The series titled Ebb & Flow: Dialogues between art and water is the evolution of our Changing Landscapes residencies and reflects a movement to refocus our artists’ energies from the post-Hurricane Katrina landscape to the worldwide importance of water as underscored by the 2010 oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Davis, Director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy, was instrumental in crafting the Ebb & Flow call to artists, explaining “The water we experience is not just hydrogen and oxygen but is the intersection of water as a physical, economic, legal, spiritual, cultural and artistic thing.” These factors frame why we believe this new residency theme will be of vital intellectual and visceral interest to both our artists and audiences in the coming years. The call is open to artists of all disciplines who have demonstrated an established dialogue with environmental issues and a commitment to seeking and plumbing new depths. Ebb & Flow is 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 urban and natural ecosystems. 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.
2011-2012 Ebb & Flow Artists
Rebecca Snedeker, writer, New Orleans, 2011 & 2012
“My three-week daytime residency kicked off the “Ebb and Flow: Dialogues Between Art and Water” 2011-2012 residencies at A Studio in the Woods. A light sprinkle began when I first arrived, and Lucianne and Joe greeted me, delighted that the sprinkle was quickly becoming rain. A severe drought had been devastating the pond and weakening the forest. We took some pleasure in the idea that their invitation to artists to consider the qualities of water had beckoned the first rain in some time. Later, from the porch swing by the studio, I took deep breaths and watched rain become pond. This was just the beginning of a magical time in the woods. In just a few days and during what became Tropical Storm Lee, the grounds were transformed from dry to spongy; the low, algae covered pond rose and started teeming with life.
“The residency was instrumental for the early phase of “Immortal City: A New Orleans Atlas”, an imaginative book that Rebecca Solnit and I are creating in collaboration with cartographers, contributing writers, visual artists and researchers.
“My daily commute, which varied from 40-90 minutes, gave me opportunity to traverse the city, to see the city from street, highway, and bridge levels, and to wonder about this small metropolis perched on subsiding land along the final drain of the big river. This travel time was a key ingredient of my residency — a perfect time for thinking about how to map this place in new ways and also an important time for transitioning between my home life and the studio time.
“I spent my days at ASITW imagining maps for our atlas, writing preliminary descriptions of them, reading about this place, meeting with collaborators, observing the life around the pond, and talking long walks along the levee. The three weeks were a gestational period, during which I had the mental space to consider the book as a whole and time for particular tasks that pushed the project along. I completed the book proposal the first week, and we were offered a book contract by the end of the residency.
“The staff at ASITW is exceptional. The choice to connect each artist with community members and resources is outstanding (and rare, I’d suspect). Ama and Cammie carefully listened to me describe both my hopes for the project and some acute challenges, and they offered introductions to various community members who could be of support. These introductions are already impacting the project! Similarly, the residency dinner they hosted had a pivotal impact on the project. The dinner created a space to bring the previously confirmed collaborators together for the first time, introduce the project to a larger community, and rope in people who are now formally involved, all igniting the local life of the project.
“Being in New Orleans city limits and within a forest impacted me deeply, particularly in how it helped me imagine other time periods, past and future. Walking with Dave in the woods and seeing the forest through his eyes fundamentally changed my understanding of where I was and what I was looking at. And Joe shared his research with me about the peninsula, which helped me understand where we were. I’ve lived my whole life in New Orleans and before the residency hadn’t even understood how that peninsula is (literally) shaped.
“Being around Lucianne and Joe was grounding personally. They inspire me to try to lead a life in which I continually evolve, take creative risks, and be accountable to others and to this place that we love.
“All of the components of the ASITW residency: its location (and for me the commute), the Carmichael’s presence and their respect for the artists’ creative process and solitude, Ama and Cammie’s choice to connect the artist with community members, and botanist David Baker narrative of forest life, all enriched this creative atlas project and my personal path immensely, in tangible ways and more mysterious ways that are just beginning to be revealed.”
