BROTA and Buenos Aires Journal 1

My flight to Buenos Aires was a red-eye, and that seems to be the norm as all the flights I looked at were approximately at the same time. Though KCI is purportedly an international airport, I’ve never had a direct international flight out of it (the current expansion should help in the future, though!), and this was no exception - I flew through Atlanta and then on to Buenos Aires. My flights all went very smoothly and I also had very good luck on both and got to sit in empty rows each time! On the long leg, I was in a two-person row so there still wasn’t enough room to lay down… but I really appreciated the extra foot room and seat storage. I have a very difficult time sleeping on planes, and this was no exception. Instead, I watched a few movies (Deadpool II, Annihilation (which was rather different than the book which I’d already read), Aquaman, and Arctic).

I arrived in Buenos Aires at around 9:30am, and by the time the arranged taxi had delivered me to the house I’m staying in, it was around 11am. Patricia was waiting for me with a bouquet of flowers, which was so kind! I was quite tired, since I didn’t sleep on the plane, and thought I might take a short nap… but Patricia said if I wanted she’d be available to show me the ropes so I decided that’d be a better use of my (and her) time. I took a tour of the house (it’s great!) and then we made a list of what I needed to do next. One of those tasks was to pay the rest of the residency fee as I’d only placed a deposit ahead of time.

I had assumed, unfortunately erroneously, that I knew the best way for me to navigate exchanging money here, since I know how to do so in Europe. All I do in Europe is bring my debit card (in addition to having a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card), and with the debit card I can withdraw up to 500 euros at a time for a $10 fee from a bank. It’s pretty convenient and the banks tend to have fair exchange rates. However, due to the ever-rising inflation which is rapidly outpacing the withdrawal limits here in Argentina, the most you can appear to withdraw at one time is approximately $110, and you will still pay a $10 fee for that service. Well, I’ll know to research it per country in the future! Hopefully I can use my credit card for most transactions so that I can keep my cash withdrawals relatively infrequent.

The current exchange rate is approximately 45 pesos to the dollar, which for mental math I round up to 50. The numbers get really high really fast, and I keep being scared I’m paying a lot only to do the math and realize it’s not so bad.

After withdrawing some cash from a bank, we walked to the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden (which is called the Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays in Spanish, but I think it is clearer for English audiences to use the English version of the name). Patricia introduced me to two of the workers at the garden, and one named Carolina said that if I came back the following day they could in the interim get me permission to collect some leaf samples, access to the greenhouses, and other similar access levels. Patricia and I then walked all around the garden spaces, which was actually bigger than I had thought it would be - that’s always a good thing, in my mind, as I can have extremely high expectations of botanical gardens!

By this time we were both hungry, so we had a late lunch in Quotidiano Bar de Pastas Palermo. I shared a pitcher of mint ginger lemonade with Patricia because she said it was her favorite. I didn’t dislike it, but it was weird! I don’t know if I will intentionally order it again, but perhaps. Then we walked to the Carrefour supermarket so I could buy some groceries. I was advised to buy drinking water since the locals avoid the tap water here, so I decided to get two giant containers of water and not really limit myself much on groceries either and then have them deliver it all for a $3 delivery fee. Despite being enormous, the Carrefour didn’t have as many items as I would expect, though - it’s frozen food selection was paltry, and it also had fewer fruits than I’d have liked. There are produce stores around, though, so I’ll probably try to stop in those when I can.

When we got back, I think it was around 5pm and we’d spent much of the preceding six hours on our feet walking! Patricia then took some time showing me maps of the area and helping me plan out the next few days. By 6pm, the grocery store delivery arrived and since she was still here, she helped me unpack it. Then she said goodbye, and I had a strong urge to sleep but put it off. Instead, I took a shower (and there was hot water! for the whole shower! this is unusual for traveling! but wonderful!) and then read a book for a couple hours, had a granola bar and some chips (I could not summon the energy to cook), and then went to bed right around 8:45pm. I slept until about 10:30am the next day!

