I just got back from an incredible three weeks in Snowmass, Colorado at the acclaimed art center, Anderson Ranch. In the winter, Anderson Ranch is a snapshot from a winter postcard one might imagine saying “Greetings from Colorado.” Wooden cabins slightly weathered from years of sunshine and snow, covered with fresh snow and icicles. I took a three-week studio concentration in Painting with Rubens Ghenov alongside 13 other painters working in a variety of mediums and styles.
During my residency, I worked on two new series of paintings that I will be exhibiting at the SuperFine art fair in LA in February. The first series, “An Ode to Mary Oliver,” was inspired by the Colorado winter landscapes, and more specifically what that landscape looks like on a powder day skiing where the sun is enveloped deep within the clouds, only letting out enough light for the snow to appear as a variety of shades of blue and gray, and maybe with the right ski goggles you can tell the difference between the mountain land and the air. I was lucky enough to have two said powder days in a row in the middle of a blizzard where it snowed 15 inches in 24 hours. This also happened to be the same day that the late American poet Mary Oliver passed. Mary Oliver has been a huge inspiration to me as a poet and artist since I was a teenager attempting to make sense of a broken world. She was a compass to me in what it meant to be an artist, to see life in a certain lens, to have a reverence for life and nature and art in a way that is intrinsic to one’s being.
My second series is called, “Busy Being Free.” And it consists of 6 paintings of tinted gessoed mixed with a variety of pours and marks layered with drawing in charcoal, pastel and oil paint marker. This series is a continuation of the style of my 18 painting installation, “In the Hands of Grace,” my fall solo exhibition at ATC DEN. The title comes from a Joni Mitchell song and for me, is a play on words as my new year’s resolution is to denounce with word “busy” from my vocabulary. (See my Instagram feed for a full explanation). This series is also a continuation into my dive of exploring a less minimal style of painting with pours and raw canvas that have been my signature way of working since 2006. It is also a bridge into an expansive new body of work that I will be working on for the next year or so with an exciting announcement to come later in the Spring of 2019.
So why do an artist residency? My studio is bigger in Denver and it takes a lot of energy, time and money to actually go live somewhere else for a few weeks. Well full disclosure, part of my motivation was being able to ski and pop into Aspen for food and inspiration. But when it really comes down to it, my reasoning (as with most things) is philosophical. We as artists, we as people always tend to live inside the boxes we have created for ourselves. We are the creators of our own limitations and in turn, our own liberation. And if we are pushing ourselves, we outgrow one box for another box, and that new box is uncomfortable at first, but eventually becomes our new comfort zone, which means it’s time to grow again. Nothing about being an artist is necessarily at first comfortable, and for that reason, once we get “comfortable” in a box it may be hard and unappealing to want to break ourselves out of it. Sometimes we just need to change our environment, so that we can get a small hole poked into our box. And if that hole casts the light in a certain way into our process, it can shift the way we make our work in a true and authentic way. That is what a place like Anderson Ranch holds space for. For artists to try things outside their comfort zone, to break open their creative boxes in some sort of way in a safe and community-oriented space. And that is why going out of your way, out of your normal routine, to do something like an artist residency or artist workshop, can be so valuable. So thank you Anderson Ranch, for helping me to poke a small hole in my box. I can’t wait to see what things come together as some things fall apart.
Photos by: Sara Ford