realized that I needed to buy land to do what I wanted to do and here was the place to do that.


Kelsey on Her Wedding Day, August 9, 2014, Hot Springs, NC

Living Portrait Series - Kelsey Green Part 4

Kelsey and Tommy were married in Hot Springs, NC, on August 9, 2014, with close to 300 people in attendance. The following is the continuation of the Living Portrait Series from the Asheville Citizen-Times and the link to the series on the paper's website. 



Kelsey and Tommy's Wedding Ceremony, Hot Springs, NC 2014

I feel like I’m living in a beautiful example of community right now and it feels really fulfilling. If you need anything, you’ve got people to help you. For example, planning this wedding, it’s terrifying. But then, whenever I’ve thought about it, I realize I know so many people that are gonna help. You said you would do photographs for me.  And Jay, a good friend, will end up cooking our pig. Having people that can help make this happen. Ricky is going to marry us. Olivia is making my dress and Tommy and Ricky’s vests; she’s a seamstress. If I run out of flowers I can call Suzi. I got people. It’s like a family. A community is a beautiful thing, but this community is more like a family. It’s very deep and we all love each other and are willing to help each other out. I’m doing trade with Matt Hess right now. I’m working for him so he can come help me out on my place. That’s the sense of community that I think about – people that are willing to help. Moving into Sodom Laurel, we didn’t know anybody, but you start making connections and then you know everybody. That’s a beautiful community. Everybody is – “If you need anything, this is my phone number, this is where I live, don’t hesitate to call or come take a shower or use our washer and dryer. Everybody is that way around here. The majority of people are willing to help the next person.


Kelsey Getting Her Hair Done before the Wedding, Hot Springs, NC 2014.


Six of Kelsey's eight sisters (Bridesmaids), from the left, Cassandra Lewis, Anne Schneider, Ekho Hawk, Kate Amberg, Holly Cosby, Kyndall Waynick, Hot Springs, NC 2014.


Kelsey and Her Two Grandmothers, Sophronia Green (left) and June Jenkins (right), Hot Springs, NC 2014.


A Few I Like from the 5th of July


For the last four decades, the folks at Indigo Bunting Lane Farm – Paul Gurewitz, Gary Gumz, Laurie Pedersen and Soren Gurewitz – have hosted an annual 4th of July party. Always held on the Saturday closest to the 4th, the party is the ultimate celebration of community. Paul kneads 100 pounds of pizza dough, makes sauce for 300 people and provides a wood-fired oven. Party-goers bring the toppings of their choice. Volleyball and horseshoes, walks to the river, live music for dancing, as much visiting as you can stand and fireworks always make for a truly exceptional day.

I haven’t missed many of these parties over the years. I remember the first of them in 1975. For me, it’s a time to see old friends, and meet their grandchildren, and reacquaint with folks I only see at the party.

As I age, I see more and more people I don’t know. People new to the community, or from Asheville, and some from farther away. Many young couples are there with children and I love the inter-generational sense of it all. I wonder how all these new folks make it to the party. What brings them to this hard-to-find ninety acres, set deep in the mountains? What brings them back year after year and causes some of them to stay forever?

I think about this a lot. I believe it has to do with the expansiveness of the day – the joining of disparate, yet kindred people –if only for a day, and the feeling that all is well. But also, the party offers a symbolism that speaks to our wider community. The knowledge we live in a special place – a fabric of many threads, made stronger by the singular nature of our strings.

For Paul, on his sixty-fifth Birthday on Thursday. Thank you for years of friendship and for just being you.


Paul manning the pizza oven, July 5, Anderson Branch 2014


Laurie Pedersen (left), the Keyboard Player from the Band and his son (right).


Don Gurewitz (left), Mary Eagle (right).

Untitled, Anderson Branch, July 5, 2014


Holly Cosby (left), Tommy, Holly and Matt (right).


Living Portrait Series- Kelsey Green Part 3


The Asheville Citizen-Times continues its Living Portrait Series look at my friend, Kelsey Green. Here is the link to the Citizen-Times website: This week I've included the whole piece on my blog instead of simply linking to the Asheville Citizen-Times, but that link is: 


Kelsey Herding the Sheep to the Barn for Worming, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2014

I have a strong drive. And I think my mom was a big influence in this. When you say you’re going to do something, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to pursue it. It’s something I might be good at, but it’s also something I’ve been working on for a long time, doing the things that I say I’m going to do from start to finish. See things through. It’s something I struggle with as well. If I have a dream or a vision and I feel in my heart that’s where I’m supposed to be, that’s my destiny, then that’s what I’m going for and that’s why I am where I am.

The first time Tommy and I connected we were sitting on a rock behind his house and I thought he was so cool because he lived in the nasty Redmon house that had no electricity or running water and he was pooping in a bucket. He was considered a “dirty boy.” I thought it was really cool and I thought that’s the direction I want to go. You don’t need running water. You don’t need a flushing toilet. We sat down on a rock one day and told each other what our dreams were and what we aspired to do with our lives and they were very similar. We wanted to be able to grow our own food and be self-sustainable. Live off grid and do whatever it takes and work for it. Work for the things that you need to survive like your food and your water.

We’re both working really hard to make this dream we aspire to become real – it does cost money. The process of buying this raw land, it would almost be easier if the s___  hit the fan and we didn’t have to go to work every day and we joke about that. Sometimes we wish it would hit the fan and we could do barter and trade and work for other people and money wasn’t involved. We could actually make this thing happen more quickly, this vision. But as of right now, it is costing money so we work hard to earn what we need to not only feed ourselves and pay bills, but also to continue to put money into our place to make it so we don’t have to do that. Set ourselves up.

I think in the back of my head I had this vision and it wasn’t as clear as it is now. And going on the road trip and the lessons that I’ve learned have made that vision more clear. And now it’s a picture that I’m trying to paint and I’m in the process of painting that. It’s a twenty-year plan. It’s going to take me twenty years to paint this picture, but in twenty years I’ll get to sit on my porch and look at what I’ve created.

Kelsey Worming Sheep, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2014