The following morning I made myself breakfast and unpacked my suitcases. Patricia and I caught a bus to the botanical garden to start to acquaint me with the local bus system (el collectivo) which is altogether less organized than in other major cities in that there are no timing schedules and no signage. Patricia urged me to consider taking Ubers instead at least until I’ve taken the bus with her several times. Fortunately, an Uber to the garden is only around $1-$1.50, so that’s pretty reasonable especially since entrance to the garden is free for everyone (I assumed it would be free for me since I’m working there, but it’s unusual for such a big garden to be free for all). To walk from the house to the garden is - according to Google Maps - 33 minutes one way, so while I won’t mind doing that occasionally, I will probably not want to do that every time and unfortunately the house isn’t near a metro station.

At the garden this time I met by myself with both of the workers from the day before, but also with three new-to-me workers as well. I was provided with a vest that proclaims me to be a garden volunteer, so as to deflect annoyance at my gathering of some leaves, and also had the opportunity to be shown quickly through the tropical greenhouse. I spent a couple hours there, taking photos and a few leaves, and then left for a very late lunch. I looked up restaurants nearby on my phone, and found a vegetarian one not too far away so I headed there! It turned out to be in a mall food court which I only found out upon arriving, which is not the best for ambiance nor food quality, but it was pretty decent fare nonetheless. Then I considered catching an Uber back but figured it would probably be good to walk back to learn the lay of the land a little more. I also found a series of vegan graffiti - there was probably more in the vicinity - which I found really interesting. Argentina is known for meat and barbecue, but there is a growing worldwide interest in healthier lifestyles - both for the consumer as well as for the planet. After all the walking the day before and this day, too, my feet were quite sore! I spent the evening prepping in the studio and making dinner.

Human-Led Environmental Devastation in the News Again

I’m not sure if it was possible to not hear about the horrific recent United Nations assessment on wildlife decline and extinction as it made front page news all over - but if you missed it, here’s one of the many stories covering its findings.

Relatedly, here’s an article discussing how meat consumption plays a huge role in climate change and needs to decrease by 90%. Of course, that’s only one of a multitude of corporate and cultural changes we would have to make…

Another Invasive Plant Whose Name You Might Not Know, But Soon Will...

Have you heard about knotweed? It’s considered such a menace in the UK that all deeds of sale must disclose its presence on the land, it’s begun to take over New England, and it’s devastating for local ecosystems. This well-written article for Slate explores this invasive plant’s roots... or in this case, rhizomes.

Also linked in the above article is a great reflection in the Smithsonian Magazine on kudzu, the invasive vine that is more notorious than is justified by its spread.

Endings and New Beginnings

Graduation was this weekend, grades are turned in, my office is almost fully packed up… and I only have a few more tasks left to do at the University of Saint Mary before I turn in my keys and equipment. It’s all moving so quickly that it feels a little surreal. I’m not the only one leaving, though; my Department Chair of five years, amazing mentor, and fantastic professional role model Dr. William Krusemark is retiring this year after 41 years of service to USM. That’s right - 41 years!

I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate what a good human being Bill is. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to work with and learn from him, and so I wanted to give him a really nice retirement gift. I ended up deciding on a very risky option: I would paint him a portrait of his daughter Abby. This was high risk for a couple reasons - the main one being that I’ve never met Abby and so I’d only be working off of a few small photos I got Bill’s wife Susan to email me. It was also the first human portrait I’ve ever painted (I am much more interested in wildlife and mediated nature, professionally).

I’m happy with how it turned out, and I hope that the time and effort I put into it are evident.

I hope Bill has a wonderful retirement. His tireless work and devotion has built an enduring legacy in the many lives he’s touched, and it’s time for him to start his own new chapter - beginning with a cruise to Alaska!

Time for a New Adventure!

