My new photographic transfer technique using methylcellulose and toner doesn’t require a flat surface for the substrate, so I also created this piece Gardens of Memory: Homes. Eventually displayed on a small marble pedestal, it is a mixed media sculpture including a found snail shell, bird’s nest, methylcellulose, and toner. The piece is probably a little larger than you might imagine - its core dimensions without the pedestal are 5.125 x 5.125 x 3.5”. The snail shell is that of an apple snail, so titled because they can grow to the size of an apple. I sold this piece while in Buenos Aires to another artist, the very talented Masako Kano.
As you can see in this earlier post, I worked atop two very large trunk cross-sections for a permanent outdoor installation. I also worked atop smaller trunk and/or branch cross-sections as well. Here are four new pieces in my “Gardens of Memory” series. The series is so titled because the substrate is very directly a part of a once-living tree (paper is too, but in a more distanced form), and the images atop it are from various botanical gardens I’ve frequented.
I’m on Argentinian radio! I was invited, along with Patricia and the woman who agreed to cater our reception with her waffle company, to join Radio Conexión Abierta on their program La Vida Moderna de Analía. It was an hour-long show, and it was held entirely in Spanish. We talked about my upcoming exhibition reception, art, BROTA residency, Kansas, the Wizard of Oz, and waffles.
Above are a couple photos from the interview, and if you’d like to hear it in its entirety, you can below!
Saturday I went out to see the ferias in Plaza Serrano and Plaza Armenia, and also just to walk around Palermo Soho, a neighborhood that is supposedly reminiscent of Soho in NYC. I ate at a vegan “fast food” restaurant which had Chinese-influenced vegan “hamburgers” of all sorts, but I didn’t think it was very tasty. Then Patricia and I made a night of it in the house, drinking champagne and eating pizza (which we burned a little by not understanding the oven since it was our first time using it). Everything in the house is gas, and the manual lighter that was built into the stove is broken so if you want to use it, you have to light a match, turn on the gas, and wait for it to catch alight in whatever you’ve turned on - even in the oven, which was a first for me! (I’m used to this system with ranges, but never before with ovens!)
Sunday Patricia took me to La Boca, a neighborhood which is famous for its painted houses which resulted from impoverished townspeople using random siding in various colors as their building material, which had the side effect of creating a very vibrant look. There are a few blocks that are extremely touristy in this neighborhood, but the rest of it is considered quite rough, so Patricia thought it best that she escort me. We wanted to have empanadas, but finding a restaurant that served several types of vegetarian ones took a lot of searching! Eventually we found a place that had corn and cheese, four cheese, and spinach and cheese ones, so I had one of each. The corn and cheese and four cheese versions were my favorite of the three. La Boca also is known for its football (soccer); there’s a stadium near the touristy area and this evening there was a game, so we left before fights and/or riots broke out on the street (apparently this is a thing that sometimes happens in Argentina).
Monday we were going to chill and I was going to work in the studio, but then we found out that there was a city-wide transportation strike of all modes on Wednesday and we were planning to have an excursion then, so instead we went to Puerto Madero, where there is a famous bridge called El Puente de la Mujer, which translates to “Bridge of the Woman” or “Woman’s Bridge.” It is meant to abstractly represent a couple dancing the tango. I don’t see it. I guess on the weekends this area is somewhat hopping, but Monday is a day when most stores are closed and Puerto Madero is mostly offices anyway, so though I appreciated getting to see it, I wasn’t super enthused with this neighborhood. We did stop for ice cream, though - I’ve been on a hunt this whole time for coffee ice cream, which no one has (this is the first time in all my travels that coffee hasn’t been a default flavor!), so Patricia recommended I try sambayón, which is a port flavored ice cream. I liked it!
