Oana Moore, thousands of miles away from the home of her birth, shows her affection for her new home in the current exhibit at Crozet Artisan’s Depot, “Crozet, a Mighty Little Town.”
Moore was born in central Romania, still known for its medieval landscapes. She grew up in Transylvania, in the shadow of Dracula’s castle.
There really was a Dracula-like count there, she said, a minor royal figure whose chronic cruelty inspired the grim legend. She loved the Carpathian Mountains and small town life, and did her share of traveling through Europe. As a young girl, she loved figure skating and, for a long time, it defined her days. “It was my job,” she said. From the age of six she practiced from 5 a.m. until school started at 8. “And it wasn’t unusual for me to return to the rink after school,” she said. She won a number of children’s and youth championships and became Romania’s national champion in 1995, at 17. She put away her skates to attend college, studied journalism, and became a journalist.
She married a Peace Corps volunteer, and when he left for school in Scotland, so did she. His work as a biotech engineer took them to California, where they bounced around from southern to northern California as his job demanded.
When they had the chance to move East, the couple did a great deal of research:
“One of the things we did was take a look at all those reviews, you know the kind that tell readers the best places to live,” she recalled. “I googled as many as I could find and kept coming up with Charlottesville.” They were able to choose just about any location in the mid-Atlantic, so it seemed an obvious choice.
But even that small city was too urban for her: “I guess I’m a small-town girl,” she said, “and I saw everything that I needed was right here in Crozet.” She made that decision after flying here and spending one long weekend looking at 20 different homes.
It was no easy task, the move, she remembers, with two children under 3. “But it was good,” she said. “They are in school here and this is the only home they remember.”
Once Moore became serious about photography, she thought she’d do a little of everything, from children’s portraits and horses to small town streetscapes and rural landscapes. “That way, when I get tired of one thing, I work on another,” she said.
When she reflected on her lengthy preoccupation with figure skating, she conceived of a whimsical project that examined its powerful influence in her younger life. With photographer Rick Stillings, she created the “Skate Project,” a series of scenes that show her going about her life: fixing a tractor, shopping in the grocery store, dealing with the laundry, in a meadow in the middle of summer, all on ice skates. Although her lifelong dedication to skating was a serious force in her life, she approached the shots with humor. For instance, the laundry shot features her disappearing into a drier at the laundromat, and there’s a scene with her on a horse, a position that seems difficult to reach with ice skates. Another has her being arrested by a policeman. Most of these were shot around Crozet, she said, at places like the lumberyard, Mechum’s View Farm, King’s Family Vineyards and Great Valu, with the obvious cooperation of many people, “another reason why I love our little town,” she said.
Her more recent collection is of scenes in and around Crozet and includes a lovely stylized portrait of the small-town shops with pastel highlights, rural scenes and close-ups of iconic buildings. Her connection with her surroundings is apparent to the viewer, and it’s catching, she said: “Even my parents, who kind of grumbled about us living in rural Virginia, now love it here.”
By preserving the beauty of her surroundings in photos, she also hopes to remind people not to take it for granted. “I’ve lived in some beautiful places, and I always thought I’d move every two years or so,” she said. “But no more. This is home.”
“Crozet, a Mighty Little Town,” is the featured April exhibit for the Artisan’s Depot. The opening reception is Saturday, April 14.