Saying our goodbyes….
For me, this is the most challenging part of a residency… saying goodbye to the staff who have made things comfortable for us to work successfully. A residency is meaningful in part because of the staff and their assistance while here has been invaluable and very much appreciated.
Saying goodbye to resident artists and guest artists we have worked side by side with; formed relationships with; and shared strategies with not to mention evening meals and conversations throughout the weeks is difficult for me. Fortunately, we have exchanged emails so we can keep in touch.
Then, my assessment of what has worked for me? What would I have done differently? What do I want to move forward with? Questions it takes time to answer and the answers are not readily accessible… nor, is it important to know right now… the answers will come.
Talking with Debra…
Some of you are aware of my residency travelling companion and good friend for forty plus years, Debra Sloan. Our time has been intertwined with learning, discussing, arguing, bouncing ideas off each other and valuing our exchange of thoughts and ideas. I am very fortunate to have this friendship on personal and professional levels.
Debra approached this residency as she has others we’ve done together, with gusto and preparation. She is a hard worker, maximizes her time, and takes the ideas around her and synthesizes them into her works. Our week of museums in Tokyo at the beginning of February resulted in her working with historic ideas in her playful yet detailed manner. She particularly like the Noh masks and became interested in the East-West face and her first project was trying out the different clays making little figures with demon faces.
She then worked with roof tiles, a long time interest she has explored at St. Ives, Hungary and in Vancouver. Photographing many outstanding Japanese examples, she began to appreciate, over the weeks, how the role of the traditional figured Japanese tile differs from that of the traditional decorative European roof tile. Japanese tiles, with their demonic faces, or family crests appear protective and the actual roof tiles are substantial, whereas surviving European tiles seem to be the result of decorative impulses based on old myths.
Her first roof pieces were of the beloved family dogs, with a protective attitude. She didn’t like how they turned out in the gas firing so they went into a wood firing but they won’t be out of the kiln until after we leave! So, will we ever know what has become of them?
While on the bus to the Miho Museum, I asked Debra what was most important to her about this residency? Her husband Terry listened quietly as we chatted – it is lovely to have him here on this last leg of our journey – jet lagged though he is. I also asked her what she thought was important we know about her? In her clear manner, she said this is a big question, but she hopes her work will speak for itself. She sculpts intuitively sometimes beginning with historical references, or working from themes and ideas she has identified. Using representational figures, animal and/or human, she builds interactive tableaux attempting a visual dialogue with surface layering and patinas, and through animating expression. Finally, she does not forget that these pieces also need to act as three-dimensional art, and their overarching forms should have sculptural value.
I find and know that many of our fellow artists find Debra’s works thoughtful, the detail and form marvelous and the humour they exude delightful. I am excited by what she does, how she continues to evolve and am in awe of her work ethic and know she will continue to provoke and stimulate her viewers.
And… a dinner to celebrate and say goodbyes
And… we are off to Karatsu on Kyushu!