Resident artist Catalina Ouyang tests an installation of her ‘hats with a heart of darkness’
A still from Catalina’s video piece, courtesy of the artist
Catalina Ouyang (St. Louis, MO) became interested in North Mountain because we’re in West Virginia, yet just up the hill from Shanghai — a sweet identity crisis of locations. How can the incidental name of a small town be a trace of a lost ancestral home? For Catalina, who identifies at once as an east coast, midwest, and second generation Chinese American, the understanding of the Chinese diaspora marks her distance from it. She filmed herself performing a series of simple motions next to the ‘Shanghai Unincorporated’ sign outside the small town, to occupy this place of no return. Catalina’s practice involves sculpture, video, performance, and writing, and she often implicates her own body in these disciplines. At North Mountain, she is on a non-didactic exploration using old sneakers, horror film excerpts, and a traditional form of Chinese hanfu hats. The old sneakers are cut, bound, then manipulated to form small zombie hats — or ‘hats with a heart of darkness.’ They recall the battlefield and relay Catalina’s interest in how Western neoliberalism has coopted the ancient Chinese military text The Art of War towards it’s own purposes. In her work she attempts to problematize this interpretation of the text by following a nonlinear and intuitive approach: ‘If there is a suspicion that things are related, they probably are.’ This fall, Catalina will be pursuing a graduate degree in Sculpture at the Yale School of Art. catalinaouyang.com
A test shot from Little Wilderness, the first feature from filmmaker and resident Lindsey Martin (photo courtesy of the artist)
Lindsey uses her studio upstairs for a daily practice of writing and rewriting
Lindsey Martin (Dayton, OH) is writing a script for a feature length live action film which includes animation, shards of glass, hatchets, and animated neuron forest. Little Wilderness is a story centered in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley, which was subject to the 2014 Elk River chemical spill from a plant that the valley depends on economically. The storyline follows the dynamics of a single-mother household coping with localized economic and environmental distress: families wait for clean water to be delivered by truck, cope with PTSD, and set and extinguish fires. Lindsey is interested in the Appalachian landscape of West Virginia not as a romanticized backdrop, but as an emotive figure within the script that influences characters and events. Noting the complexities of the region’s identity, Lindsey pulls from personal family archives and stories, and from direct interaction with the valley’s people and politics. From North Mountain she makes field trips and location scouts, grounding the events and arch of the story. In the current US environmental and socioeconomic climate, Lindsey emphasizes her ethical role as a storyteller: ‘Even in script-writing I have to ask myself, what political responsibility do I have?’ Lindsey will be workshopping her script and preparing for the film’s production in the coming year. lindseymariemartin.com
Food writer Renee Catacalos, painter/sculpter Mi-Hee Nahm, and printmaker Chelsea Clarke set the pace for North Mountain’s 2017 season.
Renee Catacalos’s collection of research material for her book, On Our Plates: Eating Local in the Chesapeake Region
Renee Catacalos (University Park, MD) is writing a book about the local food systems of the Chesapeake Bay. She uses the upstairs studio’s long table to display all kinds of research – books for reference, images, notes, and parts of her manuscript, are arranged so she can view all her materials at once. From seed to table setting, Renee works to illuminate the otherwise opaque system of food production for the culinary layperson. Every few days she follows her research to a local farm or market in the Back Creek area, interviewing farmers about their process in growing and distributing food to nearby markets, while also enjoying local flavors. The framework of the book is dedicated to eating within a 150-mile radius. She asks: what are the food systems within this radius’s watershed? What are the economic dimensions? How are food policies made? What is the viability of farms and for an entire community to feed itself? Renee arrived at North Mountain with a partial draft of her manuscript, and used the time to rewrite and expand it. She feels confident of its value as part of the broader food and health justice conversation, “It’s not just my product, but everyone’s that helped build it through conversation.” Renee will be delivering the manuscript to John Hopkins University Press for editorial review this fall.
Painting and subject by Mi-Hee Nahm in progress
Mi-Hee Nahm (Seoul, South Korea) is entering a new phase of process and production. She feels the residency at North Mountain has helped her reach a critical turning point since her two year hiatus from her practice. In earlier work, Mi-Hee emphasized intimacy, slowness, and control through close observation and repetitive actions. Her subjects were personal, and her practice methodical. She shredded journals into soft sculptural blocks, and with the grisaille technique, painted small scale portraits of women of Asian background, and still lifes of sentimental objects. Her practice at North Mountain has been dedicated to moving away from this kind of careful planning. She’s interested in allowing the act of painting to develop the narrative that might lay dormant in the materials used. Mi-Hee arrived and quickly set to work painting and drawing the interior of her studio – these pieces are now displayed on the walls which they depict. She soon moved on to painting the forest outside her studio window and an active beehive found nearby.