I am very excited to announce that I have accepted a new position starting in the fall at Morningside College in Sioux City, IA, as Art Department Head, Director of the Helen Levitt Art Gallery, and Associate Professor of Art. Morningside is a great liberal arts college with a vibrant art community, and I am enthusiastically looking forward to this new adventure and the career progression it offers me!

Nevertheless, I have been honored to have served the University of Saint Mary as Art Program Director and Assistant Professor of Art for six years, and to have earned tenure and promotion in rank to Associate Professor just as I am departing. I will miss the many amazing faculty members, staff, students, and SCL, as well as the beautiful campus, that make USM unique. I learned a lot in my time at USM and will be leaving with a multitude of treasured memories and strong friendships.

Here’s to embracing change, opportunity, and growth!

Another Student's Art Restoration Side Business Made the News!

Haha, my art students are doing such cool things that we can’t help but dominate the news cycle here in Leavenworth - this time, senior student Gwen Logan is in the Leavenworth Times for her art restoration side business and potential career interest, which grew from a homework assignment I gave to her last fall in Painting I!

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A Student's Been Accepted into the 2019 Nelson-Atkins Curatorial Summer Academy!

This is great news - my student Adeline Pagan Sanchez applied and was accepted into the very prestigious Nelson-Atkins Curatorial Summer Academy for this summer, which will take place on June 1-8, 2019. I wrote her recommendation letter, so I was extra invested in the outcome and I’m very proud of her for taking the initiative to apply. The Leavenworth Times featured her success on the front page!

The Huge, yet Often Unspoken, Problem with Outdoor Cats

I’ve known about the extreme problem that outdoor cats pose to our ecosystem, particularly for bird and rodent populations, for years, and firmly believe that cats should be indoor only. Whenever my belief on this comes up in conversation with cat owners who let their cats outside, though, they indicate no real awareness of the scope of the problem (though there’s probably some willful ignorance mixed in, too), so I’m glad to have an updated reference for them in the form of this Smithsonian Magazine article, “The Moral Cost of Cats.”

Upcoming: BROTA Artist Residency with the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden!

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I am very excited to share that I was invited to be the second artist in residence ever at the BROTA International Residency Program in collaboration with the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays) this summer!

I will be at BROTA for a month-long residency spanning May 15 - June 15, 2019. I’m slated to have two exhibitions, one in the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden and one in the BROTA exhibition space. It’s a fantastic opportunity to focus a new body of work on botanical subject matter and I’m also looking forward to getting a chance to experience Argentina for the first time!

Estoy muy emocionada de compartir que voy a atender el programa de residencia internacional BROTA con el Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de Buenos Aires este verano. Voy a quedar allí un mes - desde el 15 de mayo hasta el 15 de junio de 2019. El plan es tener dos exposiciones, una en el Jardín Botánico y otra en el espacio de exhibición de BROTA. ¡Es una oportunidad fantástica para enfocarme en un nuevo cuerpo de trabajo sobre un tema botánico, y también voy a experimentar la cultura argentina por primera vez!

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I Finally Joined Instagram!

I embraced social media early on (albeit with some healthy boundaries). I’ve had a personal website since high school that I built myself and hosted on my own domain. I also had a Xanga account in high school and early college, was an extremely early adopter of Facebook (my college was one of the first that Facebook expanded to), and obviously now keep a consistently updated blog which also feeds into my Twitter account. I am a member of several different online communities, and share my work in online galleries and publications as well as in print.

But I’ve resisted Instagram for one multifaceted reason - I’m a laptop person. I grew up right as computers and the internet came into force and had early and consistent access to them. However, mobile phones are a different story. While I had a friend or two in high school who had a cell phone, I never did. In fact, I didn’t have one through the first two years of college either. I finally got one in junior year, and then stuck with a basic cell phone through graduate school and into my early professional career even as smart phones became fairly common. I finally got a smart phone, too, and now am on my second one, but to this day I’ve never felt as comfortable with a phone as I do with a laptop.

