Thursday, November 25, 2010

Musings on art residencies...

The Margo Gelb shack, an inch of wood against the weather! Also stayed in Zara...

I've done a bunch of art residencies through the years and each one has been remarkably, dramatically different from the last. First one I ever did was in a dune shack on Cape Cod. No electricity- only an oil lamp and candles, no running water - only a pump down a 100 ft dune that pumps water you are never really sure is ok to drink even though they say it is but rusty orange water is not attractive, no bathroom - only an outhouse but a nice outhouse with great sea views! The dune shacks are all small maybe the biggest being 10 ft x 15 ft with a bed (more like a camp bed) that you always have to shake off the mouse turds. A propane refrigerator & stove, table and maybe 2 chairs. Overall it is an inch of wood against the weather and it's fabulous. It's also not for everyone, the solitude is intense and your only company will be the zillions of mice that spend and extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to get in, or when all light fades running around the place like maniacs. But it is a purifying place, your senses get a good rest and in my opinion the shacks are hallowed ground where really great writers, artists, poets etc have all stayed in and either started great work, worked on existing great work or recharged their creative batteries.

Pouch Cove, residency in renovated bank...
Next residency was with the Pouch Cove foundation in Newfoundland. I stayed for a month at their newest facility…a renovated bank in Corner Brook. Newfoundland called to mind what the US or pretty much anyplace looked like before ANYONE got there. Corner Brook is a sizable town but just outside of it is vast wilderness. You could lie down and take a nap on it's main highway and never get run over. This was my least successful residency for a number of reasons first, I really wanted to see Newfoundland it seemed such a strange and wild place and then 9/11 hit. But before it did I went exploring and took a bus up to Gros Morne, stayed in a B&B…a real one…someone's house & I stayed in their spare room. It was very nice and so were the lovely couple who were just trying to survive. I explored the area where the words bleak and desolate still come to mind…but so does the word fascinating! When I do a residency it takes me a bit to get the creative juices off jet lag and running smoothly. I got back from exploring and was just about to start making images when 9/11 hit. My residency was for the entire month of September 2001 and, as you can imagine, I couldn't focus on anything except what was happening in the US and world. It was a global event. So that residency was certainly my least successful in terms of work.

And now I'm at the American Academy in Rome...fabulous!

Now I'm wrapping up a month long residency in Rome at the amazing American Academy and has been my most successful residency! Of course what I proposed when I applied for a Fellowship is not at all what I've been doing. Rome is like smacking your forehead and going WOW especially since I've never been here before. I was thrown off my pins but once I steadied again I dove into just making art, no agenda, no plan, just visually respond to everything and I have to say the work from the second half of this time has been very successful. I started to form a desire to focus on color and form and I did. The other terrific part of this residency is being part of this amazing community of great minds! Did they make a mistake letting me come here? I do not have the scholastic pedigree these folks do. Once I got over my own issues of insecurity I started making friends. I've been learning about archeology from Greek Vase painting, secrets of ancient landfills, history of ancient battlefields, religions, languages, etc. etc. I LOVE good conversation and have had plenty of that, it's been wonderful! My residence is as close to living in a palace like a princess as one can get. It's been utterly magical! Every place you look there is art old and new, it's no wonder Italians and Europe in general are so comfortable with art and the concept of artists. I wish I could stay but know one thing for sure…I will be coming back.

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