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.

 My studio at VSC

My studio at VSC

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."

 International and U.S. VSC residents

International and U.S. VSC residents

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.

 VSC dining hall

VSC dining hall

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.

 Red Mill at VSC

Red Mill at VSC

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.

 Gihon River running through VSC campus

Gihon River running through VSC campus

A village church, industrial buildings, a firehouse, and old stores have been given new life as art and writing studios.

 Church Studios

Church 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.

 Pearl Street, Johnson, VT

Pearl Street, Johnson, VT

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.

SusanAbbott_painting9.jpg
SusanAbbott_painting13.jpg
SusanAbbott_painting10.jpg
SusanAbbott_painting16.JPG

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.

 Joshua Turk

Joshua Turk

 Trevor Corp

Trevor Corp

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.

 Jesse Cooper

Jesse Cooper

A photographer may bring her decades of skills and unique eye to a new medium of printmaking.

 Vaune Trachtman

Vaune Trachtman

Or try a new approach to her textile art.

 Elizabeth Fram

Elizabeth Fram

And it's great to see a new generation of painters coming up.

 James Secor

James Secor

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.

 Kristen L'Esperance

Kristen L'Esperance

 Skye Livingston

Skye Livingston

 Matt Neckers

Matt Neckers

 Lydia Kern

Lydia Kern

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!

end1.JPG
end2.JPG

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....

 Lydia Kern

Lydia Kern