At the close of the 2008 deadline, we noticed a marked decrease in artists applying for Restoration Residencies, indicating to us that New Orleans and Gulf Coast artists were in a more stable position than they had been since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Inspired by the drastic upheaval in our local ecology Changing Landscapes was formed, a six-week residency based on the premise that Southern Louisiana can be seen as a microcosm of the global environment, manifesting both the challenges and possibilities inherent in human interaction with the natural world. We ask artists to describe in detail how the region will affect their work, to propose a public component to their residency and to suggest ways in which they will engage with the local community. Artists are awarded a stipend for their time and towards materials. Supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency.
2008-2009 Changing Landscapes Artists
Andrea Myers, mixed media artist, Chicago, IL, 2008
“I was really intrigued when I first saw the information about A Studio in the Woods on the New York Foundation for the Arts website, for two main reasons, I had never spent an extended amount of time in the South as an adult and the theme of the residency, Changing Landscapes, seemed to fit perfectly with interests in my ongoing bodies of work. On top of those reasons, after looking at the ASITW website, the residency site revealed itself to be truly unique and something I really hoped I would be able to experience firsthand.
“Firsthand experiences shape this residency. The plight the land and New Orleans as a city has endured is palpable; in the city, buildings still sit half boarded up, while in the forest, trees sit uprooted, ripped from the ground. During my short time here, I was visually drawn to the polarities and parallels found between the city and the woods. Both sites resonate with a sense of decay and new growth, pushing back at one another, caught in a type of stalemate for now. Before this residency, I had only experienced the effects and aftershocks of Katrina from a mediated distance, shaped and controlled by the media. Now I believe it is imperative to visit New Orleans, especially the forest, to truly understand the impact firsthand of catastrophic natural events and witness how the land and community are attempting to move forward.
“In response to my time in the woods, walking the levee and trips into the city, my work opened up to new processes and during the residency, I felt able to take creative risks and try new ideas influenced by the varying landscapes. One of the most invaluable aspects of having a residency set away from an urban area is that once you arrive to the woods, time immediately slows itself and the days relax into a peaceful pace, allowing you as an artist to create and reflect on your own artistic terms and timing.
“More specifically, A Studio in the Woods is an amazing opportunity because it gave me a theme to think about while I was here, so I was provided a direction but the rest was up to me to define. The fact that ASITW provides funding, materials budget, housing and meals enables you to have freedom from monetary concerns while you are in residence, furthering your ability to concentrate on the most important thing, making art.
“There are so few funded residencies available in the United States, so I felt privileged to not only be in residence in an area of the country I had never truly spent time in, but also be given the financial support to make it possible for me to be in residence without worrying how I would afford to leave my work for an extended period of time.
“In terms of the body of work I made while I was in residence, I am excited that while I was here, I found new directions in my work to pursue. Often times, in your daily routine, you become stuck in what is comfortable and the same is true in the day to day of art making. By coming into a new landscape, new studio space, new materials and new routine, I was presented with a different sense of creative problem solving. While I was here, I was able to experiment with an outdoor installation, which is something new to me. Also, I was able to create prints in Tulane’s print shop, a working style I haven’t used in a while, but in the future, I think I will make more prints because of the work I did here. Going back into my ‘normal’ routine in Chicago, I will bring back with me a continuation of energies and ideas from my time here, extending the scope of the residency to not just the time in the woods, but to plenty of work and ideas to come.”