Rebecca Snedeker is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work supports human rights, creative expression and her native city, New Orleans. Her directorial debut, By Invitation Only (2006), premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and screened at festivals, conferences and PBS stations nationwide. More recently, she produced Land of Opportunity (ARTE France, 2010), Siskel/Jacobs Productions’ Witness: Katrina (National Geographic Channel, 2010) and Choices, featuring Terence Blanchard and Dr. Cornel West (Concord Records, 2009). As Archival Researcher and/or Associate Producer, she has contributed to numerous documentaries, including A Village Called Versailles (Independent Lens, 2010), Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (National PBS Broadcast, 2007), and Desire (Free Speech TV, 2007). Snedeker serves on the board of Video Veracity, a fiscal agent for independent media projects, and is an active member of New Day Films, the 40-year-old filmmaker-owned distribution company. Snedeker received her B.A. in Fine Arts from Wesleyan University.
Benjamin Morris, writer, New Orleans, 2011
“In my time here, I have come to think of A Studio in the Woods as a beacon. In the physical sense, certainly, as a house full of light, guiding one home from the darkness of the forest, but moreso in the symbolic sense: as a place of rest and refuge, where the weary feel restored and wanderers find anew their path. Each day I asked myself again: could it really be true? That a place of such limitless warmth and hospitality could exist, a place which serves as much a sanctuary for the storm-battered as it does an inspiration for the seekers and strivers? There’s a word for that kind of place, but for some reason, it’s falling just outside of reach.
“Undoubtedly, the refuge the Studio offers is the rarest of its gifts: the unbroken consciousness that this time makes possible, the freedom, outside the intrusions and distractions of the modern world, to pursue any question that arises to the depth required, and to move seamlessly from an insight gained into the practical application of that insight into the work. To work at one’s pace, free from constraint, able to explore purely at will: when, except as children, are we afforded such luxury?
“In sum, my time here was spent in equal parts reading, writing, and exploring. Because my project focused on the life of the forest, and the nature of forest landscapes, I aimed to immerse myself in that landscape as fully as possible: in order to learn as much as I could about it, and in order to understand the complex interactions between the species – flora and fauna from Betula to Bostrichid. Those interactions, situated within the broader physical landscape of the region, form the core of this project, a new poetry collection provisionally entitled Ecotone. Suffice to say that, apart from the insights they offer, the pleasures of that immersion are many. Here are a few: returning to the studio each day covered in mud, sweat, blood, stains of unknown origin, leaves in my bag and larvae in my pocket, twigs in my hair and burrs on my boots, and countless numbers of spores, seeds, samaras, and other particles of woodland life invisibly affixed to every article of clothing I wore.
“I only vaguely remember coming home from work any other way. I’m not sure I want to go back.
“The practical aspects of the residency are not to be understated, either: with the support of the Studio I was able to obtain new tools and methods of working that I never would have been able to otherwise, and its support has led directly to the production of my first book, Coronary, a limited-edition letterpress poetry book produced by Fitzgerald Letterpress here in New Orleans. But most of all I am grateful for the relationships that the Studio nurtures as part of its mission – connections to others in the field, opportunities for further development, and a growing community of artists, researchers, thinkers, and activists engaged in preserving this precious landscape. The beauty of this work is that it does not end when one drives back up the river road: these relationships are ongoing, and as a New Orleans resident, I look forward to giving back to that community however I can.
“But. All material considerations aside, the image of the beacon endures. A beacon where our finest selves are let loose to roam, permitted – no, encouraged – no, enabled – to do what we want to do, what we’re in this life to pursue. There’s that missing word: it’s as close to heaven on earth as it gets.”
A native of Mississippi, Benjamin Morris is a writer and researcher whose work occupies the space between cultural and natural worlds. His work — poetry, fiction, plays, and essays – appears in such places as The Oxford American, The Southern Quarterly, Horizon Review, Dark Mountain, and BBC Radio, and has won such awards as a fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Poetry at Noon contest from the United States Library of Congress, and the Chancellor’s Medal for Poetry from the University of Cambridge, where he recently completed a PhD in Archaeology. Editor at-large at Forest Publications, and affiliate researcher at the Open University, he lives in New Orleans.
