Here are a handful of photos of my overall exhibition space in the Cerdeira Village Elementos à Solta festival. I already published individual piece images in my earlier posts, but here you can see some combined installation shots.
Starting on Wednesday through Friday, artists piled into the shared house Julia and I were staying in so that they could set up for the festival (which officially began on Thursday but really truly started on Friday). In the end, I think we housed more than 16 people in the house, and 7 in our room! It was really packed and we had to take shifts in the kitchen. The festival, called Elementos à Solta (Art Meets Nature), took place throughout the village from Thursday through Sunday and involved ceramics as well as fiber arts, wooden pieces, motion-sensing installations, and more. There were additionally workshops for art novices in the mornings and scheduled theatre and music performances in the evening. I really enjoyed a stage performance by eight ceramic artists; it was the first theatre piece I've seen that was really nevertheless as much a studio art performance piece.
Many of the displaying artists come to the festival every year (and this was the festival's twelfth year) so they all knew each other very well, but they were also extremely welcoming to Julia and me. I found a mix of Spanish and English tends to be decently understood by most Portuguese speakers, which was helpful. We were provided meals during the festival (usually on the residencies I attend you make your own food) and the cooks very kindly made vegetarian fare available each time, which I found very thoughtful.
The festival wound down on Sunday, and Julia left early that afternoon (her installation will remain up until nature has its way with it - perhaps through the winter!) after we finished our scheduled artist presentation. I grew very close to Julia during our time there, and it was very sad to have her leave. It also meant my own time to leave was drawing near; I had decided to take a bus from Coimbra to Madrid the following morning. I had planned to try to use a sort-of legitimized hitchhiking (car-sharing) service, but no one was making the trip the day I needed to go. I then considered flying, but within-Europe flights don't provide any free checked or carry-on luggage beyond a small bag, and I have two big suitcases with me so it would have been too costly. The bus was only a few hours longer and was significantly cheaper.
Packing my sculptures took about two hours; I actually packed them about three times trying to get the packing materials to support and protect the pieces. I have no idea if the sculptures' fragile branches will be in fragments by the time they reach the US; I tried my best, though! I needed to mail them from Portugal because since I had two suitcases and a backpack already, I didn't have the hands to also carry a large box along. On Monday morning, Nuno and I went to the post office and mailed my box out (fingers crossed!) before he dropped me off at the bus station. The trip from Coimbra to Madrid was thankfully uneventful, and the bus driver of the second bus (we had to change buses very early into the trip to connect with the Spanish line) stopped several times such that we could avoid using the bus toilet - I was very appreciative of that! We did stop at the Spanish border and police came aboard and checked passports; I was a little surprised about this because one of my international students said the borders are not really controlled for ground traffic between EU countries.
When I was shopping at the market across from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, I saw a few azulejos tiles of rabbits, and I bought myself one of them - it reminded me a little of Albrecht Dürer's work.
After I finished the turtle sculpture, I decided I would do a rabbit and a bird as a partner piece to the turtle and nest mostly due to that market experience. When I started looking at various images of rabbits in order to find one to sculpt, I decided that proportionally and structurally, a hare would be more interesting than a rabbit. And given that I had been thinking about rabbits and hares due to this azulejos tile that reminded me of Dürer, I decided to base my sculpture off of Young Hare.
It was really quite fun sculpting a watercolor painting, as it were, and one that I highly admire. I started off again with a styrofoam and wire base and then added QCC and began to form the body and head.
I added the feet in three separate parts, and finally the claws and ears. After every part was added, I detailed the fur and added some jackalope-esque branches in front of the ears. This all took several days to come together, and obviously there were parts I had to construct myself in attempting to realize a three-dimensional animal out of a two-dimensional painting of it.
I had planned on sculpting a bird with the hare, but I liked the hare so much alone that I reconsidered. As I was trying to decide what to do, I thought about how I would progress with the painting of the hare. In the beginning I had thought about painting the rabbit in azulejos-inspired colors as well, but I realized when doing the turtle that the style that the shell and eggs looked quite good with it because they were fairly smooth, but when I tried to paint the turtle head and legs with various tints of blue, it got too busy and weird due to their pebbled surfaces (so I reverted them back to the clean white). The fur of the rabbit is quite heavily textured, so I decided to paint it in a fairly realistic coloration through referencing Dürer's piece again but turning the colors just a little bit cooler in a nod to the azulejos theme and my own practice of using blue as a dominant color in my own work.
In deciding to paint it in naturalistic colors, though, I thought the two pieces wouldn't seem very related, so I figured I should do a bird - but a detachable bird, in case I ended up displaying the pieces separately as well or in case the bird didn't turn out so well.