Andrea Myers is originally from Columbus, OH and she has been living in Chicago the last eight years. She received her BFA in 2002 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received her MFA also from the School of the Art Institute in 2006, through the Department of Fiber and Material Studies. She has exhibited with Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago and has participated in exhibitions nationally, including the Evanston Art Center, the Glassel School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and has an upcoming solo show at Steven Zevitas Gallery in Boston. Most recently, her work was featured in the Midwestern Edition of New American Paintings, and last year, she was the Barstow Visiting Artist at Central Michigan University. This fall, she participated in an artist residency at Ox-Bow in Saugatuck, MI and currently she is enjoying her time and the warm, non-winter weather at A Studio in the Woods here in New Orleans. www.andreamyersartist.com
Anne Devine, performance artist, San Francisco, CA, 2009
“Changing Landscapes opened wide a tremendous access into my own creative process. The first nurturings of creative spark began when I read the call for proposals and felt with the comprehensive support of A Studio in the Woods, I could explore the Southern Louisiana landscape physically and conceptually. Hard Sweet Hard and the distance walk From New Orleans to Hopedale reflect the site-specific collaborative weavings of place, people, and perspective and show the great confidence and professionalism I absorbed during my residency. Thank you A Studio in the Woods! “
Anne Devine holds an MFA (Social Practice) from California College of the Arts and a BFA (photography, film and video) from Rutgers. Additionally she attended the graduate program in Environmental Studies at University of Montana. www.greenscene.org
Rafael Santos, photographer, Argentina, 2009
“Just the day before flying to New Orleans from Argentina to join A Studio in The Woods for my 6 weeks Changing Landscapes Residency, In conversation with a friend, photographer himself and lifelong traveler all over the world, he asked me if I was aware about the marvelous experience I was just to begin.
“Now that this creative and life experience is about to end, I can tell him he surely could not even imagine the extent of it.
Lower Mississippi Delta, Metropolitan New Orleans, and specially A Studio in the Woods, with its always encouraging founders, its supportive , creative and friendly staff, and its unique environment an facilities, seems like a dream for every arts practitioner commited to focus its work on social/environmental complex issues.
“Here, as an artist in residence with a strong interest in water Issues, I could explore environmental , social, and economic interconnected tensions, and the efforts of the many who think that a paradigmatic shift in people’s relationship with the Great River is needed and possible. An inspiration to develop a work in tune with the struggles ahead here, as in many other parts of the world.
“I strongly encourage every artist with the purpose to make its practice be part of the necessary changes in human/nature relationship, to be part of this privileged dream.”
I am Rafael Santos, co-founder and member(1991-2007) of Ala Plastica, an arts and environmental group based in Rio de La Plata, Argentina (near Buenos Aires). My aim is to link the art-way of thinking and working with the development of active projects in the social and environmental realm, by developing projects, research and processes that deal with social and environmental concerns. My primary focus is the Parana River estuary and Delta and the social-ecological communities that have developed over time around freshwater rivers and coastal zones, and the close collaboration with local people, other artists, scientists and environmental groups working in the same realm nationally and internationally. I have worked on native plant restoration in estuaries, bioregional planning and urban tree planting and organized a community-based survey, rescue and information teams in the wake of the disastrous 1999 Magdalena oil spill among other projects. Now I work independently on the same collaborative and interactive basis, and in search of a different projective consistence.
2009-2010 Changing Landscapes Artists
David Sullivan, new media artist, New Orleans, LA, 2009
“You would think that a couple of miles wouldn’t make a big difference. But the difference between my house in downtown New Orleans and the Studio in the Woods is vaster than the distance would imply.
“The change is palpable as soon as you step out on the wet fallen leaves, hear the uproarious orchestra of frogs, and breathe in the air as the sun sinks below the trees over the pond. And through out the time at the residency, this change soaks into you.
“This distance provided a much-needed perspective on what I was doing with my animated paintings. My project was influenced very specifically by the area around the studio along the river. The river and the refineries along it were a great visual resource, and the audio recordings of this mix of wilderness and industry provided me with a wealth of material. But the studio also provided more general inspiration into how I approach my work. Looking out over the pond, through the forest, gave me insights into how I can structure my animations. After creating 3d objects, I tend to have the viewer circle the objects. But the forest is a collection of forms and shapes with color and textures arranged in 3d space that define an environment, through which the viewer goes through and is enveloped by. I hope to bring some of this in to my new pieces. The woods for me is an example of a visually rich setting in which nothing particular happens, where you are allowed to think and make connections without being led. Leaves fall, water ripples, trees bend in the breeze. Perhaps a bird flies by. You can sit with it as long as you want, and come to your own contemplations. This is the type of experience I am hoping to bring to people who watch my animations.
