This is our last weekly recap for the season, and it is hard to sum up all that has happened. Eight artists held residency here over four-and-a-half weeks, and they all ended up contributing not only their specific projects to the space, but a sense of the studio being well-used. With classes, events, and residencies, our summer has really activated the studio and set a precedent for future greatness. Thank you to all involved.
As we said goodbye to Amy, the two remaining residents, Paul and Mary, finished or extended their projects in graceful manner. Paul's audio book, recordings of The Gardener of the Dunes by Swift Lathers, took form in a trio of handsomely executed CD cases. He gifted one to the Pentwater Library and one to Shared Space. I can't think of a better soundtrack to working in the studio than poems and musings reflecting on the Silver Lake Dunes by our local hero.
Mary constructed a new hoping machine on the meadow homestead, this one built with foraged branches to remain onsite, settling under the winter snow. This A-frame construction acts as a meditative space and an entryway into the homestead, around which Mary piled walls of the same sticks. The installation to be left behind is a functional space; with twin trails to camping platforms, a fire pit, and a picnic table to work at, eat at, or lay on top of and watch the clouds.
Mary and Paul left the residency mid-week, went on an upstate kite-flying adventure, and Paul returned to New York. We were happy to welcome Mary back for one last Sunday, and she and I attended "A Pleasant Afternoon" at the Oceana County Historical & Genealogical Society. We were greeted by a rainbow of pies and Mears community elders, and made sure to pick up several copies of Swift Lathers' Mears Newz.
An image of participants quilting for Quilt Stories.
For our last talk of the summer season, I stepped in as a visiting artist and gave a presentation on my traveling project Quilt Stories. I shared the fabric collages, patchworks, and storytelling projects that led up to this ongoing body of work. Quilt Stories began as a quilted tent, to collect stories in, and now exists as installation, video, songs, ceramics, and a white quilt covered with stitches from people across the country.
Our second speaker of the evening was the amazing Larry Krone. Larry is from St Luis, now resides in New York, but has spent every summer of his life in a cabin with his family in Pentwater. He opened his presentation with one of his signature country songs, played on ukulele, and led us through a progression of his sculptural works. Utilizing and honoring folk art techniques, Larry has made latch-hook rugs, wisdom tooth dolls, sequined embroideries, and text art with his own hair. He incorporates his meticulously crafted objects and costumes into performances of his personal country-western song repertoire. The crowd was happy to watch Larry strip from his ruffled baby costume down to his underpants of many colors, and connect his wide-ranging body of work to his personal experiences in Pentwater.
Reeling from the success of our first residency season, we are looking forward to next year with new artists and new plans. I am closing this series of posts with this serene photograph Mary and Paul made of their geography lesson in the meadow. If all of the residents have taken one common sentiment away from their time here, it is a reverence for and infatuation with our beautiful state.
We started another great week with our two new residents, Emily and Amy. Amy Johnquest, our final resident to arrive, joined us for dinner on Monday and the following day set herself up to paint. Amy's paintings are often portraits or tributes to everyday people, places, and things, depicted as oddities or novelties in the style of a carnival banner. For her recent banners, she paints on found tablecloths and tapestries and incorporates the pre-existing embroidered motifs into the painting. She set up a painting studio for herself with a tack board of homasote, and began sketches for two banners: A tribute to her late dog Olivia, and a portrait of The Great Log of Pentwater, a local mystery that Amy has appreciated while visiting Pentwater over the last twenty years.
Emily + Eliza's hand dance.
Emily Harris used her week in residence to read, write, and experiment with new ideas. She began a new project in which she measured and photographs the other resident's hands. After seeing Emily's artist talk on Sunday, local Pentwater musician Frank Galante offered to collaborative in a movement/music jam. Frank set up his guitars and pedals at the studio to play while Emily made drawings and movements in response. She set up a video camera pointing out of the sliding glass door towards the meadow, and filmed us hand-dancing to the sounds. She played with space, perspective, and illusion as she moved closer or further from the door, entered the frame from all sides, and made contact with the glass.
Paul painting birds.
