Off the Wall in Utter Pandemonium
We are sad to see the end of our incredible residency. This last week was a whirlwind heading towards completion. On Monday I was inspired as I learned that a few students had come in early to work and others had been sneaking in to draw at night. A crew of students rallied around us and gave us much emotional/physical support to help complete the installation. Ming, Anna, Alex, Ariel, Robbie, Chung, Gene, Caitlin, Brandon, they put in extensive hours outside of class and it felt like a community when we'd pass each other late night at the building. Cam's idea to "bring what you got" seemed to be especially evident with Alex who, not being in any of the classes with whom we collaborated, volunteered to help build the picture show booth.
Tuesday I met with the painting class while Cam met with drawing. The students turned out some fantastic paintings for their "Animate Objects and I was especially thankful for the people who had completed all their drawings prior to class. Meanwhile the draw-ers covered the installation wall with paint. As we moved onto advanced painting I was energized to see how prepared each painter was with their supplies/ideas to animate.
Running back and forth between the animators and the installation, I began to wear out. Cam and I had a brief tiff that was brought on by exhaustion and the fact that Cam realized that this project had a life of its own of which he might help steer but he definitely did not control. Thanks to the students who kept working as we took a break to relax.
That night we one by one finished our pieces; wall painting, tape drawings, binocular structure. One of my favorite moments was when we tried to "drape" the projection structure, 8 tired artists bumbled around trying to figure out how to rig the fabric to create the illusion of a tent. After stratigizing a couple times, we found a suitable manner to handle the fabric, and luckily in walks Ebony to help embellish and sufficiently finish the front.
As we woke up Wednesday with little sleep, we went to do our final preparations; sweep the floor, turn on the projections, change lights. In the Fibers room I joined the students as I finished painting the horse head. After students put on their costumes, we one by one worked on Pixilation animations set within the Gallery walls. Thanks to Robbie who helped take the pictures. I was so happy with the enthusiasm and willingness of the students to play with me in the gallery in this way.
We got some hilarious human animations. This group picture is one of my favorite photos of our visit.
Ebony arrived with the food just as people began to arrive at the gallery. I meanwhile had been working on the pixilation video which seemed to be a hit as people gathered around me and the projector. I was especially excited when I saw little kids began to take over the space by running into Cube City, jumping over the fabric water, and following the lines on the floor. When we began this project we asked the students questions that related to their own childhood imaginary spaces so this seemed to be evidence of our collective success. Several students thanked Cam and I that night for letting them be involved in the experience.
This was particularly gratifying for me to hear as I had prior to this residency questioned; how do I create a visiting artist experience that directly involves the students in a way so that they are not just creating my work? I was also interested in integrating new practices I had learned through C.A.T. with my older practices of mural making and animation storytelling.
After the opening we shared a few meals with the students. Cam gave his lecture. As we departed from the group of students on Friday we gave a round of hugs, I hope that they will keep in touch and let us know what will happen with their own art practices. In the meantime I'm trying to get them to come to St. Louis for Cam's opening. The students became the face of Lexington for me, not the sites, landscape, history of horses, or fried chicken.
We spent our last few hours hanging out with Ebony sharing food and plotting our future projects. I am glad that I've had some extensive time to be around her as she inspires me with her determination and strait forward teaching style.
Now, Cam and I have safely returned to St. Louis and we luckily avoided the eastern snowstorm. Cam who needs order, unpacked in a frenzy, eager to get working on his upcoming show. Meanwhile I've been taking my time caught between the desire to reflect on this experience, the necessity to complete other projects in St. Louis, and my musings of what next.