By Dominique Hunter
Six weeks ago I began a series of articles documenting my time at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC). My intention was to share with the Guyanese audience the importance of spaces like VSC to the development of any creative practice.
This week, with the series recently concluded, I thought it would be of even greater value to extend this platform to other artists in the region who have also been residents at VSC. I invited them to share, in their own words, how their time in Vermont influenced the way they considered their individual bodies of work as well as any memorable moments they would’ve had there.
Of about nine persons from the region who have participated in VSC’s residency program so far (one writer and eight artists, myself included), the following two artists have opened up about their time in Vermont.
Richard Mark Rawlins
Trinidad & Tobago
My stint at VSC was during the month of October 2012. The experience really gave me an understanding of scale. Not just physical scale but mental scale. I started working much bigger as I had the space. My studio up to that point had been a guest bedroom (which was fine). As luck would have it my studio was over at the Barbara White building, a little walk away from my residence.
Many of the other artists in Barbara White wanted to be located closer to their residences, so after about a week, two other artists out of Seattle and myself were left with the entire second floor. So we made it into a studio space and gallery as more space became available.
I started the residency off with a bit of a meltdown as I felt virtually unconnected to all of my normal content and destroyed all the work I had done on the first day. Being close to the river and hearing it all day and night (as I would do 24hr sessions in my studio at times) and being fuelled by a number of documentaries I would play in the studio (about the Action Painters) while working to break the silence, I started painting on large paper, utilizing a spatula and slopping acrylic everywhere. I painted a rubber duck over and over. A whimsical rubber duck. I’ve never shown these. But the process involved felt liberating. I was just making without any predefined or intended destination. I felt free.
I also wanted to explore printmaking while there, but that was booked up by another artist and the press bed was much too small for what I wanted to do anyway. So I basically carved huge linos and made multiple impressions (as much as 70 in one particular piece) by inking the lino, placing it face down on large pieces of paper on my studio floor and dancing on the back of it. This series would be come the Mega-megees.
I left VSC with 16 large pieces and studies, [an indication of] a great experience. [I have made] two art for life artist friends [and I have] a deeper, more fearless understanding of myself and my process. Oh and then there was Yoga. But that’s another story.
Permission; this word remained with me throughout my residency at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC) in May 2013, after the introductory remarks from Founder Jonathan Gregg on the first evening. He spoke about the fact that in this world of constant pressures, whether internal or external, it is easy for creativity to become lost and stifled as each action we perform becomes scrutinized to the point where we shut down our ideas before giving them a chance to take shape. […] Being in an environment so removed from my regular life, where all of the activities, which usually occupy my thoughts, seemed to belong to someone else, this was a welcome change of pace. Although letting go of inhibitions and judgment is far easier said than done, I gradually found myself receptive to the concept – able for the first time in a while to grant myself permission to focus only on my artwork. […]
I have always considered myself to be both an
artist and a writer, although I found that to be somewhat of an anomaly at the residency. Despite primarily focusing on my sculpture and installation practice, it was stimulating to be around creativity in both of these media, and the artists and writers were mutually
supportive, attending one another’s talks and readings. This is not to say there was no crossover; many of the artists and writers became active participants in one another’s projects. […] This is an example of what, to my mind, is a significant benefit of residencies; allowing yourself to be affected by who and what you find, and experimenting in whatever form emerges. […]
While it is true that my practice has always been site specific, I would argue that all residencies are site specific to a large extent. Speaking with the warm staff and repeat residents, one thing they all stated was that no two residencies are alike, even in the same setting. You cannot know until
the very end how all of the factors – social, physical, emotional, environmental etc – will come together to create your personal experience, and impact on your work in ways you may still be feeling ripples from years from now. I do feel that my month at VSC was what I needed,
and it has inspired me to look into undertaking future residencies. I would encourage emerging practitioners to do the same if they are able, and regardless, to give themselves that permission to embrace creativity and change.
(Extracted with permission from an article Katherine wrote for ARC Magazine titled Permissive Thinking – Unpacking my Time at Vermont Studio Center)