Now you have to understand: Instagram doesn’t just discourage laptop usage in favor of mobile access; the company intentionally breaks the extensions that users write to sidestep the mobile requirement. I don’t know if it’s a target audience decision, or if there’s something in the coding, updating, and presentation that so strongly relies on mobile formatting that they want to force it, but there it is. I’ve downloaded a couple extensions in the past to try to trick the site into letting me use my laptop without success.

The problem is not only my general preference for laptops over phones. It’s also that I take all my professional photos with my digital camera, which is far better in quality than my smart phone’s camera. I also crop and color adjust my images in Photoshop, which is a computer-based software, so all of my imagery is pretty firmly linked to my laptop. It’s a hassle to have to repeatedly port over all of the photos I want to post to my phone. It’s not that I can’t do it, but with only so much time in the day, at some point you’ve got to prioritize some tasks over others. I figured I was doing enough on social media with the platforms I was using - my website and blog, Facebook, Twitter, online internet community participation, and various digital publications - so I decided to skip Instagram and hope that it was just a fad that would blow over.

But I reached a tipping point this week. My wonderful colleague Susan Nelson has recently joined Instagram and fallen in love, and I’m feeling left out of viewing her posts. My fantastic friend and chemistry collaborator Dr. John Pojman has asked me to join repeatedly and the guilt in not acceding to his wishes has gotten to me. Many other great friends, particularly internationally, have asked me to join as well. And finally, I have to grudgingly admit that Instagram is not a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon. It is sticking around. As an artist who wants to engage with as broad an audience as possible, and who also likes to stay technologically current, I can’t resist any longer. Instagram, here I come!

If you’re already on Instagram (and let’s face it, I’m a very late adopter here, so I expect you probably are) you can find me @shelbyprindaville. The profile is rather barren right now because I want to parcel out my artwork in new posts every couple of days until the backlog is cleared instead of vomiting it all up at once, but I intend to develop it and keep it up to date just as I do with the rest of my social media.

Here’s to progress!

The Tulane Review Came Through!

You may remember that I posted a couple months ago about my publication in the Tulane Review’s Fall 2018 edition - I mentioned that I had wanted to share some images in that post since they were planning on sending me a contributor’s copy but that I hadn’t yet received it. Well, the wait is over - and they were kind enough to send me three copies to boot!

Missouri River Flooding

The flooding in the Midwest has been truly devastating in some areas. Fortunately for me, Leavenworth in comparison hasn’t been hit that hard… but we did nevertheless reach the standard of “major flooding” of the Missouri River on March 23rd. I went downtown to Leavenworth’s 2nd Street to take a look, and it was simultaneously shockingly high but also still staying near the boundary of the buildings… the river is set back from businesses on 2nd Street a fair ways by a railroad crossing as well as a park and river walk, so even though all of that got flooded out and it did reach some of the buildings on the river’s side of 2nd Street, it could’ve been much worse. I took a few photos, though if you’re not familiar with the area they might not be very impactful. I’ll have to see if I can remember to take some comparison photos at a future, more normal water level and update this post at some point.

My New Pet: Ashlar, or Ash for Short

When my crested gecko Lex passed away this winter, I was immediately surprised by how much lonelier my house felt. It was genuinely surprising how much companionship I felt from Lex’s presence. I didn’t want to replace her, exactly, but I wanted another pet. I like a wide range of pets including cats and dogs, but I feel my current household situation is best suited for a low maintenance and quiet pet that won’t be heartbroken when I travel for artist residencies.

In the intervening years since I got Lex, I had gradually become interested in a similar species of gecko called a gargoyle gecko that’s native to the same island as crested geckos (New Calendonia). The two species are similar in a lot of ways - size, diet, temperature needs, space needs, etc. - but differ in a few key ways. Gargoyle geckos will regrow their tails if they autotomize (meaning intentionally sever their tails) whereas crested geckos won’t. The two species also have different coloration and head shape and detailing. Gargoyles are so named because they have little bumps that develop on their heads and have sharp teeth.

