These are glimpses of my experience and thoughts recorded in my journal from my time as an artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC) last month. While reading my journal I reflected on what I had been feeling at the time and what I feel now. It has been an amazing experience to relive the last month through my scattered thoughts, lists of words, experiments, title searches, and sketches.
The Vermont Studio Center & Johnson, Vermont
Vermont is a lush state with unbelievable views of mountains and fresh clean air. It runs on mom and pop shops, at least where I was, with the occasional CVS and Dunkin’ Donuts. VSC is located in Johnson, which is a very small town with around 1,500 residents. Johnson State College is at the top of the hill, bringing about 1,900 students in after the summer. Towards the end of August the students moved back. I wondered how the locals in the town felt about the rapid population growth in the town and also the 50+ new residents that come and go every month from VSC.
It is quiet, almost silent at night, secluded, you have what you need around you: a supermarket, book store, art store, three restaurants, a gas station, a wool shop, and a small maple syrup boutique with essential oils and elixirs. There is great antiquing about 15 minutes away where you can find a nice lady with a dog named Chance.
My studio during the day had some kind of air that made me concentrate. A daily ritual when I first walked into my studio was sitting down and listening to the sounds around me. I would log what I heard for five minutes.
A sound analysis from my studio (8/2/16) Day #3: Bug buzzing, chatter, tapping, building noises, the water/river running, my pen brushing the paper, a truck, a plane, paint brush drops next door, footsteps, the leaves shaking in the wind, paper crinkling, a door closing, cell phone vibrates, leaves in the wind, footsteps, silence, my breath, a sneeze.
I went to see the stars a few times about five miles up the road from VSC. The paved road turns into a dirt road, and then a field pops up on the right hand side, a place locals call Stargazer’s field.
A note from my journal from stargazer’s field (8/9/16) Day #10: You walk onto this field, known as Stargazer’s field, and keep walking and then a giant slate rock appears out of the darkness with enough room for about 25 people. (While searching for it I thought all of our cell phone lights looked like little orbs bouncing across the landscape.) Something is really sticking with me from last night. While watching the Perseid meteor shower, which was absolutely incredible, I experienced a surreal kind of darkness. This kind of darkness that I am not used to seeing, or not seeing, it was incredible. This darkness exists without all the light pollution that I am so used to. People were standing and walking away from this slate rock we were sitting on and they were just disappearing into the darkness—even after my eyes had adjusted.
How my process and work became clearer through non-stop working:
A phrase I always loved from Elizabeth Mooney, one of my mentors from MassArt, was: “Work makes the work, work.” I really feel like this summed up my experience of my practice during my residency.
My work and studio practice matured during my time in residence. I was working on two installations toward the beginning that were not developing how I had pictured in my mind. Although I was not able to fully realise them, it lead me to new discoveries, ideas, and the work I ultimately made. Instead of forcing an idea I decided to work on the pieces more intuitively, which naturally began shifting my work.
Here is a laundry list of thoughts assembled from my journal entries so you can see my thought process as I work: seams, seam as metaphor, creases, crevices, lines, holes, slits, gathering, draping, fragmentation as pattern, pattern-making, repairs, mending, stitching, artificial organization, curves, structure, softness, hardness, movement and actions, the body, gender, the future, the past, the present, sci-fi, body image, materiality (soft, hard, solid, opacities, contrast of materials next to one another, rawness), the cut as a drawn line, fabric as mark, painting, sculpture, the grid, breaking the grid, exposing, concealing, inflated, deflated, cosmos, portals, spector, sexuality, ritual of clothing.
I began a series titled Stitch to Shift, which are mixed media works made with fabrics (velvet, silk, chiffon, cotton, felt, interfacing, and organza), acrylic, wire, paper, plastic, and canvas. All the works are either assembled using the sewing machine or hand-stitched. While making these pieces, the process seemed very painterly to me. The different fabrics functioned as different textured paints with mediums, the edges of each fabric meeting the next compositionally, and the smooth cut edge versus the hemmed edge which meets the wall. I thought about them sculpturally or cinematically because I wanted them to take on an action; some float in space, drape, or bend to reach off the wall. I constructed them based on the language of clothing construction, such as seams, buttonholes, piping, boning, hems, and darts. This became very important to me conceptually because each pinched or stitched piece acted as marks or lines. The new pieces reference the body’s curves and forms.
Visual description of new works (8/9/16) Day #10: The body/figure is very present in the work. Fabric/the hand crinkles leaving finger marks on the soft paper to the form—sewing and time/the pushing of the material through the machine/each stitch marks—like a counting gesture/time. The works undulate, fold, hold form, collapse, they are geometrically soft, organic, translucent and opaque. The wall as the skin, the fabric as the covering.