Paul and Mary proved to be a power-team in the studio this week, with many late nights and early mornings. Paul learned how to use a sewing machine as he and Mary made patchworks from tents, and divided them into pairs of kites that will fly with lights at night to make sky drawings. The two had independently wanted to make a kite at some point in the past, and this was the opportunity for them to collaborate and make their kite dreams come true. For the first pair of kites, they made patchworks from old tents, cut them up, mixed them up, and assembled two diamond-shaped kites, each as tall as they are (a height difference of 14 inches). They then made one square patchwork together, and cut it in half to make two triangular kites. This process was also a way for the two to communicate by working together, as they had until now only had contact through mail correspondence. Outfitted with scalloped fringe and yarn tassels, when the kites were finally airborne in the meadow, it was a triumphant moment for us all.
As Mary finishes patch-worked wind socks to bring to her next Cabin Time residency on Rabbit Island, Paul continues to catalog the birds in the meadow with drawings and paintings. His guide to the meadow birds will be accompanied in our library with Mary's Adventure Guide to outings in the Pentwater area; filling in future residents on all of the local places to go and see. The two made yet another trip to the former home of Swift Lathers, at the Oceana Historical Park, so Paul may have the chance to record himself reading The Yearning Years, Swift's book of poetry that stays in the museum's archives. Paul plans to put together his readings of Swift's writings on an audio CD, and gift it to the Pentwater Library.
The team at 8am.
Pentwater's annual Homecoming celebration was this weekend, and the four resident artists really bonded as a team when we entered the esteemed sand sculpture contest. In a brainstorming session we agreed the key to building with sand was to keep it wet, and we were dubbed Team Keep It Wet. After I crafted team spirit shirts, we were on the beach early, with shovel and spray bottles, to carve out and build up our take on the contest's theme "Year-Round Fun in Pentwater." Our design was a quilt draped over a trio of friends in a bed: Each square on the quilt depicted a fun Pentwater past-time. We had the most fun possible, and won a sweet little trophy to show off at the studio.
We were sad to see Emily go back to New York on Saturday, but continued the Homecoming festivities by enjoying a parade, fireworks, karaoke, and a stellar meteor shower. On Sunday, we welcomed another compelling artist to the space to give a talk with Amy. Laura Milkins is a native of Pentwater, who has traveled extensively and now lives in Tucson Arizona, working as an artist and teacher. She presented video and audio documents of two of her projects that involve walking and asking the people she encounters to talk with her and tell her stories. For her project "Walking Home," Laura walked from her home in Tucson, 2000 miles to her mother's home in Grand Rapids. She was a very interesting visiting artist, speaking on the idea of what can qualify as artwork, when you are not making objects, images, or performances.
Amy finished the evening by presenting a history of her paintings, from her early days through her transformation into The Banner Queen. She showed classic side-show banners that influenced her, personal works, and humorous and clever commissions. Diana really outdid herself on the reception snacks, and we had a great turnout with an engaged audience. With only a few days left of the residency season, and the last talk in our lecture series this Sunday, we are feeling satiated with all of the experiences of this season, and already hungry for next year!
We started out our third week of the residency with a great beach day. We said goodbye to our visiting artist, Michelle Murphy, after participating in her Second Skin video project, and suited up for the lake. We put Elodie's epic knitted blanket to use, filling the knit-in koozie pockets with a 12-pack of Bud Light Lime, and by the end of sunset we were billowing the blanket in the air in a good-old game of parachute.
Amanda Matles left us mid-week, but not before she finished putting our new compost system in place. She refaced two 5-gallon buckets that we will fill with our food scraps to be picked up by a local farm each week. The brightly-colored buckets read: COMPOST FOR CHICKENS. In the process she crafted herself an apron to paint in. She also finished several small ceramic pieces to take back to Detroit and fire. Her compost project is one of many that are giving directly to the studio and our residents. As new systems are put in place we become more organized and solid, even as people continue to come and go.
Paul Richardson joined us Tuesday, on his first visit to Michigan, from a lifetime in Baltimore. He has been Mary's diligent pen-pal for the last two years, and since they reside on opposite sides of the country, until now their interactions have been only through correspondence. For the next two weeks, the pair will be collaborating together, finding a way to maintain the ritual of sending a letter everyday, while living in tents 20 feet away from each other.