“Of course the land, the wildlife and surroundings are the hi-light of the residency, but the studio would not be the same without the gentle and unassuming care of the Carmichaels. They are the perfect hosts, leaving you to do your work, and making sure you have a conducive environment to do it in. They make sure the body is comfortable, so the mind is free to focus. The evening meals in front of the fire were more then just warmth and sustenance. They were a chance to hear stories, talk about ideas, and learn about the land and its history.
“When I came to my residency at a studio in the woods, I gained access to the beautiful facility, and a support staff working hard to make my project a success. From the first meeting they were enthusiastic and supportive, offering many ideas and possibilities. Throughout my residency, they helped make connections with the local community, drummed up supplies and equipment, and even schlepped equipment through muddy fields. Without them, the project would not have been the success it was.
“I had been out to the studio in the woods many times in the past, to see artist’s projects, or to attend a couple of artist dinners. I knew already that it is a special place, and had heard from many artist’s how beneficial their time here was. It was a great pleasure to be able to experience this for myself.”
David Sullivan grew up in New Orleans. He still thinks of himself as a painter, although he mostly paints with pixels now. He has shown his prints, programs and animations in the USA, Austria, Brazil, and the Antarctic. He is a studio resident at LA Artworks, and an adjunct professor at Loyola University. He currently has work in “Hot Up Here” curated by Dan Cameron at the CAC, as well as in Ars Electronica in Linz Austria, and File 2009 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. www.swampmonster.org
Tory Tepp, installation artist and community activist, Los Angeles, CA, 2009
“Looking back on my stay at A Studio in the Woods during the Changing Landscapes Residency, I can’t help but notice a marked change in my perception of time. I speak of time both in the way one relates to the natural flow and passage the environment around us as well as an evolution of events that take place over a certain or ongoing period. The former has had an impact of the daily maneuvers of my life and the way in which I shape them in response to my surroundings, while the latter has had a more theoretical influence on my approach and execution as an art maker. Time became both non-existent and necessary in a way that only a post-Katrina New Orleans landscape could reconcile.
“Having arrived in New Orleans from Los Angeles, I was initially quite frustrated by the irregular pace of daily life and the seemingly nonchalant attitude that resonated throughout the city. But as I began to spend time in the woods during my residency, I felt myself begin to relax, a gradual exhalation, as my soul seemed to un-clench. Living within the woods, on the banks of the Mississippi River, I breathed and observed. It could have been any time during any era. The river and the woods swayed to their own rhythm and carried their own majestic sense of being. And despite being affected by the conspiracies of human beings, one could discern that they would remain long after the doom of man had been carried out. The woods, especially, breathed with an air of possibility within the perpetually cyclical hope to life, decay and rebirth.
“And so, it was within this context that I first began to slow down and take my time. There was so much more to see, to observe, if the time and the care was taken to actually study. This deliberate approach gradually affected the way in which I interacted with the social landscape as well. I began to actually relish the human interactions that got in the way of efficient and speedy business and it became heartwarming to see that the modern age hadn’t fully diminished the priorities of human beings in this place. Once I recalibrated my rate of observation, action and reaction I began to truly feel and understand the beauty of the people and of their culture within this landscape.
“This refinement, this subtle attunement of my senses and my sensibilities, which allowed me to integrate with and focus on the surrounding landscape then allowed me greater access to my own creative faculties. Though gradual, it did not take long to find myself in a different state of mind; clearer, more peaceful, less cluttered, in love with all that I saw and experienced and delighted with the intent to somehow capture all of it through my art. I felt as though I was breathing fully and deeply, clean and unpolluted air, and as my eyes cleared I felt the limits of my ideas expand ad become limitless. With this sense of relief and naivete, a beginner’s mind, I approached the direction and the context of the Spirit Ferry. I felt empowered and knew the project must continue beyond the parameters of the residency. The receptive spirit of the surrounding community intensified this sense of purpose. But it would require devotion to the project and commitment to the community over an amount of time that could not be arbitrarily determined.