Screenprint by Chelsea Clarke
Chelsea Clarke (Richmond, VA) is printing, painting, carving, sewing, socializing, walking, reading, talking to horses, and steering clear of goats at North Mountain. Being on site, yet close to home, has allowed her to rediscover the value of the region. Chelsea is visiting from Richmond, Virginia, where she is part of the vibrant printmaking community. This makes North Mountain an easy drive and a welcomed escape from warehouse living and urban pace. While in residence, Chelsea has focused on her printmaking pratice, working with recurring patterns, found objects from the site, and imagery influenced by local surroundings. Stink bugs, wild roses, purple clovers, poppies, spiders, and geometric patterns have made their way into her prints. She balances her energy by rotating through multiple projects at one time at a tempered pace. Feeling the need to print on fabric, she built a screenprinting set up in her studio. Three screenprinted pillows were later constructed and now occupy the living room for balanced ambiance.
Blog-share: The Rockefeller Foundation asked Susanna to share her thoughts on the buzzword “equity.” She and three other cultural organizers and administrators – Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, Documentarian-In-Residence with the Institute of American Indian Arts; Lisa Hoffman, executive director of the Alliance of Artists Communities; and Bethany Martin-Breen, Senior Program Associate at The Rockefeller Foundation – contribute perspectives on the place of equity in their work.
Call for applications for 2017 now open! Application deadline is March 1.
We provide comfortable studio and living space for 3-week durations between May and September. Residents have access to large outdoor wooded & open areas, research assistance, small group critiques & studio visits, and simple bread making skills. While on site, residents are encouraged to engage in the ecologies & cultures of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.
We invite applications from individuals and small collaborative groups. We acknowledge the inequity that exists in art fields and creative professions, and try our best to extend our resources to people from communities that have been oppressed or marginalized. Please see our values page for more info.
NMT’s 2017 Spirit Animal, The Hellbender, West Virginia’s ‘Near Threatened’ aquatic giant salamander
In September, West Virginia’s Tamarack Foundation for the Arts spotlighted us in an interview about North Mountain. We were happy to share our history, describe our own personal arts practices, and lay out our goals for the project as we move into 2017. Read the interview here.
In October, John and Susanna both presented on different panels at the annual Alliance of Artist Communities conference in Portland, Oregon. John participated in a conversation about how residencies can facilitate experiences and resources for artists that go beyond the usual practicalities of simply a period of time and a space to work. After a brief introduction by each panelist, the entire room formed a succession of working groups that brainstormed about needs and wants of residents; how we as residencies define success; and examining how residents can continue to benefit from their experiences long after their actual time on-site.
Who Are We Serving and How? panel discussion underway at the 2016 AAC Conference. Photo courtesy of the AAC volunteer staff
Susanna presented in a panel called, Who Are We Serving and How? The discussion tried to parse the difference between non-profit buzz words – equity, inclusion, and diversity. The panel also focused on brainstorming alternative forms of outreach and selection. We were honored to feature Lisa Hoffman, the new director of the AAC, in the conversation. The room was packed with participants and the conversation grew nebulous, widening the brackets of what we usually think fits in the topic of equity. Everyone seemed to leave with more questions than answers – maybe a good sign?
Lisa Hoffman and Mario Garcia Durham introduce the session’s topics. Photo courtesy of the AAC volunteer staff
Favs of the 2016 AAC Conference: Susanna: The “kaleidoscoping conversation” organized by St. John’s artist Sharita Towne and gallery c3, which used an inclusive form of question raising around race, gender, and the art sphere’s complacency and responsibility in gentrifying cities. Favorite quote: “You’re either at-the-table or on-the-menu.” John: First, the continuing excellence of the AAC organizers in creating an incredibly useful and inspiring event. Second, the one-on-one talks we had with so many other supportive and interested folks who run residences, whether large or small. I’m so very glad we’re part of this community. Favorite quote: “We provide radical hospitality” (Amanda Kik).
Alyssa Kennamer and Evelyn Langley have been at North Mountain since the beginning of September. It is their last day on site and they have chosen to spend the daylight hours moving apple boxes, one by one, up the hill and back into the barn. There are close to a hundred boxes to move.
The apple boxes have served as a sculptural and performative landscape for the two movement-based artists/dancers over the course of their last week here. Each day, the apple boxes have been moved gradually downhill, through a series of improvisational stagings followed by 10-minute movement studies by the two, usually done independently.
“Whats the word?”
Yesterday in their second to last staging, the word “cave” was used to help direct the building of the landscape of apple boxes. In the intervals between stagings, the two discuss the experiences of moving through each study both as performer and witness. They also draw and write to record each study; they consider the process an important part of each cycle. The landscape is moving downhill, much like the channel of erosion that parallels the dirt road they are working on.
