After almost a month of walking the beaches, collecting materials and experimenting with materials, I feel that I am getting somewhere. Yesterday, I felt that I was able to connect my visual style with the materials I’ve stockpiled in my studio. I found a stack of sample papers I brought from the US and tested some bubble wands, sea weed mixed with fishing line and lollipop sticks. Using the same materials over and over allowed me to focus on minor variations. I liked the size format of these sample papers 2 x 6 (?) and even the labeling of paper names on the side. I think I’ll continue to create this paper size in the future. When I was finished with this process, I went to the beach with Viktoria - the other cyanotype maker and we tried to catch the waves. I got on wave which I loved - but sadly the paper tore when I tried to rinse it off. The ideas are really brimming. This weekend, Katri and Matt arrive so it gives me a chance to slow down and get back to work on Monday.
Rota has a very different feel than Cadiz. More beach vibe than old town. I will need to stay focused!
Our apartment is only a block and a half from the beach. This allows me to come and go with a lot more ease. I won’t have to take all of my papers with me at once, but can slow down the process. Today is a Monday in February. It will be interesting to see how busy - or not- the town is. I suspect it has the ebb and flow of weekend and vacation time, more than of Cadiz’s work day, kids being lead to school by parents, old men and women with their grocery carts walking across the plazas, etc. There was a store at the bottom of my apartment building, In Cadiz. I could set me clock on the sound of the garment trolley being lead onto the concourse. 10, 2, 5:30 and 9:30 pm.
I’m sharing the space with a great group of women artists. 2 film makers and another visual artist. The film maker is also working on cyanotype it will be fun to do experiments with her. This is a new schedule and adjustment to my work habits. Being both social and productive are important to me.
It takes a bit of time to get used to the new studio area as well. I have a window which allows me to heat wax, but it is also much cooler in the evenings. Even with the heater on, it is much harder for me to work in the cold. Hopefully it will begin to warm up soon.
Been feeling a bit melancholy these last few days and couldn’t quite put my finger on why. After all, I’m away from the Artic Blast hitting the U.S. so what’s wrong with me!? Transition time always comes with a decrease in productivity. I haven’t been as successful with my work and don’t feel like I’m moving forward. It’s frustrating. I don’t want to mix up any new supplies since I will need to transport them on the Catamaran to Rota, so I’ve been limiting myself to what I can do.
There have also been a couple of cloudy days and - going back to the Artic Blast - what do I have to complain about? But I can definitely feel that the sun is a natural mood enhancer. I’m more productive, I walk more, I stay outside more, etc. etc. when the sun is out. Even when I first arrived and there was a chill in the air, the sun made it easy to be outside.
Also, with one month down, I see what I am going to be able to do and what I may not get done. I’m not making any head way on what I would consider successful, interesting images with the trash that I’ve found. The photograms are ok but not revolutionary. It all still feels very amateur. I want to jump to the next level - larger paper, larger structures, etc. but I’m resistant because I hate investing in supplies that I will leave behind. That comes down to worth, Right? Shouldn’t I do this because I’m worth it and my ideas are worth it - and not restrict my ideas because I don’t think they are ‘big enough’ or important enough? Is this where the melancholy is stemming from?
Maybe it is time to pay a visit to my art supply store on Rosario street.
Apparently Cadiz is more like Cuba than Spain - at least that is how the NY Times describes Cadiz in their 52 places to visit in 2019. I wouldn’t disagree - not that I’ve ever been to Cuba, but it has that feel of old age charm that I suspect exists in Cuba. I wasn’t so sure about this place when I first arrived. I saw the peeling stucco, felt the cold damp air as I walked down narrow, cobbled streets. The smell of cigarette smoke and car exhaust was ever present and ever mindful. As I got to know the area, become comfortable with various cafes, and shops I have come to love this raggedy old town. I see families walking their kids to school in the morning and after siesta and imagine the tight knit communities that must exist in these shared spaces. I have continued to experiment with my work, possibly creating only one piece that I would consider worth displaying on a wall. But that is not what this experience is about. It is about exploring technique, ideas, practice and even discipline. I have a wealth of ideas for future tests. I remember when I couldn’t come up with a single idea.