“There seems to be a great deal of impatience within the art world. The expectations are high for swift results, immediate profits and instant recognition. As I began to develop relationships with people and with different communities within the New Orleans area it became clear how precious time was to the potency of any art project, especially within the realm of community-engaged practice. For any real change to be effected, relationships need to be established, relationships that are built on trust and respect and mutual understanding. This does not happen quickly if at all, especially in the case of artists from the outside coming into community to do a project. It takes time to develop these traits within a relationship and if these relationships are to hold any relevance, any power, any hope of forging some small amount of change, then time is of the utmost importance.
“With the Spirit Ferry, I realized that as long as the project had traction within a community, I had to serve the project. As long as relationships were continuing to grow and evolve and be useful or reflective in any way, the project was still working and had not yet come to its conclusion. And for me, this was a wonderful feeling; to know that I was not simply fabricating some static sculpture that I would just walk away from, leaving to an awkward, orphaned existence within a community, to know that I was merely the captain of the ship, not the river nor the wind, and that the potential of the project within the community had many exciting evolutions ahead before we reached our destination.”
Tory Tepp is an artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, occupying a studio located on the Los Angeles River. This proximity to the river has been the stimulus behind Sub-Vert; Los Angeles, an ongoing mobile gardening project developed along the river and organized by Tory. His projects focus on urban agriculture, informal economies, alternative and recycled materials and the combination of traditional studio practices with new genre public art practice and community organizing. From 1996-2002, Tory operated Satyr Studios in Atlanta, a sculptural furniture studio, while also organizing The Rites of Spring, an annual spring art festivity and exhibition. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Parsons, the New School for Design with a concentration in Non-traditional Art History and a Master of Fine Arts in Public Practice from Otis College of Art and Design. firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Rich Beall, sculptor, Lebanon, PA, 2010
“When I first read the ASITW Call for Artists outlining the Changing Landscapes residency I was very intrigued. The residency appealed to me on many levels: To be able to make art without the distractions of daily life and my job, to be fully funded, to be alone without other artists, to be in the woods and be located in New Orleans, a culturally rich area. Since my work is based in the natural world it was an obvious bonus to have the idyllic wooded environment to study and to use as source material. I was just beginning to study lichens in my work and discovered they are indicators of environmental distress. It would be interesting to see what lichens existed in the woodlands. Having Dave Baker on staff to take me through the woods and answer my questions was an additional benefit. It seemed this residency was a perfect fit for my needs.
“During the actual residency I learned a lot about myself and how I work. I was able to make quite a few things in a short time. I think more benefits of the residency will be evident in years to come as my work grows and develops.
“The studio’s proximity to the levee and the large container ships was unexpected. I could see the ships from the kitchen window. The ship’s unique noises and looming presence were difficult for me to get used to. They made me aware of the larger world and the trafficking of commerce through the port of New Orleans.
“The Carmichael’s were the most gracious hosts and they made ASITW all the more special and unique. In fact all the staff have been tremendous. Lucianne is a gentle soul with a very insightful mind. Joe is the most amazing man, has quick wit and even darns his own socks! Together they make the experience of being in the woods all the richer.”