I decided to get a gargoyle gecko for my next pet. They are more difficult to find than crested geckos, but fortunately for me there were a few for sale from a home breeder in nearby Lawrence, KS, on Craigslist. I consulted with the seller and then arranged to pick up my new pet a few days later.

I picked up the new little one and learned that it had hatched on July 28th. You can’t determine the sex (unless you’re really skilled and have a magnification device called a loupe) until the gecko is a lot older, so I’m currently changing the pronouns back and forth at random. After I’d had him for a few days, I decided the name Ashlar was suitable - ashlar is the most finely dressed masonry, but as a name also can be shortened to Ash which also represents the tree and cinder; all three are very apropos of various color states of my new gecko. I bought Ash a new cage just in case Lex’s had a parasite or fungal infestation (though I doubt that it does, and also heavily sanitized and temperature-treated the old cage through freezing just to be totally sure) and new cage decor and plants as well.

All that being said, please meet Ash! While I know it might be hard to believe, all of the photos in the below slideshow are of just one adorable gecko who is very variable in color depending on mood, surroundings, and time of day.

My Final Lex Post

For those of you who have been frequent blog visitors or Twitter followers, you’ll know that I occasionally post about my pet crested gecko Lex. Sadly, she passed away this winter. She was only six years old, which is quite young for a crested gecko to die. The species often lives for fifteen to twenty years in captivity and sometimes even longer. In hindsight, I believe she probably got impacted, though at the time I thought she was just going through a bad shed cycle. Impaction is always a small risk when you’re keeping the animal in a planted vivarium and feeding live insects. These choices nevertheless enrich an animal’s life, too, and Lex got clear enjoyment out of the plants and insect feeders. In the end I think it was unfortunately just her time.

Lex was a great gecko and I was really sorry to lose her. Here are some photos I hadn’t yet posted that I’d like to share in celebration of her life with me.

My New Dyckia!

I get new plants fairly often, but whether it’s due to this never-ending winter we’re experiencing or the rarity of the plant, I’m especially excited about this new dyckia I recently acquired!

My first dyckia for comparison:  Dyckia marnier-lapostollei

My first dyckia for comparison: Dyckia marnier-lapostollei

First, a little background. A terrestrial bromeliad genus from South America, dyckias have very sharp teeth and are rather drought and cold tolerant though they do like frequent watering when kept in warm temperatures. Unlike many other bromeliads, they are not monocarpic (meaning flowering once and then dying). They are easily hybridized, so it can be hard to tell exactly what cultivar you’re growing if it doesn’t come with an ID. Somewhat surprisingly, they are nevertheless not commonly sold - at least in the nurseries and plant sales I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot in a number of different regions across the US - but they can be more easily found online.

Even when I do spot them for sale, I don’t typically scramble to get dyckias. Many of the cultivars I have seen for sale are, for my taste, not the prettiest while being too sharp, too expensive, and often too big (I have a finite amount of space so I generally prefer plants that start small and stay small). This has meant that I have had only one in my collection until recently: a small Dyckia marnier-lapostollei. I like the look of Dyckia marnier-lapostollei, particularly as it ages, and I am quite fond of my little one. (I do know I need to repot it but I’m waiting until spring actually arrives to do so.)

I was, however, extremely taken by my new dyckia when I laid eyes on it. I’ve never seen such a white, trichome-heavy dyckia available before, and its overall proportions and coloration are very striking. Even though its teeth are quite wicked, the overall size and shape of the plant make me less nervous that I’ll hurt myself on it than the threat a couple of my agaves and sansevierias present.

I’ve tried to ID this new one, but I haven’t reached a definitive conclusion. It might be Dyckia ‘White Fang’ but it also might not be - about two-thirds of the images that come up with that as the search term have no trichomes on the leaves, whereas mine is thick with them. The trichomes can be worn off by overhead watering and touching, though, so that’s not 100% indicative, and the other third of the image results do look like my new plant. (I love the thick trichomes, so I’m going to be actively trying to not knock them off.) Other ID options might be some relative to Dyckia ‘Silver Back’, Dyckia ‘Ice’, or Dyckia ‘Grey Ops’.

