When we bought our first piece of original art created by Steve Durland he gave us something extra to take home, too — a shot glass.
That was a first. Then again, what else would the proprietor of a place called “Bourbon, Dogs and Art” do?
That initial trip came because of the first Studio Art Tour for Alamance County. I knew then we would be coming back to Bourbon, Dogs and Art, a place tucked inside the woods near Saxapahaw, North Carolina, a few more times. It turned into an annual fall visit, a tradition that continued on Saturday even though the Studio Tour is no more. It was scuttled this year in favor of a two-day exhibition at one site. Steve decided not to participate. You really have to go to his studio / yurt and the outdoor canvas he and wife Linda Burnham create upon to fully appreciate their work and their lives.
Steve and Linda are among the most talented people I’ve met. Both are accomplished artists and writers in multiple mediums. They’ve lived in different parts of the United States from here to South Dakota and California. A few years ago they looked over a marginally cleared piece of woods in lower Alamance, near the Orange County line and not too far from the Alamance County landfill. In the 1980s the property was purchased by a group of people who turned it into a massage therapy business. It’s a tranquil spot with a frog pond. They set up yurts — or rounded tents — on the site. I recall working for the local newspaper in the 1980s when the massage therapy business opened. We were compelled to do a story about it because more conservative people in the community wondered whether the site housed a massage parlor where illegal and illicit activity occurred.
That was hardly the case, of course, and a reminder that new ideas from one part of the country sometimes travel slowly to others.
Steve and Linda live and work on the site. Along with their home they have two yurts, built not for easy transport through the Himalayas but long-term use. One houses Steve’s gallery of digitally crafted natural images. In the other they operate a rental through airbnb. The latter has turned into a very successful enterprise, they told us yesterday.
And through it all roam a passel of dogs, cats, chickens and geese.
Saturday, Steve and Linda hosted an open house for the gallery, their airbnb rental and a wonderful enterprise they created called the Woodland Banners Poetry Walk. One of the fascinating aspects of Steve’s work is that his images can be made for hanging inside or outdoors. As visitors turn at 2800 Austin Quarter Road, they follow a long dirt and gravel driveway with woods on both sides. They can see Steve’s art, in the form of banners, hanging from trees. In fact, one of the first pieces we bought from Steve was a banner that hangs in the woods at my mom’s house in Danbury, North Carolina.
The Poetry Walk takes those banners several steps further. Linda supplies the poetry that accompany the 24 pieces of scanned digital art. The words draw direct lines to the master artists that inspired Steve’s work from Picasso and Matisse to Chagall and Dali. The Poetry Walk winds through the woods, stopping at each banner. Messages about art and life wind throughout. The visuals, words and setting make this one of the best little-known stops in Alamance County.
Saturday was a perfect fall afternoon to take the Poetry Walk — sunny and 70 degrees — so we did. We arrived for our annual visit in late afternoon. It was packed with more cars than we had seen there before. As it turned out, a poetry group was having a meetup. It was a first visit for many of them. I understood their wonder and their questions.
As we walked around Steve’s gallery looking at his most recent images — we took one home, no shock there — I heard him talking to a group of people. They, of course, asked about the unusual name for Steve’s studio — Bourbon, Dogs and Art. Steve gave them the story. It was almost verbatim from what he has written on his website.
The short answer is bourbon, dogs and art are three things I like.
The long answer is that when our dogs Gerret and Maggie were young we used to take them to dog parks a lot. While they have plenty of space to roam here at home, dog parks were an opportunity to learn to socialize with other dogs.
What I discovered was that while dog parks are great for dogs, they’re usually pretty miserable for people. There might be a bench or two, or some semi-broken lawn chairs to sit on. There’s usually no shade on the scorching summer days and no shelter on the cold winter days. And of course the only amenities are dispensers of plastic bags to pick up dog turds with.
So one day I’m riding home from a particularly grueling visit to the dog park with Linda, Maggie and Gerret and I say, “we should fence off part of our land for a dog park, and put a modest building with windows facing the dog area and a shaded porch. Folks would be able to bring their dogs and turn them loose and then hang out on the porch or inside to watch them. We could have art on the walls like a small gallery and serve folks something to drink.” Linda’s response was, “What would you call it?” Without thinking much I said, “Bourbon, Dogs and Art.”
Steve has the dogs and the art. The law forbids him from selling any bourbon. But if you ask, he might offer a taste just to be neighborly.
Here is a gallery of more images from Saturday. It’s a great place to visit but not always open. They have scheduled times throughout the year and are open by appointment by contacting here. And let me say that Steve is such a good writer I’m a little jealous. He keeps a Bourbon, Dogs and Art blog but doesn’t have time to write very often. Or I should say often enough.