Karen Rich Beall was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics from the University of Florida in 1986, Beall moved to New York City and worked as a studio assistant, wood restorer, and Circulation Director for Artforum Magazine while pursuing her own art work. In 1992 Beall left New York to attend graduate school at the University of Tennessee, where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture in 1995. Beall then moved to Atlanta where she worked as the Public Art Assistant for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. She also worked for several years at the Fulton County Arts Council as the Public Art Coordinator. In 2002, Beall and husband Michael Pittari moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania where Pittari accepted a full-time teaching position. Beall is currently teaching Ceramics and Sculpture as an adjunct instructor of art at Lebanon Valley College. www.karenrichbeall.com
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, writer and installation artist, Houston, TX, 2010
“A Studio in the Woods is unique among the artist residences I’ve attended. Its carefully stewarded rural setting is an ideal place for the introspection necessary for creative work. But it’s also in New Orleans, one of the most stimulating and original of American cities. The founders and staff of A Studio in the Woods work hard to build connections between each artist’s work and the incredible resources of the New Orleans community. At other residencies I’ve been given the key to a cottage or apartment and left to make my own way; here the support of the staff has been like receiving the key to this city.
“During my residency, I’ve attempted to push the boundaries of what I know and what I am capable of. This has meant experimentation with new forms, and expanding my work as a writer with forays into papermaking and bookbinding. It was great to have a chance to take a pause from the things I am suppose to “know” about or be “an expert” on. This is the value of being in retreat. At the same time I was able to forge some important relationships with inspiring and creative individuals in New Orleans. My work on this project will continue–bringing to fruition the work accomplished so far.
“It has also been meaningful to be integrated into the life of the woods itself. I feel incredibly blessed to have been here to watch the woods transition from the bareness of winter into the current bloom of spring. The physical, natural environment has had such a strong impact, with all of the life forms here. But equally vital and influential are the passion and dedication of Lucianne and Joe and all of the staff. It feels like more than just a group of colleagues, and is an instructive lesson on the power of small groups to do important things. Alice Walker has a book whose title captures the spirit: ‘anything you love can be saved.’”
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is a writer whose work has appeared in Transition, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe. She has received awards from the Independent Press Association, the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the Lannan Foundation. Originally from Houston, Texas, she graduated in 2000 from Harvard University and was a Fulbright Scholar in the United Kingdom. Sharifa is writing a trilogy on African-Americans and utopia; her first book, Harlem is Nowhere, will be published in 2011 by Little, Brown & Company.
2010-2011 Changing Landscapes Artists
William Cordova, installation artist, Miami, FL, 2010
“if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, how ever measured or far away”
-Henry David Thoreau ( Walden or Life in the Woods: where I lived and what I lived for )
“My residency period at A Studio in the Woods was very rewarding in that it allowed me to slow down and focus on multiple projects without ever losing direction or wasting time. The wooded and remote setting played a vital role in residency period being so productive. The accessibility to many research institutions like The Latin American Library’s rare books collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, University Archives and Special Collections at Xavier University Library was essential. Reaching out and collaborating with local New Orleans dancer/choreographer Monique Moss and painter Damion Hunter was also important in bringing forth and sharing examples of our common interests through our diverse cultures.
“The layers of history in New Orleans do not sit idle but are constantly vibrating not through the touristy French Quarter but in the periphery of that other silence.”
“silence is the source of great strength”
-Lao Tzu ( The Book of the Way )
William Cordova was born and raised in Lima, Peru and currently divides his time between Miami, Lima and New York. He earned his MFA from Yale University in 2004 and his BFA from The Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. William has participated in Artist residencies including Artpace, San Antonio, TX; The Core program, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Woodstock Center for Photography, NY, The Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA; The Studio Museum in Harlem; NY and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME. Cordova’s solo exhibitions include laberintos, Sikkema Jenkins & Co, more than bilingual, Fleming Museum, Burlington, VA (2009); moby dick, Artpace, San Antonio, TX (2008); p’alante, Arndt & Partner, Berlin, Germany (2006); drylongso (pichqa suyo), P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2006); Project Row House, Houston, TX (2005). Cordova’s work has participated in many group exhibitions including; Greater New York, Ps1/MOMA, NY (2010); San Juan Triennial, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2009); Neo-HooDoo, Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Whitney Biennial, NY: Prague Triennial, Czech Republic (2008); Street Level, Duke University, Durham, NC (2007): Scratch, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2005) and Utopia Station, 50th Venice Biennale (2003). Upcoming individual exhibition includes yawar malku at La Conservera, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Murcia, Spain.