I knew I wanted the bird to be in the azulejos color scheme, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to approximate an actual species/patterning like I did in the slider turtle shell design. In the end, I decided the bird should be even more clearly a reference to the azulejos tiles; then there would be this strong representation in the bird and the eggs, a referential-but-also-naturalistic one in the turtle, and then an almost entirely naturalistic representation in the hare.
So here it is! I also haven't accurately measured or titled it (though Young Hare will show up in the title somehow), but it is a mixed media ceramic sculpture including QCC, acrylic, and found branches. Some of the photos below are of it in bright sunlight, so the cast shadows on the bird can be a little hard to parse, and all are against a brown/gray background which can make the branches difficult to differentiate too, but I will take photos of it in a white gallery space as well.
When I woke up for my first morning in Cerdeira Village, I was still a little tired and quite sneezy - I thought I would escape from my Kansas allergies but there are apparently still plenty of plants I'm allergic to in Portugal! I soon shook it off, though, and Julia and I made breakfast and started to get to know each other. Next I went to set up my studio space; the atelier is downstairs and next door from the residency housing. I took over two small pottery tables and a bigger workshop table and began working on my first piece.
When I proposed my project for this very competitive residency, I took note of how ceramics-oriented the website was and my proposal was to make some fully 3D pieces out of QCC since of late I've been doing only relief work with QCC. For my first sculpture, I decided I would create a slider turtle with branches growing atop its back supporting a nest. I picked a turtle for a few reasons - 1) I'd sculpted two turtles a few years ago out of QCC but never felt I fully resolved their form and wanted to improve upon that work; 2) there is a multicultural myth that the world is supported on the back of a great turtle; 3) I hadn't seen very many animals in Portugal yet given that I'd only been there a couple days, but I had seen at least two different species of slider (red-eared and yellow-bellied) at the Estufa Fria in Lisbon.
I started the sculpture by carving a rough approximation of the shell out of styrofoam. This was mostly to save on clay usage - I can only carry one bucket of it at a time due to the size and weight it occupies in my luggage, so I want to be smart in how I use it up - but also helps with the weight of the piece, which is important because I will have to ship my artworks back to the US and weight sharply increases the shipping costs.
Then I applied QCC in a relatively thin layer around the styrofoam and began to shape and detail it (hacking out bits of styrofoam as well if I needed to). The shell took a lot longer than I thought it would to really shape properly; I did not finish it the first day.
I continued work the second and third days on the turtle. After finally detailing the shell, I moved on to the head and feet. I did them all separately so I could be very considered in my markmaking, and finally I assembled all the pieces and added a tail and other final detailing by the end of the third day. I had planned to make the branches and nest out of the QCC as well, but I became enchanted by the local lichens that grow on the trees here and ended up pushing real branches into the turtle's back before curing the whole piece.
Afterwards, I did add a nest and two eggs made out of QCC into the branches.
On the fourth and fifth days, I painted the turtle, nest, and eggs white. I had got it into my head to reference the azulejos tiles so common to Portugal in the painting of the sculpture; the starting point was turning the natural light tan of the clay the bright white of the glazed tiles. I had only brought one type of paint with me - my Golden OPEN Acrylics - which are great for normal painting needs but are really poor as a base coat due to their long dry time. Here in Cerdeira Village, they seem to dry even slower - in fact, barely at all - and I ended up just going ahead and painting the turtle shell with an azulejos-inspired, painted-turtle-shell-based design on the sixth day here despite the shell still being faintly wet. I also painted the eggs with a small decorative motif seen in the corners of some azulejos tiles. The turtle and eggs took almost a week to dry, but aided by my eventual realization that I needed to put them outside in the sun to assist, they were handle-able by the time I needed to install them in their exhibition space the morning of June 2.
So here's the piece! I haven't measured it yet, nor titled it (I've got some ideas mulling), but that will come. It is a mixed media ceramic sculpture including 3P QuickCure Clay, acrylic, and found branches and lichens.
I finally know what I'll be doing this summer! Usually I nail down artist residency plans much earlier in the year, but it's been much more up in the air this time around. Until now!
I am extremely pleased to announce that I was fortunate enough to be selected for one of the two spots allocated to international artists to attend a fully sponsored two-week-long residency at Cerdeira Village in Portugal in association with the 2017 "Bichos" themed Elementos à Solta (Art Meets Nature) festival. I will be working in ceramics with 3P QuickCure Clay both in the preceding days and as well as actively at the festival.
I am also very happy to share that I have additionally been chosen to attend a two-month-long residency at Intercambiador ACART in Madrid, Spain. I previously studied abroad in Madrid in 2007, so it's been a decade since I've last lived there. It will be nice to return as a more well-traveled and seasoned adult. I will probably be working with a mix of 2D and 3D aspects.
I will do the two back-to-back, starting with Cerdeira Village and then heading to Intercambiador ACART. It will be a very busy, very productive summer!