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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moving and Starting All Over Again

My friend Anna just moved from L.A. to Austin, Texas. She sent me an email. Here's what she writes:
"Moving also means starting all over again, find a way to introduce myself in the artists community of Austin and trying to break away from isolation. How did you do it in San Diego? And how did you manage to fight the solitary confinement that the artist's studio brings upon you?"

Those are interesting questions. I moved quite a lot. Each time I moved, I almost immediately got in touch with an association, a place, a group of people. Moving means losing the previous network, it also means of course new possibilities. But one needs a lot of energy to make a new network.

monotype (Santa Fe) - 26"x17"

In 2000, when I moved to Santa Fe, I did not have a studio. I left Paris with 3 boxes - all my artwork and material stayed in France. I had to find a way to work "somewhere". Someone told me about the possibility to work at the Printmaking Center at the College of Santa Fe. I went there, brought a portfolio of images and it worked: I could come to work every day for almost as long as I wanted to. And I only had to pay for the paper and the ink, in exchange of being available to talk to the students and share some time with them. I met other artists living in Santa Fe and I slowly started to have a network.
But I moved a year later...

monotypes - (Austin) - each of them: 23"x17"

When I arrived in Austin, Texas, I knew nobody there. I read the free papers, checked things on internet, and found a very nice place, The Flatbed Press (I had again to find a way to work without having a studio on my own). At flatbed Press I could print for a very reasonable price and meet artists. And that's what I did. The only odd thing was that they were almost exclusively working with black ink. So I worked with black. The place was linked to several groups of artists showing their work in Austin, and that's how I could show my work shortly after arriving in Austin.
I had my first child that year. And then we moved again.

C-Ville cover

When I arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia, it was difficult with a baby to really find any time to work for myself. But I did not want to be isolated and I met with the team who edit the free paper there, the C-Ville. With my background in graphic design I proposed to make illustrations. And it worked. It was not well paid but it was interesting and I could work at home with the computer. I would sketch on paper, scan and then finish the images on Photoshop. The only tricky part was to go to the meetings to submit the illustrations - with the baby! After a while, I started sending the images through email.

I had another child in Charlottesville, where we stayed two years. The illustrations are pretty much the only art work I did when I was there. I was too busy with two young children to really think about a personal work.

Rio Grande and Taos, 2000, made in Santa Fe,

Some Time in the Desert, made in San Diego,
, 2x[54"x54"]

We moved to San Diego in 2004. I installed a studio in the garage and started to paint again on canvas in 2005. My first to paintings were "new" versions of the last two paintings (made in Sante Fe in 2000), certainly a needed bridge to start over - I was not really comfortable.

Shortly after that, I had a conversation with a mother who told me about the San Diego Art Institute. I went there, took a membership ($100 for a year) and started submitting every month 2 paintings: one for the "one foot show" (12"x12" max), and one for the regional show. I attended every single opening, and met some very nice people and artists.

I had the chance to get quite a few awards and to meet some interesting jurors. At the end of the first year at the SDAI, I got enough "points" to get a solo show scheduled two years later. And then the following year I got enough points again to get another solo show. Same thing the third year. (How it works: one gets points each time a work is selected and each time a work gets an award. At the end of each year, the artists can submit their total number of points. The first 12 artists or so on the list get a solo show.)

So basically for three years, I was in my studio, submitting paintings to the SDAI and going to their openings. The rest of the time I was taking care of my little ones. The SDAI submission gave me a rhythm, I made a commitment to submit every month and I followed it, that helped me to build a fairly large body of work.

I need to have goals (like preparing a show) to work, otherwise I find it very difficult to create in a vacuum.

Then, I decided to branch out with some other venues, and to meet more people outside of the circle of the SDAI. I decided to start participating to juried group shows, like at the California Center for the Arts or at the Oceanside Museum of Art.

Landscape 2 - 2005, 2x(20"x20"),
prints mounted on wood.

One important thing I think is that I am flexible. One day at the SDAI there was this call for an "International Digital Juried Show" and I really wanted to participate. But I never had made before an artwork based on digital files. It opened a BIG new door for me. For weeks I worked on digital files based on the photos I was taking all the time. I explored all sorts of possibilities, knowing that I wanted to get "simple" images. That was a great discovery.

My entry was selected and I was thrilled.

In 2006, the series "Undocumented"
(face-mounted prints with plexi, 3x[20"x20"])

was accepted in "Cultural Fusion",
a juried show at the California Center for the Arts.

After that I continued working on digital files based on the photos I take. And I still do. It changed the way I paint. because at that time I started to incorporate in my work portraits of my family, portraits of people, of friends. I never thought: "I am a painter, the "International Digital Show is not for me." I just tried. I was excited by the new possibility.

About the isolation in the studio, I rarely suffer of it, but, yes, sometimes it feels odd. I like to be by myself and to work on my images. But it has to be balanced with some nice social time. For that I am going to openings. It is good to support other artists in their efforts, good to support the galleries and the community. Also, more and more I have the feeling that my work is going to include other people -like scientists-, to be less of a "solitary" adventure and more of a social one. I love to share ideas and to put energies together. I am thinking about how to do that a lot these days.

It takes a long time to build a network. That's why right now I hope to stay here for a while! Otherwise I would have to do it all over again!


Soleil said...

I really gain a lot of insight from your blogs, this one on moving is of much interest to me as I am semi relocating in Hawaii, it is so challenging to build new networks, and especially when I am only there part time! Thank-you so much for you continued inspiration!

Michele Guieu said...

Thank you for your comment - Best of luck for your semi relocation in Hawaii!

taniabeau said...

I can identify with all you've said - I'm married to a civil engineer and we've wandered the world all 30 years of our marriage. It usually takes about a year for me to get set up and established in any new place - so I do as much internet research in advance as I can, and try and make contact with galleries/groups/individuals before I get there. The excitement and pioneering spirit is wearing a bit thin now, and I think I'm ready to go home, so I have started to get involved in UK art events.

Michele Guieu said...

"The excitement and pioneering spirit is wearing a bit thin now" - for me too! I am not sure I am ready to move again. The perspective to do it "all over again" seems really challenging.

Although I just spent a week in Moab, and I felt so connected there (as always) that I am ready to go live in the desert with my family (it is the desert here, but not the same at all)!

It is interesting that you say "home" speaking of the U.K.
It makes me think that home for me is where I live now, it is always the place where I live. I am not thinking about going back to France. But settling down a little bit here, yes, definitely!

I wish you the best for your next move - you are right, internet helps a lot for exploring in advance the possibilities of a place!