The Eve Of...

The Eve Of… NYC Residency pilot program

Surprisingly, I’ve achieved a residency’s studio focus and solitude… even in NYC. 

I was nervous that staying at home in NYC would allow too many distractions for this to be as productive as an overnight residency. But many things have helped to shift my experience, and are pretty effective in combination.

Staying really local. I’ve been keeping it Queens—I’ve only left the borough twice in the past three weeks: home, studio, repeat.

Yet changing it up. The studio is in a part of LIC I’d never been to before. It’s been neat to eat lunch and people-watch in the public courtyard, and patronize different mom and pop stores. I’ve also been riding my bike instead of taking the subway; it makes me feel like I set the rhythm of my day.

It’s August. It helps that NYC’s emptied out; even my emails have quieted down.

Cleared calendar. My obligations have been postponed and my priorities are crystal clear. It’s great not having to deliberate about squeezing in anything else.

Creature comforts. Unlike at away-residencies, there’s no learning curve in the logistics of everyday life—sleeping, grooming, nourishment, etc. I sleep in my own bed, cook in my own kitchen, and don’t have to miss my husband.

Disconnecting: deactivating my FB account. It became a pleasureless addiction. I had some withdrawal the first two weeks, but it holds little appeal now. It’s shocking how habitual it became: how easily I’ll mindlessly point my browser there, mentally compose status updates that are ultimately trivial, or desire a crowd-sourced solution instead of trusting my own opinions and decisions. These days, I’m so busy and then so tired, there’s little room for anything else, and I can’t imagine how much time I squandered onscreen. I will probably return—but keep my usage restricted.

Enduring my own mind. I’ve spent at least eight hours of every day alone in the studio. I was rusty at the beginning, when my overactive, lazy-way-out squirrel-brain pulled me in too many directions. But now I’m a bit more adept, staying on task and pushing through when I’m tired.

I can tolerate a lot of solitude but it’s also making me feel a bit starved for socialization. I take this as a good sign, as I remember this feeling from other residencies I’ve done. I’m starting to have enough work to show others, so I’m looking forward to scheduling studio visits soon.

The Eve Of...

The Eve Of… Self-Initiated Residency begins

Creating an NYC residency for me.

Studio experiment. Layered, colored vinylcuts. Christine Wong Yap, May/June, 2014.

Studio experiment. Layered, colored vinylcuts. Christine Wong Yap, May/June, 2014.

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:

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.

Studio experiment. Christine Wong Yap, July 10, 2014.

Studio experiment. Christine Wong Yap, July 10, 2014.

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.