Evelyn crouches in the eroded ditch and begins crawling through the precarious stacks of boxes, her body mostly obscured from my view. She raises her hands out from the ditch and contrives the motion of dusting-hands-clean, effectively quoting the gesture while also performing it. She breaks their pre-established rules and begins to move the boxes deliberately. She hastily begins throwing them into a pile; as they roll off to all sides she continuously retrieves and replaces them. She is right there at their limit; the act could go on indefinitely as some kind of balance of conflict is reached between her body and the boxes’.
“I’m really interested in that limit. How much they can take. I’m gonna write down a few things, and then we’ll move on to the next one?” Langley asks Kennamer.
Kennamer and Langley decide to perform the next study together. They begin on either side of the box structure, both in squatting positions. Langley wraps her arms around her legs disabling herself from any normative locomotion; they can barely see one another through the boxes yet they begin moving in nearly perfect mimicry. The two artists act in performative rapport, researching while moving in a feedback loop that is nearly constant and always sharing. I could go on, or you could watch this video:
Anne Mailey (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) dedicated her studio time to a very private practice of museum-making. Within the interior of her own personal garments, Mailey creates and appliqués floor plans of art establishments, and images of artworks from the western canon of art history, specifically those she finds performative, feminist, and personally biographical. One piece, called the “Skirt of Mothers,” has been an on-going project since 2013. While in residence Mailey embroidered two new acquisitions for the Skirt of Mothers museum, Ana Mendieta’s “Body Tracks” from 1982, and Leonora Carrington’s “Self-Portrait” from 1936-37. Simultaneously she’s been working on a dream journal that she records into the surface of her personal bed sheet using thread. Her time and presence at North Mountain will be preserved in the orchards here with her final project: a collaborative time capsule in which each resident and staff was invited to contribute. A reading of the capsule’s materials and a burial was ceremoniously held on Mailey’s last night at North Mountain and is to be unearthed in about 10 years.
Mailey’s time capsule burial with rites and readings by resident collaborators, August 16, 2016
Mailey’s embroidered Ana Mendieta “Body Tracks” 1982 in progress
The Leonora Carrington “Self-Portrait” embroidery in progress on the Skirt of Mothers
Writer Rose Himber Howse (Boston, Massachussets) dedicated her residency to editing and performing research for her novel, The Stones They Broke. In her novel, Howse parses the tension between progress, tradition, and gender norms in the contemporary rural South. She (literally) places the sexuality of the characters between rocks and hard spots, setting soft bodies and emotions in the landscape of an industrial mineral extraction site outside a small town. Howse was attracted to North Mountain in part because our location somewhat evokes the settings and themes of the story. As part of her research process, we went on a group field-trip to a nearby limestone quarry. We explored grounds, marveled at the machinery, and excitedly interviewed quarry employees about the site’s history, operations, and culture.
A native of the North Carolina Appalachian, Rose lives and works in Boston.
In our second session, Pat Doyen (Riverdale, Maryland) devoted her residency to working in the time and labor intensive practice of stop-motion animation. Using a macro lens on a 16mm camera, Pat shot 700 feet of B&W film, in which she animated a delicate collage of handmade paper and found insect wings. Embracing the tactile ambience of the material, she hand-processed the footage in the laundry room sink. While on site, Pat also made a daily practice of experimenting with lumen prints (photograms exposed in the sun).
Pat setting up the camera
Pat shooting a frame
Merche Blasco (New York // Madrid) built the software, tested the hardware, and composed the audio elements for Sonic Bloom, a participatory sound performance commissioned by the city of New York for their Up Late event at the High Line urban park. Merche describes the project as one in which “participants create a communal soundscape by exploring an area of the park at night by flashlight. The flashlights trigger a grid of sensors that read changes in the ambient light conditions, sending the data to software which cues specific sounds.” In her last phase of engineering the piece, Merche installed it temporarily in the North Mountain woods, where it was tested by some of the locals. The official public debut of Sonic Bloom and the park’s Up Late event at large was reportedly a great success and drew a huge number of people wanting to play with plants and flashlights in the park at night.
Merche at the controls during rehearsal performance (photo by David Rehor)
Merche field-recording a goat (photo by Pat Doyen)
At the end of July North Mountain hosted Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts as a shared group residency, which was a first both for the artist organization and NMT. Over the course of four days, five ILSSA artists shared skills, presented individual projects, and help envision and evolve ILSSA’s mission. ILSSA identifies itself as “a membership organization for those who make experimental or conceptual work with obsolete technology…. A socially engaged art project consisting of a Union and a Research Institute, ILSSA is an evolving publishing and public practice platform committed to investigating the value of labor and mining the potential of the obsolete.” Some of the cool things that happened were: individual project critiques, tablet weaving, personal geography practices, film screenings, snuggle cooking, spinning, breadmaking, and a lot of impractical conversation. Although the weather was hot, the residents explored the areas of NMT on their own and as a group. Dan Varenka (Rochester, New York), Maria Epes (Asheville, North Carolina), Meg Wiessner (Baltimore, Maryland), Emily Larned (Bridgeport, Connecticut), and John Labovitz (North Mountain) all participated and contributed to the programming of the shared residency experience.
