What is it that an art student is learning when she learns to use her own blindness or ignorance as a tool? That blindness can lead to insight is something I was never taught as a philosophy major, and I suspect I would not have learned it if I’d studied chemistry, history or French either. In none of these fields is it normally considered necessary for students to learn by systematically pulling the rug out from under their feet. That risk is peculiar to contemporary art.
Many art teachers understand, however obscurely, that their job is to do what teachers in no other discipline are allowed to do: propagate failure. Mira Schor, a painter and writer, puts it most bluntly: “I issue something between a permission and an order: you have my permission to do what you think would be a really bad artwork. You have my permission to fail.”
This is why curmudgeons like Dave Hickey and Peter Schjeldahl should stop complaining about art becoming academic. The problem isn’t with artists wanting to learn, but rather when they’re too convinced of what they know. As long as artists keep feeling the need to set themselves something like school assignments, they are in touch with their ignorance and not merely the servants of a program.
"Division of work is not the only aspect of specialization. Specialization means the loss of direct, actual, experience beyond the field of specialty and there, substitutes information for experience. But information means intellectualization and intellectualization - one-sidedness, incompleteness."
"The good designer is the anonymous designer, so I believe, the one who does not stand in the way of the material; who sends his products on their way to a useful life without an ambitious appearance. A useful object should perform its duty without much ado. The tablecloth that calls "Here I am, look at me," is invading the privacy of the consumer. The curtains that cry "We are beautiful, your attention please," but whisper "though not very practical, we will need much of your time to keep us in shape," are badly designed. The unknown designer or designers of our sheets or of our light bulbs performed their task well. Their products are complete in their unpretentious form."
"We are proud of knowledge and forget that facts only give reflected light."
"my mom bought me amazing things to wear!"
"…I think we never know what is going to affect our movement…"
"…I made a sculpture, and then I realized I could put it on."
(in regards to a ceramic dog seen in an antiques shop)
"…Bob was, like, "oh my god! Look at this poodle!" and I was, like, "eh." and he was, like, "no, no no, look at it!" and I said "..I did.."
"…like, I’m curious to know what you would do with that information…"
in response to the question “..and you don’t even use glue, right?”
"…I think I want to force you to look at something without judgement…you, know, we all want to place things."
"…do you want to know everything anyways?"
"… you know, when we’re talking about MASS MoCA, we’re talking about this football field sized space, so when I went there [to look at the location for an upcoming show] I just lied in the middle of the floor…"
"…I also have to grow. I will turn down a project if I can’t grow."
"…I took this ten year hiatus [from making sound suits] but I knew that that was coming, because I know how I feel."
"…I’m working on what I’m leaving behind."
Some of you out there in the world might remember that I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to attend a residency I was accepted to. Well, that campaign was successfully funded and I was in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for three weeks in January!
I plan on making a post that rounds up all my residency research and word of mouth accounts from others as well as all the logistics I went through, but this post will just be about VCCA’s facilities and my experience while in residence.
The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts is in Amherst, Virginia which is about twenty-thirty minutes away from Lynchburg and Appomattox and about an hour away from Charlottesville. I didn’t get to go into Amherst very much because I didn’t have my car while I was there, but it seems like if you want anything more than a grocery store or a walmart you have to go to Lynchburg, where there are more and better options.
Sweet Briar College is across the highway from VCCA and is about a five minute drive or forty minute walk from the residences. VCCA has a relationship with Sweet Briar College and their facilities, including the libraries, computer labs, and the gym (with an indoor pool!) can be used by VCCA residents. Their internet is much faster than the internet available at VCCA, which is workable but slow and can be intermittent. There is also an old slave grave site on the grounds at Sweet Briar.
Also of note, Monticello is about an hour and a half away and is definitely worth the trip. I went on my way back up to Baltimore and I wish I’d had more time to spend there, even though it was freezing! I also found out that Stonewall Jackson’s arm is buried near by and you could totally go find it.
The grounds at VCCA are on a high hill, with a residence hall, the original farm house as the office, and an old barn complex that serves as the studios. Horses and cows dot the hilly landscape.
The residences include the residents’ rooms, the mail boxes, coin operated laundry ($1.25 a load), a nice dining room, a library with a T.V. and couches, an ancient mac and an ethernet connection, a landline that does not make long distance calls (but people can call you) in a small phone room, and a lounge with a piano, comfy chairs, and a fireplace. The bedrooms are small with a twin bed, an arm chair, plenty of drawers, shelves, and closet space, and a sink; you share a bathroom with the room next door. As a resident you are provided with three meals a day.
The studios are large, well heated, and have wireless internet. Here’s a picture of the studio barn from the outside.
I don’t have photographs of other people’s studios, but here’s mine and I can attest that they all seem to be equally nice.
My studio had a slop sink, a full length window by the door, a full row of windows, and a skylight in the middle, and all the studios had a bed and a great ventilation system. One of the studios is equipped with a pretty large flat-bed printing press and there is a black and white darkroom for which you bring all your own chemicals.
I spent my entire first week working on various applications. I applied to two large artist awards and to four grad schools. I had originally planned to try to finish all this before the residency, but that was probably unrealistic given how much I was working in the months leading up to January. If I had known that I was going to spend so much time applying, I would’ve arranged to stay one more week.
That said, it was really great to spend that time on my applications and I started working on studio work the second week. I finished two small paintings, some small drawings, three large paintings, two of which need some work but are very far along, and started four drawings which are at a similar stage. I definitely got a lot done and I’m happy with what I did in that amount of time, but I would have loved an extra week to finish everything off.
Obviously, everyone has a different schedule, but I’m a day worker so I would be in the studio by 9:00 am or so, have lunch early at 11:30 am as quickly as possible, and work until dinner, and then again until about 10:00 pm. The meals come at good hours, except lunch is a little early because the food goes quickly.
Dinner is served during a short period so it’s really lively because everyone comes at the same time, which is a nice break in the day. I met so many great people, and it was really wonderful to talk to writers and composers, since I don’t usually get to meet artists outside my field. Readings, short slide talks, or performances, sometimes take place after dinner and it’s great to see everyone’s work, potentially in progress, which is a great look into other people’s studio practices.
On the whole it was a really great experience and I got so much done. I would definitely recommend VCCA, especially if you need to define your own time line, because they don’t require you to stay a certain amount of time and they’re open to long stays.
I’ll be updating my website and this tumblr with real documentation of the work I made there, but here’s a couple shots of works in progress, in the meantime!