Xiomáro Illustrated Talk

Morristown National Historical Park

Open Transcript


Greetings, my name is Xiomáro and I am a nationally exhibited artist, published author, and workshop teacher. I have a photographic exhibit at Morristown National Historical Park's Jockey Hollow Visitor Center, which is on display from June 6, to July 31, 2021. The photographs, which are pretty large, they measure 40 inches by about 27 inches, uh, they depict the key features of Jockey Hollow, which is an important American Revolutionary War site, as it is where George Washington's troops were encamped during the winter of 1779 to 1780. And if you haven't seen it already, I also have a three-part video series called "The Art of Cell Phone Photography," where I present many tips on how to see like and artist to help you improve your photography whether you are using a smart phone, point and shoot, or a DSLR camera. Now, I am presenting all of these programs including the video you are watching now as Morristown National Historical Park's first "Virtual Artist in Residence." "Virtual" because I usually do these presentations in a live setting. But, due to the pandemic, we decided to reach out to the public through these broadcasts. So, for clarification, I'm not an employee or representative of the National Park Service nor am I a historian. Uh, I'm an independent artist and I get commissioned by the National Park Service to create photographic collections of their historical and environmental sites. So, I'm here to talk about the images I've created for some of the parks I've worked with. And my commentary is completely personal as someone who just loves art and who loves history. And somehow managed to find a way to merge the two together. In fact, I am often asked' how did I bring these two elements together? Well, it really was by accident because for the longest time my focus was really on just being a musician. uh, that's where my interest in the arts began. And, and perhaps even my interest to some degree on, on military things too. Uh, here's me on acoustic guitar kind of ironic that when I was a musician, I had my hair short, as opposed to now, uh, that photo was from a show I did for the army at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. And here I am again on electric guitar at as how for the troops at Webster Hall in New York City, that was during Fleet Week. And, you know, I love music. I'm interested in playing anything. I'm mean, here I am on drums for a Martin Luther King day event. And here I'm on percussion, this was at, uh, at a big house party. And, and even, of all things, Irish penny whistle. This is at, uh, at a Starbucks. So, as you can see, I am also willing to play really anywhere anyone was willing to listen. Like even at this beauty salon in Connecticut. ha-ha. but it's um it's very difficult to maintain collaborations with other musicians. and after recovering from cancer, I decided to leave music and try my hand at photography. With music you often need uh a group of people. With photography, I could do it by myself. So, if I want to stay up all night, and get something done, get a collection completed, I can do that. I don't have to consult with anybody or be dependent on anybody else. And I had already been including little art exhibits at my gigs anyway, uh, often I made more money from selling the photographs, than I did selling the CDs. So, uh, after a few years of just kinda wandering in photography trying out different things, photographing models, doing uh portraits of family members and, and just trying different things, trying to find my place uh in photography. I finally applied for and, thankfully, was selected to be an Artist in Residence at Weir Farm National Historic Site. Which is Connecticut's first National Park and the homestead of Julian Alden Weir, who was a leading innovator of American Impressionist painting. And I got to live, for a month, in a historic cottage located in the park with a access to a beautiful state-of-the-art studio. Pretty much spanking brand new at the time. During this period, during this month, I created a photographic series of Weir Farm that caught some attention in the local media. And even caught the attention Julian Alden Weir's grandson, who visited to see my work at the studio. Now, the park was undergoing the process of being restored to what it looked like during Weir's time. So, they commissioned me over a period of years to artistically document that transformation. Uh, these images were widely exhibited throughout Connecticut. As well as in Washington D.C. and even as far away as Utah. And that caught the attention of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site on Long Island, which was the home and summer White House of President Theodore Roosevelt. Or "Teddy Roosevelt" as he is affectionately known in the public. It was, uh, a once in a lifetime situation where the mansion was actually being completely emptied out, so, it could undergo repairs and refurbishments. So, the park wanted to document what would become very rare views of the rooms without all this furnishings. I was given complete access and with the rooms mostly cleared I was able to photograph aspects and features of the house that would have gone unnoticed, I think. For example, uh, there's a door jam going into the library, for example, and and it has a small letter "e" that was crudely carved in by TR's son Archie in an effort to get his sister Ethel in trouble. Uh, I just love that picture. Um, on the third floor, uh, there's also a very small closet under the eves where Mrs. Roosevelt's luggage is stored. Now, this is not something you would see as part of the tour. So, I was glad to crumple myself up into a little ball and squeeze inside and and photograph these items. Uh, this approach that I took of zeroing in on details, uh, that enabled me reveal something that had never been noticed before by the staff at Sagamore Hill. My photographs of the "North Room," uh, ended up revealing that the elaborate patterns of the wallpaper are of dual peacocks facing each other and that had not