Looking back at my 17-day residency.
The stunningly picturesque Mt. Hood is visible from many parts of Portland.
From May 20 to June 6, I was in residence at c3:initiative’s c3:studio residency, which
“partners with local arts institutions to provide a studio residency for visiting artists… to develop work to be exhibited regionally.”
How it came about. I’d been invited by the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society (“‘Pata,” for short) to exhibit The Eve Of…. I needed to be in Portland to install the large sculptures and installations. With our budget stretched thin by the shipping and transportation costs, ‘Pata contacted c3. I’d heard about c3 from the art collective ERNEST—which is in a long-term, ongoing residency there—and had received updates about Andy Coolquitt’s residency for his Disjecta show. c3 was available and offered not only to let me stay during installation, but to come out earlier for a residency to make new work with a membership to Pulp & Deckle, the onsite papermaking studio they incubate. I said yes.
Getting settled. Founder and Director Shir Ly Grisanti and Program Manager Erin Mallea got in touch and asked me what I needed. They were communicative, prompt, professional, responsive, and happy to triangulate with third parties as needed. They picked me up at the airport; lent a bicycle for getting around town; connected me with a lender of woodworking tools; and hooked me up with advising hours from Jenn Woodward, who runs Pulp & Deckle. Furthermore, they arranged for me to present Make Things (Happen) at PSU’s MFA in Social Practice un-conference, Assembly.
A discussion about Make Things (Happen): Christine Wong Yap with Lexa Walsh and Julie Perini. Presented by c3:initiative and Portland ‘Pataphysical Society for Portland State University’s Assembly 2015. Photo credit: Joe Greer.
c3 occupies a building with a small office, a cozy kitchen, a front room with a glass garage door that was an exhibition space, a larger middle room that I took over as a studio space, a shared bathroom with good-smelling shampoos and lotions, a closet with a large industrial sink and a few hand tools, Pulp and Deckle, and a one-room residence. The residence is sort of a white concrete cube afforded privacy with heavy black curtains. It’s outfitted with low furnishings that lend it a peaceful feeling—a comfy futon, pine credenzas with books and magazines, a lounge chair, and a tri-fold mattress, which turned out to be a nice place to sit cross-legged and work on my laptop. There’s also a large gated yard with patio furniture and plenty of space.
c3 is located in St. John’s, a neighborhood in North Portland. It feels like a small town. Its main street reminded me of Albany, CA, with its little movie theater, many bars, and vintage look. Transportation is pretty easy, with two bus lines that run to the galleries in the Pearl district.
Shir, Erin, and Jenn were incredibly accommodating. They said I was pretty much free to use anything in the office, kitchen, and closet. That meant I could print activity sheets for my Assembly event, had access to basics like olive oil and spices, and could use their washer, dryer and detergent, etc. These things seem small or mundane, but they make a big difference when you’re traveling.
What I did. In the first week, I made paper at Pulp & Deckle. I came to find the process of making paper to be pretty fun. The large sheets I started out with were technically challenging and physically demanding, so when I later made US letter-sized miniature multiples, I couldn’t stop giggling at how easy it was.
Making miniature multiples at Pulp & Deckle.
After that, I turned my attention to sketching, procuring, and making a plinth, A/V box, light blocks to cover ‘Pata’s clerestory windows, and scrims as backdrops for the handmade paper. I tend to work in ways that are very straightforward, and have found that attending to the physical space behooves the viewing experience. This was made possible with the chop saw, compressor, nailer, and Skil saw lent by Devan; Pulp & Deckle’s sewing machine; and a car lent by ‘Pata. I can be a control freak and it can be hard for me to ask for help (and flexible enough to accept it). But I thought about Torreya Cumming’s advice when I interviewed her for an essay for Art Practical:
“The first principle is beg, borrow, or steal. That is, don’t buy something if you need it once or twice, and you know someone who has one, or you can lightly hitch a ride on something that was going to be wasted anyway. This puts one in a complicated social network I call the ‘favor economy.’ Unlike some other barter systems, it relies not on a one-to-one exchange of goods or services, but on vague, consensus-based goodwill and mutual aid.”
I’m very grateful to Shir, Erin, Jenn, and Devan for providing the space, equipment, and knowledge for me to be productive. I feel really lucky to have been the recipient of so much generosity and hospitality. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I have plenty of time and all of the tools—physical, technical, and psychological—for the task at hand.
First Thursdays opening reception, The Eve Of…, Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR
Results. I’m very happy with how The Eve Of… looks at ‘Pata and also at its satellite location in the PDX Contemporary windows, alongside Ethan Rose’s excellent solo show. I owe huge thanks to Josephine Zarkovich and David Huff at ‘Pata, as well as Caitlin and James at PDX Contemporary. During the openings on First Thursdays, I ran into old classmates who’d moved to Portland recently, collaborators who happened to be driving through town, and even a colleague who I’d recently met in Wichita. Moreover, so many people came in to the galleries—friends, colleagues, supporters, and the curious. It was a very satisfying conclusion.
Christine Wong Yap, Projection, 2014, video installation: video, wood, fabric, acrylic, 80 x 32 x 32.125 inches. Installation view at Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, Portland, OR
The Eve Of…, including works created in residence at c3:initiative, will be on view through July 18 at the Portland ’Pataphysical Society in Portland, OR. A satellite exhibition is on view until June 27 in the windows project space at PDX Contemporary.
Correction: The link to photographer Joe Greer has been updated.