My wife’s eyes glazed over a little bit when I said, “I was accepted for a three month residency in New Jersey”. Three months. I felt like packing right then and there, let’s get this show on the road! That wasn’t an option, there were leaves to clean up, pinewood derby cars to build with the kids, and numerous projects around the house that I’d been putting off; it was time to get them all done. Well, almost all done.
Let’s start by getting the thanks out of the way. Thank you to Johannah Hutchinson, Jeanette Darr, and the entire ISC for this opportunity. Thank you to Mana Contemporary for this unbelievable facility. Thank you to Bradley and Mary Ehrsam for letting their space on the 4th floor be my space too (at least temporarily). Thank you to past resident Gina Miccinilli for all her help on this adventure. Last, but not least and most of all, thank you to my wife and children for putting up with me being away for three months. Three months. Oh boy.
I remember the interview with Johannah and her team back in June. One of the questions I was asked was, why? Why do this, why was I interested? Especially when the only other residency I had done up to that point was only two weeks long, was I up for the challenge of three months.. At the time I answered that I felt I had gotten as far as I could with my career on my own, not to say that I hadn’t had help from a lot of people up to that point, but that I needed a more deliberate effort to expand my sphere and move myself forward. While that sounded right at the time, I’m not sure it was really what I meant or even needed. As time passed I realized this was more about an opportunity to remove myself from the reality of my daily life and allow me time to immerse myself in working on my practice. Maybe that was more critical to my development than anything else. I guess we will find out in March. Maybe the reality will be something else completely.
Up to now, my practice has been rooted in mold making and casting. That’s casting in all it’s guises. I’ve done the obvious (bronze, aluminum, and iron), the toxic (foams and plastics), the simple (soil and grass), and the abject (plaster and urine), to name just a few. I went to the ISC conference in Auckland NZ in 2013 and got asked over and over, “what do you work in?” I heard many of the other artist attendees answer that question with things like; stainless, cor-ten, bronze. But I’ve never defined my practice by a material, so I answered that question with, “I work in ideas, not materials” (you can use that yourself, just give me credit the first time). I’ve always tried to be experimental in my work, investigating and learning about new materials and methods. I’ve used everything from the aforementioned materials to things like sod to make a full size silhouette of a military plane or two years worth of finger and toenail clippings that I saved sometime in the mid-90’s (it was weird time for me). Now this has been a really long way of saying that I want to use this residency time to move away from moldmaking and casting. Well, not entirely, but mostly. Those processes are very expensive and very time consuming. Sometimes, depending on the final product, I might make something five times. The original pattern, a rubber or plaster mold, a wax, an investment mold, a metal casting. That’s a lot of work, especially when you utilize a lot of repetition like I do.
So how to do something new and different while I’m at Mana? Going back to the interview, I was asked what kind of work would I make if I were accepted into the program? Well just like I started grad school after a ten year absence from making art, I felt that I’d likely begin with something I was comfortable with (in my wheelhouse so to speak) and then begin to branch off into new territories. Oftentimes an artist’s biggest flaw is self-editing and I try to be very aware of that as a pitfall. Putting some rules in place for myself will hopefully help avoid that, force me to work in ways I might not otherwise, and break me out of my mold (pun intended). The most limiting of these rules, it’s gotta be available at the local hardware store or I can’t use it. That should keep me away from the expensive platinum silicone and urethane materials I’ve been gravitating towards to execute my ideas as of late.
Luckily the hardware store sells wood, cement, and sand; so I’ve started things off with some concrete castings! It’s familiar, but at least the form is less representational, which is a departure for me.. While that cures I have time to work on other things. There’s some work I made earlier this year at a smaller scale with roofing paper and sheet insulation foam (that doesn’t involve molds at all) that I’m making larger while here. Seeing these pieces at a bigger scale will be interesting and their process is pretty labor intensive, so having no obligations for the next three months will be quite helpful in keeping me focused. I’m sure some other unexpected twists and turns will come along too that take me on journeys unexpected. I think most importantly I’ve come into this with no preconceptions about what it will be or where I will end up. It’ll be interesting, to say the least, to see what things look like in March.
Thoughts and observations.
- I’ve driven to Mana five times now from where I’ve secured housing. My GPS has used five different routes.
- People drive really fast in NJ, unless they are merging into traffic. What gives with getting onto a roadway at 20 miles under the limit where everyone is going 20 miles over the limit?
- It’s really warm in the basement at Mana. Really warm.
- I’m usually really good with names, but I’ve met so many people in the building, both staff and tenants. Right now, unless your name is Bob or Sue, expect I don’t recall your name.
- W.L. you’d love this place. It’s everything you’d ever dreamed of, I’m sorry you’ll never have a chance to see it.
By Dominic Sansone