Roy Staab, installation artist, Wisconsin, 2011
“On the flat lands of Louisiana way down the river road along inside the levee and then you turn right into a driveway at 13401 to find a house back in the woods. This house has a large oak tree just above the roof, a protection and cover to be part of nature. The focus is back into the woods and the pond. The artist studio [once an art gallery] has a deck that is over the pond and the woods. Here I write and think and come up with ideas for my art making.
“I am fascinated by the Mississippi River near by so my first day I went along the river and found a beach for my art, the black willow grove on the batture. I used a past technique to make a drawing –with my footsteps in the mud. On the same site a few days later I use the dead sticks found in the grove on the beach. I watched the river flow with wave wanting the reflection. But the action of the waves proved to be very interesting with the work that I recorded on video – ebb & flow.
“In the discussion of making my art at A Studio in the Woods, no matter what I designed before coming here and in my proposal, they understood I came here to create and make the art that I designed while here. How open and healthy of an artist residence.
“This residency is special because it is near New Orleans; a special art scene in America, in the South and in a beautiful unique city.
“I came here and made art that I would not have done if I were home in Wisconsin. So coming here was forced creation. So I made six installations in my stay here that I would not have done otherwise.”
Roy Staab was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received a BFA from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He traveled and worked as an artist in Europe for ten years before moving to New York City for 15 years. He currently resides in Milwaukee. It took ten years for Roy Staab’s art to evolve from painting, to line structure on paper, to installation 1979. In 1983 he started to make works in/over water — large works, using only natural materials gathered from near by. He became really a peripatetic artist making my art installations in many places in the world. He has received various awards including a Japan/American Artist Exchange Creative Artist Fellowship, Pollack/Krasner Grant, Gottlieb Foundation Award and the Joan Mitchell Award. His paintings, drawings and photographs can be found in the collections of the Musée d’art moderne and Le fonds national d’art contemporain in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Recent installations are: SCULPTURE Omi Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; EarthArt, Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Marbaek Beach near Esbjerg, Denmark, ENERGY CENTER, Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival, Taipei, Taiwan; Roy Staab: Four Seasons/Four Corners, Inova, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; INVASIVE SPECIES, Cheng-Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project, Taiwan; EcoArts Festival, Manyunk, Philadelphia; Eau Claire Currents, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Katie Holten, mixed media artist, Ireland, 2012
“A Studio in the Woods is a special place.
“I was invited to develop a project for the New Orleans Museum of Art. Specifically – to make a new work addressing the ecosystem of the city and its relationship with water. So, I needed to find a space in New Orleans where I could spend time researching and developing the project. ASITW was the perfect place and I was thrilled to be awarded a six-week residency.
“Lucianne and Joe Carmichael are kind and gracious hosts. With an understanding and appreciation of the local environment they have created a beautiful home and studio right on the edge of the Mississippi River. While their neighbors have replaced oak trees with lawns, the Carmichael’s have let the native hardwood forest do its thing.
“The luxury of working at A Studio in the Woods allowed me to split my residency between quiet and active research.
“Active Research = Site visits and expeditions around the city and further afield. ASITW introduced me to various experts in different fields who were gracious enough to meet and give me tours. Experts included Daniel Etheridge (Tulane), Alex Kolker (LUMCON), Richie Blink (coastal restoration) as well as the on-site environmental curator Dave Baker. I was lucky to have local artist/filmmaker Monique Verdin as my driver.
“Quiet Research = Reading and drawing and reading some more. I spent most of this time on the porch swing outside my studio. This has to be one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever worked. The steady stream of birdsong, and river boats, was the soundtrack, while the little anole lizards were my reading companions. During my time at ASTIW I began a series of new drawings and made lots of notes for other works – the residency will continue long after I depart on February 16.