Paul began working with Mary on the homestead, rearranging the space she has constructed with found twigs and logs. His past drawing series suggest catalogs, so it is fitting that he is now drawing a guide to the wildlife in the meadow. We are also looking forward to his narration of Swift Lathers' The Gardener of the Dunes, the audiobook edition.
With a little help from Paul, Mary erected her new Hoping Machine in the meadow. Her last hoping machine sculptures were four-sided pyramids, based on the energy-gathering premise of Pyramid Power, a key text in her studies at Mystic Homeschool. This new construction is an open-ended A-frame, a space that one may pass through or dwell in with an awareness of the outside. She is also hoping that a meadow creature or two may spend time in the patch-worked meditative space.
Elodie also set up a private space near the homestead. A forklift palette provided a base for her knitted tent, affixed to three trees with a system of buttons and button holes. This space gave Elodie some woodland solace to take coffee breaks in, and reflect on her past three weeks in residence here, before heading home to San Francisco on Sunday.
Another highlight of the week was a visit to our neighboring town of Hart's Historic District. The town has rescued and relocated several historically significant buildings to a single site, and some of them house a curious collection of collections. We had no idea that we would encounter a six-room journey of old-timey animatronics, doll houses, and toys. The fun didn't stop there, as the museum also offers two rooms entirely filled with furs and taxidermy animals anthropomorphized in open dioramas. Moving on, you will find a couple-hundred tiny pianos, dozens of hand-cranked cherry pitters, a needlepoint farmhouse and barn, and other collections that have been donated in the name of historical preservation and education. Our next stop was the Oceana County Historical and Genealogical Society Research & Library Headquarters. Here we furthered our research on Swift Lathers, and found that hundreds of copies of his weekly newspaper, Mears Newz, are available to read or purchase. The research librarian spent about an hour talking to us, and a visit to the local taqueria finished off another fruitful field trip.
As Elodie left, our newest resident Emily Harris arrived, just in time to give a talk on her work at our weekly Sunday evening slide lecture. She used John Cage's method of random chance to present her work and the work she admires: As the audience called out a number, she read a text, played a video, or showed a slide that correlated to this random number system. After four summers at Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art's low-residency MFA program, Emily's work has evolved from product to process. The rituals she was reciting while making objects became performance works in themselves, influenced by minimalist choreographers such as Yvonne Rainer.
Mary & Paul teamed up on their slide talk, presenting past work individually and talking about the projects they have and will make together. Paul was presenting his work to an audience for the first time, and explained his process of drawing with repetitive marks, leading into repetitive drawings, leading into series with repeated themes. Mary shared her site-responsive projects; noting several projects that involved a period of significant research, leading to a large-scale sculptural construction, that housed an interactive and extremely social element. Both artists charmed the crowd with their humorous and straightforward work, and although their shared language of correspondence was difficult to translate for us, the story of how they got here was enough for one night.
Our second week into the residency, and we have sure been busy! Two new resident artists arrived, along with a special visitor for the weekend, Michelle Murphy who was our first resident artist back in November 2011.
Our first official field-trip was a success, while new projects have been embarked on and in-progess pieces have been completed.
As our artists leave, we discuss the residency, what they thought they would do and what they did do, and how the space is run. Constant improvement is the goal here, and we are feeling our growth. We have celebrated so many small successes here, and I am anticipating more in the next two weeks.
Amanda Matles came to us from Brooklyn, by way of Detroit. A Michigan native, born and raised in Traverse City, she now spends part of her year in the Motor City visiting family and working on her documentary video projects about urban agriculture in Detroit. Her first few days at the studio were spent easing into life here and experimenting with materials. We set up the ceramics studio and visited a local sculptor who does Raku and pit-firings and got some advice on burnishing. With the idea of setting up a compost system for Shared Space, Amanda visited the Pentwater farmer's market and connected with the people at Vartian Farms, a small farm and bakery outfit that will take our compost and put it to good use- feeding chickens. Amanda began making a ceramic jar that we will collect compost in on the kitchen counter, and she will be repurposing and decorating two 5-gallon buckets to collect the compost for pickup by the farm.
On Sunday evening, Amanda spoke about this project within the context of her other work as a master composter and a geographer interested in food systems. She shared her research on urban gardening, foraging, and the carbon footprint of imported foods. We were all impressed by the excerpts she showed of her recent video, Rerouting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation, which was screened at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit in July and will be released later this year. Amanda also began experimenting with animation while in residence, and made a draft of an animated drawing that will never end, as it is a drawing of everything that could be composted.