Tuesday I went to the garden again. Patricia and I had been trying for over a week to get the garden to let us use two large tree trunk cross-sections that were just chilling in their space, but the garden had other plans for them. (My plan was to make mixed media installations with them to donate back to the garden in a permanent installation.) We then tried to see if they could make us some, but no luck. Then Patricia found similar cross-sections for sale on Mercado Libre, which is kind of an eBay/Facebook Marketplace for Argentina. Patricia didn’t have a profile so she figured I should set one up since I was going to be the buyer. This ended up engendering a cascade of issues, which I won’t bore you with, but several days later we managed to successfully purchase two. We also went to an opening reception for a former professor of Patricia’s, who was exhibiting mixed media paintings and some alcohol ink prints. I really liked the latter.
Wednesday was the strike day so I worked in the studio and on getting Mercado Libre to cooperate. The following day was also a studio day.
The next day I was feeling too cooped up, so I went to eat out in Recoleta and then walked a short distance to take in the famous Recoleta cemetery. The cemeteries in Argentina are all walled in, which is an interesting cultural difference. The interior is really surprisingly compelling, though - I’m not generally a big cemetery-tour person, but I really enjoyed strolling through this one.
Saturday I worked on art in the morning, and then met Patricia in Palermo Soho to see an art opening at a plant store in the early evening. The exhibition was cyanotype prints of plants, which was a good fit for the space! Then Patricia and I ate at a strange Middle Eastern vegetarian restaurant that had trippy videos of Jesus and Krishna playing. The food was okay but not stellar.
Sunday Patricia and I went out to the suburbs to see a more “countryside” area of Buenos Aires at the house of a friend of hers. We had lunch in an town called Ingeniero Maschwitz followed by ice cream - and this place had the closest to coffee ice cream I’ve seen here (it was called moka, but there was no apparent chocolate) and also had a fantastic flavor called rusa which was walnut custard.
Some general musings, in no particular order:
An Uber driver asked me if I was vegetarian out of nowhere and when I answered yes, he then said he could tell by my appearance. I asked what that meant, and he responded that I look healthy. Then he asked me how old I was and upon hearing my response he added that I look younger because I am vegetarian. I didn’t get the impression that he was vegetarian, but I should’ve asked. Two different drivers thought I was from Brazil, which is perplexing because I don’t know how my accent could read as Portuguese-influenced…
A handful of the words are different in Argentinian Spanish. Avocado is a weird one - I’ve never heard palta before. Many people here speak English pretty well - a much higher percentage than in Spain - though of course most of my conversations tend to be held in Spanish since we are in Argentina.
The house keys in Argentina are old school skeleton keys. Not just for my house, but others too.
I’ve read that Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America. I have to say that while I’m having a fantastic time on my residency here and love BROTA and the botanical garden, the city itself has suffered from the economic crisis in Argentina: it has edged out art and artisan products, independent restaurants, public transportation updates and improvements like e-signage, and so on. Petty crimes like pickpocketing are also more common. There is a lot to enjoy about the city nevertheless, but I’d like to see what it will become in a hopefully-soon-to-arrive more stable and prosperous period.
The traffic here is terrifying and parking is nonexistent. Natives often are scared to drive in Buenos Aires because there are no rules; I would never recommend a foreigner attempt to rent a car and drive here. I do wish the bus system was more understandable to me, though; I have no problems with using the bus system in Spain in various cities but Patricia was correct that this one, los colectivos, is not set up for easy outsider usage.
The house/mansion I am staying in is in a very ritzy area - apparently famous stars and politicians have houses here and a number of people have told me it’s a really good location. It is not near easily usable public transport like the metro (Subte) or trains.
There are tillandsia (air plants) EVERYWHERE and I want to adopt many of them. I don’t have a CITES certificate, though, so they’ll have to stay here.