“The Ebb and Flow Residency is an important program, for not only New Orleans, but also the country and internationally. At a time when ‘peak water’ is increasingly an issue it is vital that we have places such as ASITW where people can spend focused time investigating the issues. It was the ideal location for me to contemplate the river, the city, our place in it, the relationship between man and river, the history, the future…
“I look forward to returning to New Orleans in a few months to install my work at NOMA.”
Katie Holten (Dublin, 1975) is a visual artist motivated by cultural, political, and social circumstances. In 2003 she represented Ireland at the 50th Venice Biennale. During her residency she will investigate, through the specific condition of New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta, mankind’s relationship with the natural world “in the Anthropocene.” The Anthropocene defines Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans. Building upon the critically acclaimed public artwork prototype she created in Tree Museum (New York, 2009), Holten plans to research the historical, current, and projected ecosystem of New Orleans and the Mississippi river delta, through site visits and engagement with local communities and express these scientific and ecological investigations through drawings and sculpture.
Nina Nichols, performing artist, New Orleans, 2012
“I am leaving the woods with an intense sense of gratitude and peace of mind. The work that i have been doing is based on the untainted Delta region, before industrialization. I think that Lucianne said it best when I was working on a puppet and she said, “you want it to look as if it just grew there”. You always hear about “site-specific” installations but, this time I feel like I have had the opportunity to finally make something true to this land and that the intensely diverse and colorful ecosystem here has become part of the way that I smell, feel and see. I have gone to sleep with a chorus of owls hooting every night and woken to the frogs chirping in the pond. I have been stirred from sleep by armadillos and acorns and gotten to run along the levee where the egrets hunt every morning. The most amazing part of this is going to be presenting this body of work in France and Spain. As Louisiana artists I think that we forget about the richness of our culture until we take it to a foreign city. I could not be more excited to be able to present these puppets and costumes at an international festival where we will stick out like a sore thumb, a thumb covered in rhinestones and glitter with a sad and beautiful song to sing.
“It strikes me that this is a wholly unique experience for artists. Never have I been able to give focus to my work like I was able to during my residency. My most difficult stumbling block as a working artist is to manage the web of needs, demands and dreams whilst giving the entirety of myself to the project at hand. This residency is constructed in a way that gave me a sense of liberty from all daily stresses. The space itself is set up so that all of the windows face the serene pond and surrounding wilderness, allowing for privacy and deep meditation. I feel like for the first time I have had the liberty to make as many mistakes as I wanted to, be more specific and neurotic that I usually let myself be and invent new processes. Every time that I am making a theater piece or family of puppets it has been with limited time and space and with a million other things on my mind and I have oftentimes had to go in front of an audience with something not entirely complete, but this has been immersive.
“I realized early on in my stay that probably the most valuable resource that I had were the keepers of this magical place, Joe and Lucianne. Because I am creating a theater piece based in the 1930s in the Delta, it has been a gift to be in the presence of two people who were actually alive at the time and whose wealth of information on the area is immense. The act of living with them for this time and listening to their stories can give you a clear sense of how life was before the land was altered by sprawl and industry. They make it clear immediately that their only wish is to give you a space, without worry, to complete your objective.
“I will be forever grateful for the space and time that you have allowed me. I am so proud of the show that I have been able to create and I hope, for the sake of environmentalists, Louisiana artists and visitors to this area that this residency can continue forever and I will do anything needed to assist in it’s prosperity.”
Nina Nichols is the active president of “The Black Forest Fancies Non-Profit Organization”, an experimental community arts promotional group, helping to extend the gifted members of the arts community of New Orleans to work with dreamers all over the world. Nina is a theatrical designer, parade arts teacher, playwright and installation artist working and living in New Orleans. Her work emerges from a fascination with sustainability, natural diversity, wild pollination and mutation. For her work with local parade arts workshops and theatrical puppetry, Nina and her company received grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Jim Henson Foundation, The Puffin Foundation, The Black Rock Arts Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. Nina’s most recent play, The Lead Paint Libretto was the number one “must see” at the 2010 New Orleans Fringe Theater Festival.