Marlee Grace also arrived on Tuesday, and seeing as she just finished a BFA in dance, I convinced her and Amanda to join the evening movement class. They learned a dance to a tune from Hairspray, dubbed themselves the 'Gemini Twins', and recited their moves for the rest of us. Marlee is also a Michigan native, and current resident of Grand Rapids where she organizes her community to join in on DIY music and art events. She lives at and co-manages the Division Avenue Arts Collective, an all ages venue and art space.
Marlee got to work on crafting small books, redesigning vintage Michigan postcards, and beginning a new polaroid series considering where you stood / how you stand. Marlee spoke on her work at the Sunday evening lecture, and posed the idea that instead of DIY being 'do-it-yourself', it may be even more about 'do-it-together'. She shared a bit of Grand Rapids low-brow art culture with us, and reflected on the idea of her poster design being a meditative art of cutting, gluing, and stamping, much different than the process you would experience laying out the same imagery on a computer.
After Linda Kline's inspiring talk on Nuno silk felting last Sunday, she returned on Thursday to teach the process. Students had a great time laying out their colorful patterns with wool on silk, and a dash of silk on wool. They had to work hard to felt it all together, rolling their scarves back and forth on a dowel 400 times to laminate the fibers together and finish class with a thing of beauty.
Elodie Goupil and Mary Rothlisberger teamed up together on their second week in residency. They finished knitting 35 feet of multicolored cord to construct a net for our bare basketball hoop. Now we just need a ball to shoot. The pair spent more than one all-nighter together at the studio, spreading out in the workspace with sewing, knitting, and weaving projects. Mary is constructing a new Hoping Machine, specifically for the meadow homestead she has been building here; The Hoping Machine is a portable textile sculpture that makes good cheer. She has also managed to acquire scrap pieces of sailcloth from the wonderful makers at Teamwork, a Grand Rapids company that builds knapsacks and messenger bags from recycled Michigan sails. She is laying out patchwork with the sails to construct a series of regulation-sized wind socks. Mary's collaborator Paul Richardson shows up this week and we are looking forward to their artist talk this Sunday.
Elodie finished her Shared Space Blanket, just in time to test it out on the desert dunes of Silver Lake. The blanket fits us all comfortably, and has enough drink pockets to snuggle in a 12-pack of cold ones. The sand takes on a strangely soft doughy quality underneath this knitted coating; it's really a whole new beach blanket experience.
Josh Kermiet was hard at work this past week, with some assistance from his little brothers who came up from Lansing. Josh connected with a local printing source and wrangled all of us at the studio into submitting to the paper by his deadline. We contributed a postcard, a personal ad, a crossword puzzle, and a recipe, all deidicated to the wonders of Michigan. The layout for the cover is a take on the book Michillaneous, a compilation of obscure facts about Michigan, published in 1982 (the content is both impressive and terrifying).
Josh continued to be influenced by Swift Lathers, the local legend who published Mears Newz, a one-page paper whose content was entirely from the mouth of Swift and had a subscription list of over 2000 people. Josh included several of Swift's poems, and he also drew advertisements for local businesses and a review of the sunset.
The resident artists organized a field trip to the Oceana Historical Museum, the former home of Swift and Celia Lathers, to learn more about their new idol who came from the next town over. To commemorate his years spent roughing it in the dune forest, they climbed the Silver Lake Dunes and explored the strange sights of dune buggies and endless stretches of sand.
Josh shared his newfound knowledge on the history of Swift, along with images of his past work at the Sunday evening lecture. We were excited to see his psychedelic animations of morphing paint droplets and a Lake Michigan sunset flashing back and forth with an eyeball in stop-motion time. His youth as a zine-maker and critic has informed his current projects where he explores the possibilities of publications... What if a paper were only one page long? What do artists make for a satire paper, where they are asked to emulate the trappings of horoscopes, puzzles, and advertisements? What about a hand-drawn paper placemat, advertising local businesses, with a quirky twist? How can a paper be distributed for free, and how can it be distributed in personal ways, far across the land?