been noticed in the past. So, these, uh, unique photographs caught a lot of media attention and were also widely exhibited including a display at Harvard University. In fact, TR's great grandson saw my photo of the master bedroom and asked that I take a photo after it was put back together and restored and that photo was published, on a, both of these photos actually, were, uh, published on the covers of the Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal. So, uh, those were my first two commissions and from there it has been a series of, you know, one commission after another. uh, you know, on the east coast parks as far south as Florida and as far north as Massachusetts. Um, when I do a live presentation, like pre-pandemic times, I go through, uh, photos created at these other parks, and I like taking questions from the audience about them too sometimes they will ask me how I created the photo or what equipment I used or what it was like to be there, Uh, but unfortunately time does not allow me to get into these other parks, but I'll show you some pictures from the William Floyd Estate on Long Island as it has a direct connection with George Washington. William Floyd was a general in the Revolutionary War, who served under Washington. And unfortunately, a lot of information about him has been lost to history. The, uh, the British took over this house and they destroyed a lot of his personal effects so there's not a lot of, um, artifacts or information to go on, but he is one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Now, knowing this, I made sure to photograph his signature that appears in one of the books that's held at the house. And, as far as I know, this is the only other image of his signature that you will see apart from the Declaration of Independence itself. Uh, the book is no-, in fact, the book's not even typically on public view. They brought it out for me because I requested it because uh, I wanted to photograph that. Um, we do know, however, that James Madison and also Thomas Jefferson, both of whom went on to become presidents of the United States. Uh, they used to frequent the house. Uh, and here too, I liked uncovering things that a visitor is not going to see on a tour. Uh, one such location was the attic. Uh, I just enjoyed the creepy vibe of the space. And another location was the room where they kept the coal, which, uh, at that point had not been opened in probably about twenty years. Uh, inside I saw that one of Floyd's descendants in the late 1800s, painted a scene that to me looked like it might be of the New York City skyline at the time. But anyway, as you could see, uh, by visiting these National Parks, the connections between them come to life. The parks can give you a better sense of what life was like in a moment of history. And in a way, I think that it makes it more compelling and perhaps even more visceral than when you are reading about history in a book. So, for example, you can enter General William Floyd's mansion, walk into his dining room, and get a sense of the luxury he lived in as a wealthy plantation owner. And as you will see in my exhibit at Jockey Hollow, it was also a relative luxury in the For Mansion, which served as General Washington's headquarters. But, if you were Henry Wick, the farmer that owned Jockey Hollow, you'll see that his house was much smaller and plain-looking. Officers in Washington's army, on the other hand, they lived in a duplex cabin like the one you see here. It's a replica that's uh been put together there at Jockey Hollow. And if you were a member of the rank and file, well, your accommodations were a lot simpler and smaller. Uh, these huts, as they call them measured about fourteen feet wide and fifteen to sixteen feet long with a height of about six and half feet at the eves. And of the twelve soldiers, which share such a cabin to endure what would become a very long, harsh brutal winter. So, there you have it. And to come full circle, just prior to photographing Jockey Hollow, my work with Weir farm, which had been completed three years earlier, became the subject of a book I authored for Arcadia Publishing. The book, appropriately title "Weir Farm National Historic Site" was release internationally in 2019. Uh, in fact, it's the first book that tells the story of how Weir Farm was rescued from becoming a residential development and preserved as a National Park site. And as a result, Senator Joe Lieberman, who introduced the legislation to establish Weir Farm as a park was kind enough to contribute the forward to my book. Today, uh, the park undergone a name change that recognizes the wide range of cultural, historical, and recreational resources that it offers to the public. It is now known as "Weir Farm National Historical Park." And by the way, can you guess what was America's very first National Historical Park? [beep sound] Times up! Answer is "Morristown National Historical Park." Back in 1933. So when the pandemic is over and we can have cocktail parties again, now you will have some trivia you can impress people with. If you are watching this video on a platform where you can comment, or share, or like it, uh, please do so. We would love to get some feedback from you. Uh, so please do that. I want to thank you very much for, um, for checking out my work. and for listening to this video, and watching it and on behalf of Morristown National Historical Park uh, I'm Xiomáro and uh we invite you and your friends to check out the park. Uh, you can visit them at their website and get more information about what's coming up. Uh, do check out the Jockey Hollow photo exhibit that I have. And also check out the videos that I did on "Art of Cell Phone Photography." Uh, if you want to see examples of work that I have done at other parks or if you just wanted to learn more about me and my work and also my connection to Morristown, visit my website which is and that's "x" not and an "s," but X, I, O, M, like Mary, A, R, O, dot com.


Artist in Residence Xiomáro describes his work with the National Park Service as a commissioned artist and photographer.