REGRESSING / PROGRESSING
"Regresar" means "to go back" in Spanish. In English, its cognate "to regress" feels equally close. Tomorrow dawning, I am going back to Pocoapoco, a thoughtfully run artist residency in Oaxaca, Mexico, for a weeklong workshop with the brilliant Mariana Garibay Raeke. Poco is the last place I traveled to internationally before the pandemic, and the fullness of the circle between now and then is hitting deep.
Image of February 2020 Pocoapoco artists celebrating sharing work at the culmination of their residency. From left to right: Elliot, me, Delphine, Jenny, Nora, Hannah, Anna and Jozi. Photo credit unknown (apologies).
My exploration in the community and city in February 2020 gave me Big Thoughts about life as a Full Time Artist, and I returned on March 2, 2020 to NY with intentions to reduce my work hours at the restaurant and focus fully on creating art. As with all good fairy tale wishes, the manifestation of that which quickly followed was a little different than my wee mind could predict. (See: March 15, 2020 NYC restaurant shutdown.) I promise my wish didn't make covid happen, though I did have the rest of 2020 to do exactly the work of being in my home studio making art and grappling with a worldwide shutdown.
Back to present: I am looking forward to spending the next week in the exuberant, inspirational sphere of Mariana Garibay Raeke, leading her workshop called The Language of Making. Here is the gist in her own words:
"Together we will develop tools and strategies to talk about form, content, process, context, and materiality in ways that are enlightening and perceptive. There will be opportunities to visit local artists and explore some of the many wonders that Oaxaca has to offer while we learn from each other and build community."
Luckily, I had the fortune of receiving feedback from Mariana in December at a session of Sunday Salons, organized by Colleen Herman, aka the fulcrum of cool NY creatives and a wildly talented artist. Colleen is also who hipped me to this workshop and suggested I come along. If you know me well, you may know that I am fundamentally eager to join in anything, especially when invited by someone whom I hold in the high highest of art spirit esteem.
A month ago, Mariana prompted us with the homework to gather the following. (I again use her words because this is a workshop about the language of making, so she the queen.):
"1 Two images of artworks that right now resonate with you - Something that made an impression, that is inspiring, that you want to learn from, imitate, better understand…
2 Two images of artworks that you are attracted to in a “negative” way - Something that you dislike, are annoyed by, that challenges you in some way, or can't understand, but regardless of that you keep thinking about it.
3 An image of one of your works that you feel is “successful” and points towards something you want to further explore or a description of an idea that exemplifies the direction you would like your work to take."
We are also to have spent the last month gathering "things" (quotes, writings of our own or others, images, ephemera, objects, etc.) "Anything that in some way informs, inspires and guides you and your work."
I'm writing about this now before leaving for the trip, because I feel like those two prompts alone have already jump started a million thoughts around both my art and others'. Much like the artist dates from The Artist's Way, these cues have me going to galleries for the first time in months, taking photos of work I liked and don't like, reflecting on what stuck in my memory after seeing six or eight shows in an afternoon, wondering why I photographed one painting over another. These excursions reminded me of how very much art this city offers for free in the galleried neighborhoods that litter the boroughs.
Gathering the "things" pointed out to me how little I talk aloud about my inspiration/art with others unless someone directly asks me questions about it. I listened to interviews with artists to hear how others talk through their art. I practiced talking with a variety of people about what I make (to varying degrees of success), which led me to realize I need to speak differently about what I make depending on the person. Are they familiar with my work or artwork in general? Are we close or new to each other? (Hint: sometimes it's a pitch, other times it's a confession.)
I am looking forward enormously to seeing Oaxaca post-pandemic. This is my fourth trip to the city, and it has changed both so much and so little since my first visit in 2005 with my guardian angel Jon Jacobs. But I'm also feeling emotional about the idea of three years passing since I last felt this great push of let's-make-this-happen towards my art practice. I am hopeful that I will make more friends and deepen relationships with folks I already love, and that I can gain some of the skills that an MFA program teaches regarding describing, critiquing and verbalizing my art practice. Oh yeah, and eat a ton of Tacos del Carmen.