The residents returned from their afternoon trip in time for the Sunday evening artist talk. Marlee, Amanda, and Josh presented their work from their time at Shared Space and beyond. We had a great turnout of engaging locals and out-of-towners for the event. The talks were very interesting and a great conclusion to both Josh and Marlee's residencies, as they both returned home after the reception. With our lovely guest photographer, Michelle, we were able to snap a group photo in front of the mural before the sun set and the crowd dispersed.
One week into our month-long season of visiting artists, and so much has happened already. The studio has been more active than ever, with resident artists utilizing the classroom, studios and outdoor spaces to work in day and night, and meeting in the evenings to make dinner together.
Elodie Goupil arrived first from San Francisco, and saw Lake Michigan for the first time. After an initiation of boating, beaching, and swimming, she got straight to work on her knitting machine. During her travels here, she collected yarn from across the Midwest and is using it to knit an oversized blanket dedicated to Shared Space. The blanket will be big enough for a small crowd to sit upon the beach, or take a communal power nap under at the studio. She designed her first knittable cursive alphabet to spell out 'shared space' all around the edges of the blanket, and is knitting in pockets that will serve as drink koozies. (If you don't know what a koozie is, please visit the Midwest.) She spoke about her romantic yet practical artwork at the Sunday evening artist talk, and gave us an interactive knitting machine demo the next day, where we took turns adding rows to the blanket.
Along with pitching in at Mary's homestead, Elodie also has plans to crochet a hammock with a boat hook, and weave a beach floatie out of old bird seed bags and pop bottles. She will be an artist-in-residence through August 3rd, and we are excited to see what else she creates during her stay.
Mary Rothlisberger, from Palouse Washington was our next resident to arrive, just in time to catch our young artist's slide talk and celebrate Elodie's birthday with us. Another newbie to Michigan and the Midwest, Mary has spent the last month in Grand Rapids working with artists from Cabin Time, a roving and rugged art residency. She came to us with her cosmic-energy-gathering Hoping Machine, and plans to construct another during her stay. Her main project this week has been homesteading in the meadow behind the studio. We have three open acres of sweet peas and brambles, cornered by deciduous forest, where Mary is setting up camp. Her first task was to repeatedly trudge through the rough grasses, forging a path back to the forest clearing that will become a home made of sticks, a meeting place, a library, a gathering of hoping machines and forts, and a sculpture park. She has constructed two walls made entirely of sticks found on the forest floor, piled and woven together. Always the earliest to rise, Mary truly is busy as a beaver.
There is much more site-specific fun to come, as Mary will be a resident artist for the entire season- until August 15th, and will be collaborating with her long-time pen-pal, Paul Richardson, who arrives on August 1st.
Josh Orion Kermiet joined us on Tuesday. He is coming from his home in Portland OR, but is really from Lansing, our fair state's capitol city. Upon his arrival we all took a field trip to the neighboring town of Hart to eat at the best taqueria, stock up on groceries, and tour the Shelby Gem Factory. Josh is making a newspaper during his stay, and Larry at the gem factory gave us a great lead to follow- a local hero named Swift Lathers who published a weekly one-page paper, and homesteaded in the Silver Lake Dunes. Josh's Michigan edition of Free Spirit News will include his own drawing diary, Michigan curiosities trivia, and submissions by artists and weirdos from around the state.
Along with his research on local towns and their folklore, he is also working on animations, and writing daily reviews of the sunset from Pentwater beach. Josh will speak about his work at our Sunday evening artist talk this weekend, July 29th, and will be a resident artist through July 30th, when he will release his much-anticipated publication.
We wrapped up the week here with our Sunday evening artist talk, featuring resident artist Elodie Goupil and visiting artist Linda Kline.
Linda was an excellent speaker, sharing her art-investigating travel stories, slides of her precious metal clay jewelry, and several of her silk-felted scarves in person.
She will be teaching two workshops on Nuno Silk Felting this Thursday, in the morning and in the evening, and we expect a good turnout of students and the creation of some interesting scarves. We were happy to see some new faces in the audience, and will keep working to connect local artists and appreciators with all of our amazing visiting artists.
Shared Space offers visiting artists and artists-in-residence facilities and support in a secluded and beautiful setting with the chance to meet and exchange with other artists as well as the responsibility of engaging the local community.