Eric Dallimore, installation artist, Denver, CO, 2010
“The best way that I can describe my experience at A Studio In The Woods is to tell the story of my residency from the beginning. Upon arriving at A Studio In The Woods via River Road, I immediately relished in the relaxing, windy road which follows the mighty Mississippi, leaving the busy city of New Orleans behind it and ending at the driveway to the Studio. Within only a few short feet of entering the gates at A Studio In The Woods, the roadway disappeared and the Bottomland Hardwood Forest surrounded me, while the outside world quickly melted away. As I slowly found my way through the driveway, the harmonious and grand home and offices of Lucianne and Joe Carmichael, and ASITW revealed itself. This house, which I was to call home for six weeks, was a wondrous work of art in and of itself, one full of stories, and limitless love from the ones who built it with their own two hands, and enormous hearts.
“A Studio In The Woods has a dual mission; to support artists as they continue to pursue their careers in the arts, surrounded by the pristine environment of the Bottomland Hardwood forests of S. Louisiana, and to support awareness and the importance of this ecological wonder for Southern Louisiana. The studio, which was to be my office, my study, my sanctuary, resting place, bottomland hardwood forest observation unit, rests in the middle of this forest which provided the perfect setting from which I could pursue my goals for the work of art proposed during this residency. The open, floor to ceiling glass windows in the studio inspired and connected me to the forest surrounding me, so that I could research materials on the internet and work on drawings and maquettes while not being separated from the gorgeous forests outside. A wide, private porch alongside my studio became a wonderful place where I spent a lot of my time during my residency contemplating, and relaxing.
“Dave Baker, the environmental curator becomes your interpreter for the diverse life which surrounds you, and without his unbelievable knowledge and our enjoyable conversations together, a key component to this dual mission would be lost. Through his continued work, the forest surrounded ASITW has become nearly 100% free of invasive species and has become a healthy, thriving landscape for indigenous species of flora and fauna to live in harmony, as they were meant to be. Dave helped me to realize what a healthy, natural ecosystem of Southern Louisiana looks like, and what could be disturbing that balance. This knowledge influenced my work of art greatly, as I was able to harvest seeds from indigenous sedges, rushes and rounds for my sculpture, as well as identifying Chinese Tallow, a major source of material for my public art sculpture.
“The remarkable work of Cammie Hill-Prewitt and Ama Rogan helped my proposed work of art come to fruition. I applaud them for their dedicated knowledge, networking, and championing of art. They are a truly supportive staff at ASITW, and they do everything in their power to make your goals become attainable. Lucianne and Joe Carmichael possess a treasure trove of experience, knowledge, unfettering love and admiration for the arts, and are equally amazing cooks and evening fire building folks who are beautiful companions that I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time with.
“With the freedom of time provided to me at the residency I was able to use a hand saw method to cut the chinese tallow, which allowed me to understand the material more and ultimately influenced the design of the sculpture I created.
“At the end of my six week residency, I felt that I had only just begun to fully understand the stories within the home and studio at ASITW, and the true splendor of the natural ecology of Southern Louisiana, and I only wish that I had another six weeks to learn and experience more.”