So without further ado, below is my new NOID dyckia!

Upcoming: Conroe Art League 4th Annual National Invitational Show

My painting Camelflage was chosen by juror Dr. Jessica Locheed for inclusion in the Conroe Art League 4th Annual National Invitational Show, which will be open from March 6 to March 30, 2019. Of the 372 pieces entered from 31 states, my work was selected as one of 72 pieces on exhibit.

The Conroe Art League and Gallery is located at 127 Simonton Street, Conroe, TX 77301. For more information about the show, please call 936-756-9572 or visit their website.

Citizens Savings & Loan Debit Card Design Scholarship

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Citizens Savings & Loan has partnered with the University of Saint Mary to offer a university-branded debit card that raises money for student scholarships - and they put out a contest call a few months ago for designs. The winner was to receive a $500 scholarship and have their design printed as the inaugural card… and sophomore art major Adeline Pagan Sanchez won with the submission to the right!

Addy took the initiative to compete and worked very hard on this contest. She created and submitted a variety of designs since she wasn’t sure what aesthetic - cartoonish, sporty, refined - the selection team was looking for. Her classy, modern take on the USM spire and surrounding architecture hit the mark. Here’s a picture of us presenting her with the award, via an oversized ceremonial check!

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I’m proud of her and look forward to more of her successes. For further details, check out USM’s press release, which was published in the Leavenworth Times too!

Upcoming: American Swedish Institute Arts North Exhibition

In an earlier post, I mentioned that my painting Reconnaissance won Second Place Overall in the 24th Arts in Harmony 2019 Annual International Show. Arts in Harmony 2019 has two subsequent traveling exhibitions that draw from the original show, and I was hoping that my work would be selected for either/both. Well, I learned that the traveling exhibitions are occurring simultaneously so no work can be in both of them - but I’m pleased to share that Reconnaissance was selected to be in the American Swedish Institute Arts North Exhibition from Feb 22 to Mar 17, 2019!

Here’s some information from their website:

Drawn from 680 entries from around the U.S. and five international countries,  Arts North is a popular juried competition now in its 24th year.  The 50 pieces on view at ASI, including paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculpture and textiles, were selected from an exhibition of 130 works shown at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The larger juried traveling show, modeled after the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts competition, annually draws from approximately 700 initial entries from artists from throughout the US. who submit in various media divisions: acrylics, ceramics, glass, drawings, oils, mixed media, pastels, photography, prints, sculpture, sequential srt, textiles and watercolors.

This exhibition seeks to showcase the quality and diversity that artists bring to their work and to inspire viewers to explore ideas and learn more about options within each medium.

The American Swedish Institute is at 2600 Park Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407. If you’re considering stopping by to see the Arts North Exhibition, here is the hours and admissions page from their website!

More Magazine Publications - Arkana and Fearsome Critters!

Two of my pieces, Stool Pigeon and Street Smart, were selected for publication in Fearsome Critters Volume 2. Fearsome Critters is an arts journal originally founded in association with Northwest Missouri State University but now independently run.

I also don’t think I’ve yet shared that in December my oil pastel on panel Flight was chosen for Arkana’s Issue 5. Arkana is a magazine run out of the University of Central Arkansas. I had three or four publications come out all at once and I just realized that posting about Arkana accidentally fell through the cracks - until now!

R.G. Endres Gallery Two-Person Exhibition Reception and Press

Last night was the opening reception for my two-person show at the R.G. Endres Gallery with accompanying artist Kathleen Kirch! It was an extremely cold evening - but it was nice and warm inside, with lovely Prairie Village Arts Council members and local viewers in attendance.

Here are some links to press coverage for the show:
Prairie Village Newsroom
Prairie Village Voice
ArtsKCGo

And here are a few photos! I have 35 pieces on display, so if you want to see the full show you can still visit through February 27th.