The group perusing Maria’s book
Meg demonstrating spinning
Dan skill-sharing delicious scones
In our first session of the summer season, visual artist Emily O’Leary (Austin, Texas) used the “sampler,” an antiquated commercial product developed for young women to demonstrate their command of needlework skills, as a form which approximates the female body at work. “The vignettes in my samplers are specific in detail but missing enough context for a viewer to be able to fit them neatly within a larger narrative, mirroring the lack of context typical of most of the extant historical samplers. Museums have thousands of samplers labored over by young women and girls, but usually the only information we actually have about the maker’s life is her name, her age, and the year her sampler was completed. There’s just the barest scaffold of details to try and hang a story on.”
Emily at work
Emily’s work in progress
Social practice artist Karen Gergely (Lamoni, Iowa) assembled documentation of her great-aunts in southern West Virginia. Her book project archives her aunts’ stories of West Virginia culture during historic social change – the coal mining boom and its decline, racial segregation and integration, West Virginia outdoor weddings, recipes…
Karen at work
Karen sorting photographs
Emily & Karen, before sitting down for a group dinner
We’re excited to announce that we’ve been accepted into the Alliance of Artist Communities’ fiscal sponsorship program. This program will give us the ability to accept tax-deductible contributions, as well as apply for certain grants. We’ll be posting more in the future about how you can help support North Mountain’s residency project. In the meantime, check out the Alliance’s donation page for North Mountain.
Megan Sullivan, who came to North Mountain last summer, has produced Creatures, a short film based partly on footage that she shot during her residence here.
Last year’s ‘beta test’ was a a great success. The experiences of the five artists who spent time at Uphill Art Farm in 2015 has helped us tune the program in many minor ways, and a few major ways.
We’ve changed the name of the residency program. The organization is still Uphill Art Farm, but the residency itself is now known as North Mountain. The name is acquired from the mountain on which the farm sits. We feel the new name is a better reflection of the spirit of the residency, and leaves more to the imagination of visiting artists.
We’ve structured the scheduling of our residency sessions to make it easier for both artists and the residency directors to plan their time. And we’ve set a deadline for the summer residency session, of March 1. You can check out the call to artists on our home page.
Megan Sullivan (Rochester, New York)
While in residence, Megan explored the surface terrain of the farm with photography, capturing still and video footage for several ongoing projects. She collected intimate long-takes and stills of the property’s quiet aesthetic qualities and used printed photographs as props to alter otherwise natural scenes. She arranged an impromptu video editing suite in her studio and left with a new appreciation of spiders.
Megan at work
Still from Megan’s video
Elaine Luther (Illinois)
Elaine arrived with a car full of materials and tools, and set to work quickly. Using methods from her mixed-media practice, she built several small assemblages and installed them in response to the wooded areas and dormant orchards on site. Some are still yet to be found.
After many months of planning and preparation, North Mountain hosted its first group of artists in July.
Anne Hollister (Santa Barbara, California)
Anne began a project to create visualizations of her family history and their westward migration, from the early 17th century up to the present time. Based on both genealogical tools and primary sources, she developed maps and charts that expressed both rootedness and movement. Following her time at North Mountain, she traveled to New England for further on-the-ground research.
Anne at work
Maps and charts
Susanna Battin (Los Angeles, California)
Susanna took interest in North Mountain’s location as a site of continual transformation. Using off-hand iphone photos and journalistic jots, she documented an evening’s walk in a short book and multi-page PDF entitled To the barn and back. She culminated her time here with an installation that integrated the particular history of the borders of this land, its past function as an apple farm, and the vernacular architecture of a stile.
“Sometimes all it takes is rearranging the furniture.” – Susanna
Susanna’s project sketch
Natalie & John bringing in the ladders
Natalie Buckley-Medrano (Boston, Massachussets)
Natalie proposed building an herb spiral just outside the front door of the main house. She began by observing the local environment, including the path of the sun, soil types, and available materials, then determined the layout that best suited the space. She gathered numerous local rocks from the nearby roads & orchards, and in the long tradition of stone wall builders, puzzled out how everything would fit together to make the spiral. Finally, Natalie filled the interior of the spiral with local topsoil, and planted in an initial selection of herbs. Natalie located the spiral in the sunniest spot closest to the kitchen so that future residents may use the herbs for cooking, or be inspired to plant their own herbs. It was conceived to evolve along side North Mountain and its cycles of residents.
Natalie setting the rocks
Finished herb spiral