A Gift of Time and Space
I'm just back from a week-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and re-entry to life back home hasn't been easy. There's something about being given a studio space, unlimited working time, and three tasty meals a day that spoils one for "normal" life, with all its usual routines and responsibilities.
The Vermont Studio Center is an art residency program. As they explain on their website: "The Vermont Studio Center was founded by artists in 1984. Our location--situated along the banks of the Gihon River in the historic village of Johnson, Vermont--was chosen with the intention of fostering creativity through community, collaboration, and quiet reflection supported by the unspoiled beauty of the northern Green Mountains...VSC has grown to become the largest international artists' and writers' residency program in the United States."
In previous years I've been a resident at the sessions that are open to applicants from around the world, and it was wonderful to meet visual artists and writers from Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, Canada, Germany, and places in-between. The session I just attended, Vermont Artists Week, was very different, and wonderful in its own way. It brought creative folks together from all around my own very small home state.
At meal times at VSC, the dining hall is full of residents chatting about their current projects, their problems with their current projects, their homes, relationships, challenges with relationships, travels, and plans for the future. New friends quickly feel like old friends. We're all members of the same trade, and we speak the common language of solitary creative work.
Over the years, the Studio Center has re-purposed many of the historic buildings in the village of Johnson, including the mill that now houses the dining hall, offices, and resident lounge.
A village church, industrial buildings, a firehouse, and old stores have been given new life as art and writing studios.
Meanwhile, even when its population swells with sculptors from Calcutta, installation artists from California, and poets from Brooklyn, Johnson is still your normal Vermont town.
Some residents come to VSC with an open agenda and experimental mindset, but I seem to always bring a project underway, and a tight deadline. This week I needed to make some headway on "One Way, Many Paths", a series that explores my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I'll be showing a selection of these paintings this June at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro, VT.
Click four times on the photo below for a slideshow of how the monochromatic underpainting for "Day 35, Quiroga," a 34" x 34" oil painting, progressed.
With no interruptions to painting other than meals and the occasional email, the blank canvasses I brought quickly became covered with my memories of walking across Spain.
One of the best things about a residency program is the chance to see the work of your fellow artists. On the last day of Vermont Week, we opened our studios to share what we'd been up to.
It's always interesting to learn about another artist's process.
Sometimes we come expecting to do one thing, and surprise ourselves by trying something completely different. The seeds planted in a week of experimentation can grow for years, and transform the way we work.
A photographer may bring her decades of skills and unique eye to a new medium of printmaking.
Or try a new approach to her textile art.
And it's great to see a new generation of painters coming up.
Artists working in three dimensions speak a somewhat different language, and I'm always interested to see the wide variety of approaches possible with sculpture and installation. They can be elegant, poetic, powerful, or amusing--and sometimes all of these in the same piece.
By the time open studios was over, and I was on my way back to my room to begin packing up, every random thing I was seeing was looking like a work of art!
It was hard to say goodbye to new friends, and return this gift of time and space to the Vermont Studio Center so that it could be passed on to the next group of lucky artists.
Now the challenge is to find the same gifts for myself back at home....