My time at the VCCA artist residency in Auvillar is sadly coming to a close. There will be much to miss. Roasted chestnuts/bedding airing on windowsills framed by blue shutters/ children who pass you in the street and greet you politely with a Bonjour, madame/the accordion music that drifts out of the house by the bend in the road/the long, silent hours of uninterrupted writing/the sharing of creative trials and tribulations/the weekly communal meals/the telling of time by the tolling of church bells rather than the screen of an iPhone.
And of course, the gorgeous countryside. I sometimes feel like I am on the set of a French version of Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. Come and join me on the bike ride I took this morning and you’ll see what I mean. Allons-y!
I had a very productive writing residency here, and I also completed a labor-intensive painting, entitled Les murs, The Walls. Walls in medieval villages like Auvillar speak of the passage of time. They reveal glimpses of centuries gone by, the marks of masons and artisans long gone who added to existing layers rather than destroy what came before. In this painting, I have left traces of multiple layers in the hopes of creating a textured, timeless piece. The result pleasingly resembled a fresco – another wall association!
Oh, and if you’re headed this way tomorrow night, please drop in on our literary salon:
Artist and writer Lilianne MILGROM will introduce the project that she is working on while in residence. She will show us the artwork by Gustave COURBET that has inspired her writing and then read an extract of her novel in French and in English.
Lilianne Milgrom says “My life revolves around art – creating art, looking at art and writing about art. My work can be found in both private and institutional collections worldwide.”
“The current residency in Auvillar is the first residency in which I am concentrating primarily on writing rather than painting. I am working on a novel, inspired by Gustave Courbet.” www.liliannemilgrom.com/
Poet Kathryn LEVY will introduce her work in French then read several of her poems in English as well as a couple in French.
Kathryn LEVY is author of the poetry collections Losing the Moon and Reports, a finalist for the 2014 Midwest Book Award. Her work has appeared in various journals including Slate, Hanging Loose and Seattle Review, among many others. Her numerous writing fellowships include awards from Yaddo, MacDowell and VCCA.
These kind people made up part of the audience during my last public speaking engagement in Paris’ Saint Germain des Pres as part of the opening ceremony of The Bridge exhibition. Considering that I spoke in French, I didn’t do too badly (so I’m told). The more one speaks in public about one’s art, the greater the understanding of one’s own work – the inspiration, motivation, and process leading up to the final piece.
This past year has been filled with such opportunities. I would highly recommend that artists not shy away from speaking engagements or interviews if they get the chance. Sure, it takes a lot of preparation and time away from the studio, not to mention the stress and nerves that go along with public speaking. However, there are benefits:
Forces you to order your thoughts and take the time to think about your art
Gaining unexpected insight into your own work
Engaging the public who are often receptive and interested in what the artist has to say
The feedback is usually very positive and sheds new and often surprising light on your work
Making yourself known to the community
Speaking engagements often lead to further invitations and added interest in your art
My upcoming talk ‘Can Art play a role in the ever growing divide between cultures and religions?‘ will cover general and specific examples of how art can be used as both a weapon and a tool for social justice. Some of the topics covered will be the recent terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo, The Bridge exhibition, Nazi propaganda and the importance of art that bears witness. As for my list of benefits, the press release about my work and presentation caught the eye of Northern Virginia Magazine and that led to a feature article in today’s culture and entertainment section!