Eric Dallimore is a New Orleans native who received his BFA from Louisiana State University in 2004. Since then, he has run a darkroom in Denver, CO, and assisted several artists for public art works in Colorado, Louisiana, and California. Teaching is another passion for the young artist, reviving a photography program at Camp Highlander in Asheville, North Carolina in 2003, teaching as a guest sculptor in 2007 at The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, assisting at the Marble/Marble Symposium in Marble, Colorado in 2007/08; and most recently working with the Family Crisis Center in Denver, through Think 360 Arts organization in October of 2010. “Untitled #6209″ in New Orleans was Eric’s first public art piece, a sculpture which speaks of recreating our future through possibilities and local resources, rather than limitations. As an emerging artist, Eric continues to focus his sculpture work combining the areas of sustainability, conservation, ecology, architecture, and innovation. www.ericdallimore.com
Bernard Williams, installation artist, Chicago, IL, 2011
“My residency at ASITW has been a very unique experience for me. Working in the woods and on the banks of the Mississippi river have provided a load of meaningful material from which to respond. My work has involved itself with translating forms found in nature into sculpture and architectural structures. The river became an immediate subject of interest, with its fantastic history of jumping and meandering, its history and continuing role as a major trade route, and its status as a feared liquid body (tomb) which snatches life from even the most robust human soul.
“Early on during my stay, I was taken with newspaper reports of a young man losing his life in the river. His name was Brian Reed, the brother of NFL athlete Ed Reed. I also encounter numerous other stories of the river taking lives. The lives lost to the river suggested a new headline for me to pursue: “Man Survives a Brunt with the River”. This became a sub text for my sculpture project concerned with invisible root systems and the river’s meandering history. I do not mean to diminish the personal anguish which has occurred around river deaths. I considered inserting names or symbolic elements to suggest or memorialize the lost, then I decided to mount the river myself, to risk the river. I wanted to somehow get closer to this body of water, the great Mississippi. I really wanted to get into the waters of the river, but I settled for getting ‘onto’ the waters in my own makeshift raft. Getting onto the river with the sculpture and the raft became a sort of meditation on all the mentioned aspects of the river: the invisible undercurrents, early riverboat traffic among flatboats, keelboats, and steamboats delivering cargo of all types, the fantastic meandering routes, and the river’s appetite for consumption.
“I decided to float my sculpture on four large truck tire inner tubes, after finding good on-line information on the process (http://www.raftplan.com/innertuberaft.aspx), and realizing the affordable economics of it all. Until a few days before the event, I planned to float on a foam based structure, inspired by the techniques promoted by Poppa Neutrino and his raft ideas laid out on his website: www.floatingneutrinos.com.
“Though I did not follow the Neutrino way exactly, the Neutrino spirit was highly motivating for my project. I believe the Neutrinos, who sailed an enormous scrap-built raft across the North Atlantic in 1998, speak to the human condition as we all seek some stable relationship to the natural environment. The Neutrinos have spent long periods of time living on the water, not only sailing. The Neutrino way offers up a format to rethink traditional lifestyles, pointing toward a closer relationship with our natural space, and the possibility of radical departures in any number of areas through the application of pathways such as: reuse, refusal of status quo, alternative methods of housing, mobility, and energy use, insistence on pursuing ones personal dreams, and more.
“My sculpture is most heavily influenced by the line work of the Harold Fisk maps from 1944. In these maps, Fisk attempted to chart the movement of the Mississippi river over a span of hundreds and thousands of years. The maps contain a network of moving lines which wiggle violently on top of one another and appear to produce echoes of earlier movements. My sculpture takes on a sampling of the Fisk line work and develops into a structure of its own. With paint and pencil I have added more map material; numbers (many of which remain mysterious to me), names of local streets or highways or parish names. Consequently, the sculpture holds references to recent geography and ancient geographics.
“The title, Ghost Trails, is a reference to invisible river routes, the routes no longer taken. There is some soft echo of these old routes etched in the soil. Some are visible, others require an informed eye. The white color I have chosen for the sculpture references ghosts, but seeks an opposite affect of high visibility in relation to the natural setting. The sculpture invites engagement. One is able to actually pass through it or pause within its swirling lines. The sculpture will rest temporarily on the grounds at ASITW. It will speak of my river performance. I hope it will invite poetic reflection on the river, on the tangle of the forest, and the complexity of our relationship with the environment.
