Applied Feb 1 2019

Letter of Intent for the Residency:

This letter is to express my intentions while working as an artist-in-residence at The Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in Brittany, France.

I have been working on a body of work since 2015 titled “In the Garden During the War.”  Under this umbrella concept, different branches grow and bear fruit in a rich and diverse selection of media and approaches as collaboration and independent projects. The work is rooted, however, in the overarching understanding that I am like the jester in the King’s court, or the gardener in the garden during the war.  This “war” is not only political, but ecological, spiritual, and I would argue extremely personal too. It is not confined to just our species. It is beyond national boundaries. It is ongoing. I comprehend this complex reality with one simple phrase: We are in the garden during the war.  The garden can be many things.  I see it as both ourselves (made of stardust) and the actual spinning Earth that we call home, 92 million miles from the sun and undergoing its own transformation with the current unprecedented geological epoch: the Anthropocene.

While at the residency I would continue this body of work, but do so in a place that is removed from the chaos and cacophony and constant brainwashing that is life in America, particularly since Trump came into the spotlight in 2015 and when this work started maturing and taking shape.  The past nearly three years have been like being held hostage inside of a nightmare.

In Brittany I would focus on a few major branches that are currently very active within my studio practice. The first, “Breaking News!”, is a project that allows me to work directly on the walls of my studio to create lifesize bodies that are reading fake newspapers, the news that I believe we humans want to read and deserve to read.  The work is a combination of drawing, sculpture, assemblage and performance, rendered and witnesses and captured as photography/video. It is collage in its entirety, a form of storytelling. Lately I have been inserting my own body into these scenes and I would continue that while in-residency.  I would bring these scenes out into the open while in Brittany to see what happens when it intersects with the “real” world. This is a very rich strain and I want to keep following it to see where it leads. I would experiment with writing the news in French, not just English.

I would keep writing and drawing everyday, like I am now.  I am currently on the third chapter of a book about my experience in America, specifically Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where I am based, called “Reporting from the Garden During the War.”   It is very important to my own understanding of what I am doing as an artist, and what is actually happening in the world to do as much research as I can and then turn that into a form of creative writing that supplements my visual work as a way for me to literally write the war down, to pin it down,to see it in this other clear language that is stripped nearly bare on the page before me.  

The drawings are another way I write, probably the most important work I do as an artist.  For me drawing is the first and most essential language within my own practice and there are many ways to do it that I like to play with.  I would focus on two series of drawings in particular. “Drawings from the Garden During the War” is a series of drawings of gardens that I am recalling from my memory, rendered with pastel on paper.  In Brittany I would make drawings of the garden directly from life - “en plein air” - because the light is so exceptional there.  I would draw the natural world around to see the garden in a very deep and connected way. And I would keep drawing the almost cartoon-like depictions of a character with a hat who is embedded out in the field, a series I call “Drawing from the Field During the War.”  I do these in ink on antique stationary or other types of paper.  Both of these series are shown in my work samples.

I would keep writing songs, of which I have over 20-30 now that are finished and need to be recorded. This has been an important outgrowth of my time over the past couple years when I finally realized I needed to get my voice and get it soon.  No time to lose. I make the songs under the name Helene Augustine, a family member who died in 1901 at a young age.

I would use the time to decompress, breathe fresh air (I live in Pittsburgh where everything is toxic) and take advantage of the light and the buildings and do and make as much work outside, “in the garden” as I possibly can. I would “plant” myself into Brittany, a return to the country I love so much and miss so dearly, where I lived for almost a year in 2005-2006.  Returning to France now almost 14 years later as a much more mature and grateful artist who understands the path is extremely hard and there is no right or wrong way to do it would be a wonderful victory and homecoming.

Work Samples:
Breaking News!
- Color archival photographs of the studio assemblages, 14” x 11” or 14” x 14” each, Edition of 5, 2018
Drawings from the Field - 3 drawings from collection of 8, Ink on antique stationary, 9.75” x 6.25”, 2018
Drawings from the Garden - 3 drawings from collection of 11, Pastel on paper, 8" x 4", 2018

Reporting from the Garden During the War, with Greta Thunberg’s Report at the Davos Economic Forum in 2019
Color video in studio, sound
2:50 total

Reporting from The Garden During the War, as Helene Augustine who Recounts the News as Stories, This is THE INTRODUCTION to the war
Color video, sound
2:02 total