Saying goodbye to my Porsche, getting an SUV, and looking at the art of Renaissance Venice

by Rob Tiller

At Yates Mill Pond

Last week I realized it was time to say goodbye to Clara, my sweet Porsche 911.  Clara was kind of like a superpower — flying — but things have changed.  I don’t see as well as I used to, so I’ve become a less exuberant driver.   And I’ve got different objectives, like getting out to woody and marshy areas where the roads are not paved, and cars like Clara get stuck.  

I still enjoy unleashing that amazing engine, working through the gears, and carrying speed into and out of the turns.  But as I’ve changed, the inherent downside of living with a sports car came into bolder relief.  I’m talking about absorbing every rough spot in the road, finding room for your stuff, and the mild athleticism required to get in and out.  Not to mention the painful costs of ordinary repairs.  

The TAPEV (my new ride)

And so this weekend I bid Clara farewell and acquired the new Tiller Advanced Photographic Expeditionary Vehicle (TAPEV).  It’s  a  Mazda CX-5, which is a small SUV, and mine has all wheel drive and all the latest electronic gizmos.  I test drove the Honda CR-V, which I liked, but I found the Mazda slightly better looking and much more fun to drive.  A friend bought Clara and will give her a good home, and gave me approximately the same amount as I gave the Mazda dealer.  

I would have been happy to do the entire sales process on the internet, but since I needed to do testing, I came into contact with some of that old-fashioned pressure selling.  The dealer did not have my preferred color (which they call deep crystal blue mica, and I call dark blue) with my preferred options on the lot, and it took some fortitude to resist settling for something else.  But I ultimately convinced him I was not buying any color other than the one I really liked, and yesterday he came up with the car.  

I like it!  It is so comfortable and easy to drive that I’m almost embarrassed, but not quite.  Setting up high is different, but it seems easier to see what’s happening.  The various safety devices are reassuring, and it’s very pleasant to be able to have a Bluetooth phone connection.  I look forward to many adventures. 

On Friday evening we went to see the Glories of Venice: Renaissance Painting 1470-1520 at the N.C. Museum of Art.  It was a strong exhibit of some 50 works, including masterpieces by G. Bellini and Titian, made in one of the most amazing artistic intervals in world history.  We were particularly excited to see all this since we’ve got our first trip to Venice coming up in October.  

There were a couple of paintings that really moved me, but most of my enjoyment was more about getting insights into Venetian history and culture.  One comment described it as the Silicon Valley of the early Sixteenth Century, generating both incredible wealth and new ideas.  It was a trading crossroads and assimilated influences from Byzantium and Islamic civilizations, as well as rediscoveries from ancient Greece and Rome.  It was a publishing center, turning out some of the earliest printed books.  And these books in turn influenced the master painters and their patrons.  There were a widespread passion for learning and discovery.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same?

The early paintings were about religious subjects, though as the decades went on there more classical and secular ones.  I noted that the rich and successful patrons of the artists were prominently depicted alongside some of the Biblical figures.  These paintings were part of a complex and changing culture, and sent multi-layered messages.  I don’t much doubt that the some of these paintings were used for sincere devotional purposes, or that they some involved pure aesthetic delight.  But I was also seeing how they served as displays and consolidators of status, and propaganda for a particular social ordering.  

I took these photographs this weekend at Raulston Arboretum and Yates Mill Pond.  I’ve been trying to use the tripod more, as I did in most of these shots.  It takes more time, but it may be that the more cumbersome process results in more thoughtful images.  Anyhow, I’m experimenting, and trying to find a little moments of peace and beauty.