My time at 970West has been a great boost to my productivity and artistic focus. Most of my studio efforts were focused on the Post-Frontier series, mostly past the design phase and deep into production mode when I started the residency at the beginning of the year. During the residency I focused on the “stitching” phase. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but stitching puts me into a meditative state that allows flow - that “flow” is what artists of all forms seek out. That time-space where we fully merge with our medium; some would call it synergy. What I also encountered are conversations with myself. I accept this as part of my practice, and the act of inquiry. These conversations help me dig more deeply, peeling back the layers.
These conversations can sound like “radio station KRAZY” as Hal and Sidra Stone would put it; that would be noise from the inner critic on their soapbox. I learned, once upon a time, to hold that critic at arm’s length, in balance with other yammering critics and my inner child. But deep studio practice brings out all these critics. The important part is to not back away; instead, to lean into that practice, pushing beyond the noise. I have found that the only way I can get there is with uninterrupted time. Not a huge chunk of time, just a few hours with no email notifications, no texts, no distractions. No excuses. When I push beyond, I find myself closer to balance, with more clarity.
I won’t go into details about what the critics had to say, but it was diverse and very soap-boxy. But I kept going and found answers to some of my own questions. Whenever I ask a question and an answer emerges, I ask “Why?”, digging more deeply to get at the root of things. This helps me focus, sort out relationships between and establish the urgency of things I’m doing or want to explore. I discovered that I make a lot of rules for myself. I challenged those rules and found some answers that strengthen my practice. Also, I found myself wishing I could speed up my process. But, I learned, that is like trying to speed up grief.
I embrace “slow” processes as necessary to my practice. In my research I found a term that precisely describes the mental process that motivates this body of work: Solastaliga. Environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht (Australia) coined the term to describe “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.” It is a form of grief. My studio practice involves grief. And processing grief doesn’t operate on a timetable. It ebbs, flows, and surges. During this residency I tuned in to the ebb and flow and found a cadence that I needed for pure work. Pure work = no interruptions.
Those who facilitate artist residencies are providing shelter, a shield that permits artists to dive deeply and find that flow. I am most appreciative.