Before I came to Alternative Worksite, my studio process involved trying to make a study, painting or drawing in any spare moment I could make. A shared process of all young, working artists. I made a strict schedule for myself to be in the studio all day, 6 days a week in preparation for the residency. Having the freedom of time is an incredible privilege but is also very overwhelming for those who usually have many responsibilities. So far being here has been an internal dialogue of “I haven’t got enough done” and “I don’t know what to paint”. After all, ideas don’t come when your trying to force them in the studio, thinking too hard and then usually making bad work for the purpose of being in the studio. Ideas come when you allow your mind to wander. I am allowing the ideas to come.
To welcome them, I go on walks in the greenway and enjoy seeing the river and the trees. I look at books of Hilma af Klint, Kandinsky, Arthur Dove and try finding new artist online as well. I’ve recently taken an interest in Russian folk art and how they paint florals and start on black backgrounds that create luminous effects. I am also exploring oil paints for the first time and feeling excited about the colors and textures and methods I am learning. The studio has many different processes that I am learning to accept. When I feel like I painting, I paint. When I don’t feel like painting, I look.
I take long walks daily through the surrounding neighborhoods, wandering aimlessly through side-streets and alleys that wind in ways foreign to my Vegas-reared, Los Angeles-bolstered sense of gridded direction. It makes getting (being) lost fun and easy. Sometimes I stop and talk with a friendly stranger about the area, its history, the weather, whatever. So far, the people I’ve met here have been exceedingly nice, friendly.
I also spend a lot of time staring: staring at my (as of yet) mostly-blank walls (I make a lot of work that exists digitally), staring at the ceiling, starting out of my windows which frame the sky, a wooded mountain or hill, a brick apartment building, and a shingled roof.
Though I’ve been logging more hours in the studio than I ever have since graduating, the time, space and freedom (i.e. general lack of obligation) to do almost nothing (i.e. to walk and stare) has been of equal-if-not-greater importance. (Or is it the time, space and freedom to do almost anything?)
Having recently reread Steven Shaviro’s No Speed Limit, I can’t help but feel like I’m living, if only temporarily or microcosmically, in the kind of postcapitalist utopia he recites through the work of John Maynard Keynes: “[F]or the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure… to live wisely and agreeably well.”
For me, that means ample walking and ample staring. I’ve learned a lot about the way I work.
Arriving in Roanoke, VA and moving into my room and studio at Alternative Worksite over the past week or so has left me with nothing but gratitude. This is the first fully funded Residency I’ve done and the support has been incredible to say the least.
I settled in quickly and got to work almost immediately. As I drove, I was able to bring a few in projects down to VA that I had begun in my small studio in Chicago in the weeks leading up to my departure. Already in the brief period of time that I’ve had I’ve made considerable headway on three of them and have built a mock up of a larger more time intensive piece that I will be exhibiting in Chicago this upcoming spring. While working at this pace is immensely rewarding for me in terms of the feeling of productivity it brings, I’ve decided to step away briefly this upcoming weekend to spend some time with work by artists I admire. I’ll be stepping away from my practice and Alternative Worksite to visit a few galleries in New York. I am even looking forward to the long drive up from VA as it will allow me to clear my head after the flurry of making of the past two weeks.
One development that has surprised me is my newfound excitement over and engagement with cooking. Up until this point I’ve largely stuck to prepared meals and easy recipes, but not having the worries and pressures of daily life looming over my head has allowed me to explore a variety of more complicated dishes. For instance, this past Sunday I had the opportunity to prepare a meal for the entire house (up until this point I had seldom prepared a dish for three, let alone eight). For the meal I chose a rather involved Mediterranean rice dish involving multiple individual prep phases—made even more complicated by the limited kitchen arrangement. I can happily say that seeing the delight on my fellow resident’s faces upon tasting the dish was as fulfilling as working in the studio has been.