“I have found the six-week experience here at ASITW to be very productive and beneficial to my creativity. I feel like the program is doing the right things to supports artists in their work concerning the natural environment. Fundamentally, I sense a broad interpretation and openness within the program around how an artist might engage the environment and New Orleans.
“Though ASITW has its mind on the natural environment, the making of provocative art is a serious concern. I thoroughly appreciate the staff support around the completion of my ideas while in residence. The staff made time to sit and help plan particular activities I wanted to accomplish. It was nice to feel like I was no alone in making my project a reality. Early in the residency, I was introduced to the friends of the organization (the artist reception dinner and talk), which immediately gave me a group of friends and supporters. I was able to take advantage of the extended resources through a new local network of folks willing to assist in my project needs. I was able to call on the ‘friends’ of ASITW throughout the entire duration of my six-week stay. In week 5 there were still friends willing to assist. This was a powerful part of my experience here. I expect some contact with the friends well after my residency is over.
“I find the facilities at ASITW to be very comfortable. The extraordinary feature here is the location in the woods. The studio-workspace is well placed for creative connection to the land and some animals. My hosts, Joe and Lucianne, were exceptional. The time with them was very relaxing and peaceful . Considering the mission, location, and vision of the organization, I believe A Studio in the Woods is well positioned to become one of the premiere residency programs in the U.S.”
Bernard Williams is a native (b. 1964) of Chicago, Illinois. He holds a BFA Degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and a MFA Degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, 1987. Williams taught art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1991-2003 and 2010. He is currently represented by the Thomas McCormick Gallery (Chicago), the G.R. N’Namdi Gallery (Chicago-Detroit), and Slate Gallery (Brooklyn, NY).
Suzanne Bennett, painter, Beacon, NY, 2011
“The Changing Landscapes residency initially appealed to me when I read about it on the website because the concept of landscape in flux – both literally and figuratively – has been an ongoing theme in my work for several years now. But I didn’t really know what to expect from the residency; I wasn’t very familiar with the area and was a bit apprehensive about how comfortable I would be, coming in as an outsider, trying to make art in a place that was so dissimilar from my own.
“What I found was a place so full of energy and beauty and contradiction that I was enchanted from the moment I arrived. New Orleans and its surrounds, with all its cultural history and its environmental vicissitudes, was fascinating to see and experience. The visual richness of everything – from the architecture in the city to the view from the river levee, provided a ridiculous amount of inspiration. The people I encountered were warm and open and generous, and the spirit of the place fed directly into my work. And as an artist, I felt truly supported, not only from the wonderful staff and the gracious hospitality of the Carmichaels, but from the community as a whole. This is a place where art feels integral to life itself.
“But what surprised me most is how absolutely productive I found my time at A Studio In the Woods. It was really the grounds themselves that provided what I needed as an artist. Nested amongst the trees and palmettos, the studio was a place of peace and solitude that brought forth a kind of focus that is rarely achieved. But it was not merely serene- the place was teeming with life! Green buds sprouting everywhere, birds of all kinds singing, turtles swimming in the pond. The fecundity of it all spurred a growth within me, and I was able to access new ideas, gestures
and forms. As I worked I looked out the windows of the studio constantly, and I felt engaged with the life I observed. I watched myself unfold and connect. Ultimately, the landscape the changed the most was my own.
“I am grateful and honored to have been given this time at the Studio in the Woods. I have truly benefited from it. And I return home with a new appreciation for this physical environment vis-à-vis the rest of the country, and for the importance of preserving it and advocating for it. I hope to be able to give something back to a place that gave me so much.”
Suzanne Bennett received her BFA from UC Santa Cruz and her MFA from Brooklyn College. She has shown her work in New York, California, and New Orleans, LA. In 2009 she was an Artist in Residence at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s education department. She has received several awards and residencies including Yaddo, Ucross Foundation, and a Dedalus Foundation Grant for the Vermont Studio Center. For several years she worked as the assistant for painter Elizabeth Murray and is currently the studio manager for painter John Currin. She currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.