In September 2019, I was Open MFA’s digital artist-in-residence. During my residency, I explored how experiences and memories form and take shape. I took the residency with me as I traveled through northern Italy for 10 days actively responding to places as I moved through them.
I thought my anticipation of feeling overwhelmed might prevent me from feeling overwhelmed in Venice. That was not the case. Between the architecture, the art, and the tourists, Venice is mix of orderly chaos.
Prior to my trip and digital residency, I studied the work of James McNeill Whistler. His etchings and pastel drawings of Venice are sincere, intense, and beautiful. The work I created while in Venice, on the other hand, became consumed by details and recording the city’s architecture. Perhaps in desperation for some solitude, I recreated Venice without the presence of people.
After Venice, I moved north where the land and sky have more space and expand. The horizon unrolled and opened up. Once in Belluno, I focused on subtitles of light rather than details of delineated space. It became easier to “play” in my drawings.
I drew a person only once. In the Dolomites, I sketched my partner after we had successfully hiked to our Refugio. I was proud and energized. It was the only time I was interested in drawing a figure over those 10 days despite having encountered hundreds of new and interesting people. I tend to gravitate towards landscapes. This tendency remained true (and likely more so) during my travels. I feel more comfortable playing with place. Places and spaces are open to long looks and odd visualizations. People, on the other hand, require more vulnerability and confidence to play with when I draw.
I made the following drawings in Riomaggiore (one of towns of Cinque Terre). To get to town, I hiked down a trail that took me along a narrow pathway and down steep stairs. When I arrived in town to find store fronts, restaurants, apartments, and people on top of one another, I was struck by the differences as well as the similarities to the mountainous, steep trail I had just taken.
I made this video by drawing stills from the various videos I had taken while hiking in Cinque Terre. I was interested in the turns, how I moved my body up the stairs, and the changes in textures between the different staircases. I enjoyed thinking of the staircases and the work I was doing moving up them similar to my stage in life.
I brought this digital residency with me while I traveled in Italy. The residency kept me committed to looking closer at the places I moved through.
I thought about how places affected my vision. In cities, I felt more closed in and focused on details. In the mountains, I opened and relaxed. My strokes became more expressive and bold. Perhaps, this is not a surprise. However, I feel have gotten a much better sense of the types of energy I bring to my artwork depending on the places I inhabit.
Learn more about Open MFA here.