VERBIER, Switzerland – So the agony is over. The “art battle” is done. My work was purchased. Saved from embarrassment, I pour myself a large glass of white wine and join in the conversation.
Zeb is the local painter who has joined us. He seemed unfazed by his public performance and tells me that he will be joining us as an assistant to partner Matt, our studio manager. The studio assistant is a crucial piece in the residency. They cater to the artists’ needs, getting materials and equipment, solving problems with construction and installation, and often providing a subtle form of counseling.
As the week progresses Julien has carved and cast his way through a ton of cement fondue and is continuously covered in a veil of dust and clay—a real worker. He is obviously deeply organized and there is a quiet assurance in his manner. This work will be finished on time.
Onyedika is carving a 40-foot-long tree, teasing out a barley twist along its length. The tree is fascinating because it is two that have grown into one—as he puts it, a kind of “Siamese twin.” It is very elegant, and its white surface seems flesh-like and demands to be stroked and caressed when you get close to it.
Sabine is on the mountain filming with her collaborator. Her performance involves crash mats and fur pelts. We are all intrigued to see the outcome. Meanwhile, Elly has had to retreat into the cabin at the end of the tent, as her video equipment is too delicate to withstand the dust and turmoil of such an environment. The video artist tends to spend a lot of time “rendering.” This is a tedious but necessary process whereby the video is prepared and formatted. It demands long hours of staring at the screen are the result.
We have been invited to the opening of an exhibition in the Alpine Garden a few miles from Verbier. The artist is Nicola Zaric, a Swiss artist who has quite a reputation here. The setting is simply staggering. The Alpine Garden is a real gem. The sculptures sit among the blooms and foliage of a remarkable array of plants. Zaric’s work is composed mostly animagus-type forms, goats heads on human bodies and hares articulated like human marionettes. It’s strange work but done with a certain flair and very well presented in the amazing location.
These trips offer us some respite from the toil in the studio, serve to refresh the mind and move the focus away from the repetition involved in the manufacture of objects. My hands are slightly swollen and I am aware that I have used nearly half my stock of 2,500 nuts and bolts.
We return to Verbier ready to eat. Another significant factor in the residency is food. We are extremely lucky to have the wonderful team of Jo and Eileen cooking for us. These two talented chefs make fabulous food, and our mealtimes are an oasis of pleasure and relaxation. This is the perfect time to discuss the day’s activity, plans and upcoming events. While consuming freshly made Thai fishcakes with coconut sauce on a bed of glass noodles in coriander and lemon grass salad, we all agree it doesn’t get much better than this.
During the meal, Kiki tells us that Paul Goodwin will arrive later in the week. Paul is the curator of the current 3-D Foundation residency. He has selected the artists here and has provided a critical structure that underlies the reasons for us being brought together on the mountain. But more pressing is our invitation to the Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais. We have been offered the chance to produce and edition a print with Francoise Locher, a highly respected artist at the school.
And I thought things couldn’t get any better!
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