Creating an NYC residency for me.
Last year, I realized three things:
- I’m most productive as an artist when I do residencies with exhibition opportunities.
- I ought to balance the opportunities I’ve received elsewhere with more opportunities to work as an artist in NYC.
- NYC competitions are often the most competitive I’ve found anywhere.
With that in mind, I applied to the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) for an Individual Artist Grant to initiate my own residency, open studio, and public forum. My application, honed with fantastic feedback from SOM and QCA program staff, was selected to receive partial funding.
Thus far, I’ve been preparing for the residency—modifying a budget, conducting research, developing sketches, procuring materials, and developing prototypes in my home studio, all while juggling multiple jobs. Now that it’s August, my employers and clients have graciously acknowledged my need to take a sabbatical. I also hope to share news about a larger studio soon. Then, I’ll have the coming weeks to focus 100% on my project.
The project is called The Eve of…
…a new body of sculptures, assemblages, and installations using color to create darkness and explore mixed emotions… Inspired by the decisive moment after setbacks and before actions, the project explores the disassembled self on the eve of re-organization.
It’s inspired by flux, the feeling of uncertainty, and of not knowing what to do next. This is a departure from recent projects that were more representational or literal, with direct connections to positive psychology research. I’m trying to work more intuitively, and create an installation for viewers that is phenomenological and embodied.
Making such a change isn’t easy. Ironically, I’m experiencing artistic and creative uncertainty at the same time that I’m thinking about making work about uncertainty.
Instead of positive psychology books, I’ve started reading artists’ writings and biographies. It’s been inspiring and confounding, as artists often present challenging questions without clear answers:
- Mary Jane Jacob & Jacquelynn Baas, eds., Learning Mind: Experience into Art (2010, UC Press)
- Alexander Dumbadze, Bas Jan Ader: Death is Everywhere (2013, University of Chicago Press)
- Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (1982, UC Press)
- Lisa Le Feuvre, ed., Failure (2010, from Whitechapel/MIT’s excellent Documents of Contemporary Art series)
The biographies of Irwin (by Weschler) and Ader are especially troubling, as both artists took on lifelong projects grappling with issues of representation/depiction, and the paradox of materializing objects or how images are read, when what they’re after is pure aesthetic experience. This contradiction can become stultifying, as can perfectionist self-pressure.
Yet, persisting in my research, I’ve realized that uncertainty is related to anxiety and failure, and that I can find productive, creative release valves. All art-making includes the risk of failure, and by freeing failure from a limited definition as negative judgment, I can take a prolific, experimental approach and do things the wrong way (or, as KR would kid, the Wong way), and just get on with it. There will be time for editing and criticism later, but it is not my role in the studio—certainly not in the context of a self-initiated residency—to assume that now.
Because it’ll be shared with the public in open studios/an artist-run exhibition, I don’t have to accommodate external criteria or desirable traits like sell-ability, permanence, etc. It’s a luxury to be able to make what I want… even if I’m not 100% sure what that is yet.
This project is made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.