Yesterday, I attended a yoga class. In Spanish. The exercise was a good analogy of what I’ve learned about myself on the residency so far.
I saw the flyer for the class posted on the door of a health food store. Between gestures and smiles with the owner, I learned that the Yoga wasn’t too far away and that I should give the instructor a call. It took me a few days to work up the courage to get in touch. Calling wasn’t an option with my international plan, so I texted. Based on the fluent response I got back, I assumed she spoke English…
We arranged a meeting point a few minutes prior to the start of class. It was then that I learned how good Google Translate is. Neither of us spoke the other’s language. :) No worries. It was yoga after all. It was a small class of 4 people and we were lead into a small annex of the 18 Century Catedrel de Cadiz. The original sandstone walls and lit Votives to Saint Antony led a sense of calm to the space.
For the next 90 minutes we were led through stretching and poses that were familiar and needed. I realized how tight my muscles were. Each time I stretched I felt pain and pleasure in equal measure. I had become a tight little ball from the constant walking, sleeping on a cot and most likely constant sense of alert from being in a new place.
I learned a few words - poco poco means little by little. izquierda, derecha y mano y pie (left, right, hand and foot) were also added to my extensive vocab.
In no time, we were lead to Savasana. Always a favorite moment at the end of any practice. Unfortunately, the blankets for wrapping in may have been there from the 18th century as well. (no ones fault, just the reality of storage in a cellar). I left with a sense of relaxation and a lot of mold spores in my lungs.
Still, I hope to return for the last two sessions that fit into my schedule. Solitude has its place, but it was nice to be with others in a united sense of purpose. I was proud of myself for pushing myself out of my comfort zone once again, be willing to make mistakes and recognize that the process and the small moments are as important as the outcome.
I am often struggling with the pull between reflection and action. Now that I have arrived, I feel obligated (to myself) to make the most of every minute and to be drawing, creating and producing. Realistically, I am in a new environment, unfamiliar with the language and often getting lost in the maze of streets in the old town. The work that I intended to do is shifting - due to materials and space that are different than anticipated. It feels a bit daunting.
Luckily, I came across this article: Louise Bourgeois on Finding Inspiration in Solitude on my facebook feed. (Thanks Will Snyder III for sharing). As the title implies, Louise found inspiration from time alone. For this first three week period, my time is definitely my own. Rather than feel overwhelmed by the singularity of experience, I’m trying to shift gears and use these moments to reflect on what I notice and make plans for the upcoming year. I can do this without interruption. The only thing that could get in my way is myself and procrastination.
My time of quiet observation has begun to feed my creative side as well. Things I’ve noticed; The beaches of Cadiz, which touch the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea are littered with sea glass, not plastic. The city itself, built in parts even earlier than medieval times, is a patchwork of buildings and pavement. Grass is hard to find- small patches in the parks close to the ocean. The old city is all cement and cobblestones. I feel the absence of grass every day. The buildings are not terribly high, but the streets are narrow. It is hard for the sun to get through. The people of the area are incredibly warm. I enjoy sitting at a cafe and listening to the loud enthusiasm of the locals. There is so much laughter and conversation. We Americans like to keep our voices down when in public. I enjoy the warmth and happiness that comes bubbling over from other tables.
The first few days have been about getting familiar with the town without putting too much expectation on my time and art. I want to notice what strikes me. I’m situated in the ‘old town’. So my first impressions before moving too far afield were about the enclosed spaces. The buildings - although no more than 3 stories tall are very close together. There is no room for a car - just pedestrians. I’d love to know more about the different periods in which the buildings have been built. They seem similar - with the more than occasional third story plopped on top. The streets are full of texture. Cobbled pavement, patched marble and pot hole covers. They are quite beautiful and I hope that they will find their way into my work.