On my third day, I spent some time working in the studio. I brought some very new-to-me, experimental papers that I wanted to try to work with, so I started off with the methylcellulose paper. It dissolves in water, but if you print atop it with toner (using a laser printer) the ink is supposed to remain, floating, in the water. I wanted to see if that meant I could collage with it and if it would be a visually distinctive method. It turns out the ink doesn’t hold together super well - maybe because I didn’t just print straight black on it - but if you move quickly you can still catch the image though it breaks and twists in uncontrollable ways. I’ve always liked collaborating semi-chaotically with water, so this suits me well. That evening Patricia took me to an opening she was participating in: Art & Swap 19. Artists display their work, and viewers place Post-Its near any work they want to offer a “swap” for - I saw web design services, therapy sessions, artwork trades, and more - and contact info and if the artist is interested, they will negotiate a swap. The opening was a real event, with free food from food trucks (french fries, filled croissants, and mini waffles as well as coffee and beer)!
The next morning, Saturday, I woke up with a sore throat and a cold. I was grumpy about it because it is not my ideal way to spend residency time, but it’s understandable when flying, coming into contact with tons of new people, and visiting an area where you have no local immunity. I rested for a day, but then tried to get on with seeing Buenos Aires. I visited the Feria de San Telmo, which is a big open air Sunday market similar to El Rastro in Madrid. Unfortunately for me, El Rastro is more to my taste; the goods at the Feria de San Telmo were mostly leathers/furs, Mafalda cartoons, pipes, piedra rosada (a pink stone that is the national stone of Argentina, but I’m not into that shade of pink), and yerba mate mugs. None of those really appealed to me either for myself or as gifts, which is of course not the market’s fault. The prices were also relatively high, which I had been warned about. I did eat lunch at a vegetarian restaurant near the start of the feria, and that was nice, as was getting to see the feria and that part of the San Telmo neighborhood! On my way back, I stopped by the Feria de Recoleta, which was quite similar in content but smaller and in the midst of a park.
The following afternoon Patricia took me out on a search for several of the items I’d requested - starting with artisanal papers and spray fixative. Unfortunately neither of us realized what a chore finding artisanal papers would be… due to the ongoing financial crisis in Argentina, some of the stores we went to visit had shut, others had downsized their selections, and eventually we ran out of options for the day but Patricia had one last lead we’d look into later. We then went to her neighborhood to find me a mortar and pestle that I had decided I needed for a second type of experimental artwork along with isopropyl alcohol, and tried to hunt down a shop that would sell me prints-per-page on my own paper on a laser printer, in case I wanted to print more on the methylcellulose paper. Patricia also invited me to dinner, so when we were all done shopping for studio supplies she made Milanesas de soja with salad. Milanesas are a sort of patty, and can be made out of many things but these were soy because she likes them and I’m vegetarian. It was a good, long day.
The next day Patricia met me in the botanical garden to take a couple photos of me for her Instagram announcement post about my residency. I needed to go to the garden anyway to collect leaves for the second type of paper I wanted to work with - a filter paper that would allow me to practice chromatography. Using a mortar and pestle, I can grind up leaves and/or flowers with alcohol, and then the filter paper will soak up the solution and separate out each pigment layer - chlorophyll A, chlorophyll B, xanothophyll, and carotenes. Each plant will presumably have a different chromatography, so the paper rounds will function as abstract portraits.
The following afternoon Patricia and I journeyed to the final lead for artisanal papers: Ato Menegazzo Papeles. The owner is a very nice man who makes his own artwork, does letterpress and printmaking, and had a few handmade papers as well as a lot of decorative and stamped papers. I bought several sheets. Then Patricia had taken notice that I like tiles, so she suggested we go to a tile store. I was excited, as it would never have occurred to me to ask, but I do like tiles! We stopped by one with antique tiles and one that had some modern options. Unfortunately I had to limit how many I could buy as they are surprisingly heavy and there are luggage weight limits. I’ve also heard terrible things about the mail service in Argentina - unlike in other residencies, I’ve been advised not to mail anything back as it likely won’t ever arrive.
Thursday I spent gathering more plant samples from the botanical garden and Patricia and I stopped in at two exhibition openings in galleries on the same block that evening. Both were very small, but one had ceramic wall pieces that I liked. That brings us to Friday, which I spent in the studio again!
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.
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!