Staying by myself in a strange city has been an adjustment. I’m not familiar with the sounds the come from the late night cafe. I live in an apartment with an atrium below. The walls are thin enough to hear babies crying and dogs barking. Not a problem, just takes a bit of getting used to. I slept with the lights on the first night - but now I’m getting more used to my surroundings.
I have yet to include anything about the residency that I am part of: It is easiest to just include a link. http://www.pinea.org/. Due to my extended time here, I am doing one month in the city of Cadiz and the second in the seaside town of Rota. In Rota, I will be working alongside other artists and getting a chance to work with the community more. In Cadiz, I am primarily utilizing work space and time. Both of which are precious in day to day activities.
I’m really uncomfortable talking about myself, which is why it has been almost a month since I’ve last posted. It is also hard for me to multi-task. Really. The holidays, travel and time spent with family where easy distractions.
However, It’s important for me to write this blog, not just because I want to share my art process and work, but I want to share this experience. I kept an unread version of Virginia Wolf’s A Room of One’s Own on my bookshelf for years - before donating it (yep, unread). In theory I know what is inside the book. It is one thing for me to believe in the idea of having my own space, time and focus, but another altogether to live it. As I’ve talked about my upcoming (now ‘happening’) residency, I’ve heard other woman, talking about wanting to do something similar. I want you to know that you can.
This blog will share the nitty-gritty of this experience. Mistakes will be made. Not spending more time on my Spanish Language app was probably the first… Missing an important bus stop was probably the second… Fortunately, those that know me know I may many mistakes. They also know I hate to admit them. So bear with me.
I recognize that I’m fortunate to be able to leave home for two months without worrying about my job. I was able to work as a temp at a summer job and as an adjunct instructor in the fall to create the time and resources for my travels. That length of time is unrealistic for many. My daughter is managing bills, the pets and the day to day that I typically address while at home. Having said that, I hope that my experience encourages other creative women to take a week, or two, or longer to explore these wonderful artistic residencies that are available. Enough for now. My next post will talk more about my specific residency and my first night in my new space.
p.s. These blogs will occasionally contain typos, run-on sentences, and poor grammar. It’s what you get with me. :)
Why do I always put off packing until the last moment? I think it comes down to the decision making. This. Not. That. And then… just one more t-shirt wouldn’t hurt. Until the suitcase is overstuffed and most items sit untouched during the trip. This times the stakes are a bit higher. At least from a personal perspective. I want everything that I pack to be both meaningful and multi-purpose. This goes for both my wardrobe and my art supplies. So, when it comes down to it, it is even more difficult to decide between water color crayons and prismacolor markers. Why not both? I keep turning back to my encaustics. They have become an appendage of my visual language. How do I communicate if not with wax? That is a lot of material. Wasn’t I supposed to stream line? Instead of finishing my packing, I am reading Steven Pressfield’s book “The war of Art”. He discusses the insidious nature of resistance, in all its form. Obviously, reading instead of packing is a form of resistance. I’m not a good student. Final note: Just realized I can add an extra suitcase for a mere $30. Dangerous.
Last Saturday, one of my friends asked if I realized that I would be leaving for my residency in 16 days. I did… and I didn’t. I hadn’t actually counted those days. My goal was to get to the end of the semester, grading finished and submitted. Then I could panic if that was the plan. Here I am 4 days later (but whose counting?) with all of the above done and dusted. Switching gears is always a challenge in itself, but that is what today is all about. I will start making the list of items to take and what to leave behind. I’ll be traveling with only a carry on for a trip that will include two climates, multiple events (dressy, casual, and studio wear). In my mind, the residency begins with my packing - how do I manage to take with me only the most essential items and leave behind what could be useful but not necessary?