While in residence, Alston Watson (Roanake Rapids, NC) started and finished Gully, a heist drama told in 30 pages of action. Alston had originally intended to produce a series of paintings, which would handle the genre of New Southern Gothic with “cathartic social critique.” However, days before leaving his studio at NYU he conjured a story told in bold graphic narrative: in a not so distant future, Dirty Bird and ‘Lac are two brothers who devise a drug heist to make ends meet and help their uncle’s struggling junkyard. Alston took on a directorial approach to drawing. Freeze-framing scenes from popular action movies like Kill Bill and Paid in Full provided cinematic composition to the plot. Alston drew on memories of family friends and places from his rural upbringing in North Carolina to bring the brothers’ drama to life. Gully is Alston’s first comic book and foray into the world of graphic narrative.
“I want to tell stories of real people—from incarceration and murder, to tribulation and triumph. This type of black storytelling and cultural documentary are largely missing from the Western canon. I feel responsible for doing whatever I can to fill that void and represent both myself and the people I know in the most capable manner possible. This is for the kids who threw tied up sneakers over telephone poles.” In the world of comic production, Alston has found a powerful manner.
Alston plans to incorporate the healthy workflow he made routine at North Mountain into his daily practice in New York. He intends to create and publish at least three more issues of Gully and revamp his studio’s digital set-up to make the comic’s production efficient. Next spring Alston will complete his degree in NYU’s Studio Art program.
Keep up with the adventures of Gully and Alston’s practice at alstonwatson.com and @ALSTON2008.
Jessalyn Aaland (Emeryville, CA) sees the potential for classroom space to function as liberatory space. Parallel to her work as a teacher-educator at SFMOMA, she makes artwork specifically for teachers to use in their classrooms. Jessalyn has defined an art practice as “a series of problems you’ve created for yourself to solve.”
At North Mountain, Jessalyn embarked on solving creative problems old and new. She planned the next volume of her project, Class Set, a free artist-designed set of posters for K-12 classrooms with an accompanying curriculum guide. She began an investigation of public education through sculpture. Then she detoured into collage, using old nature guides, school supply catalogues, and an abundance of stickers. With these materials she embarked on a process of selecting and cutting out images of simple classroom objects and graphic utopian ideas – the things that seem to represent the poetic possibilities within an ordinary K-12 education. The imagery of plants and flowers made their way into her compositions, inspired by her regular walks in the woods where she spent a lot of time intently looking at the ground. Her last two collages were more personal – she used them as a way to process leaving her teaching career behind five years ago. She parses the difference between her past and current work: “My sculptural and social practice work is research, planning, testing, and then implementing, whereas collage is intuitive. They reveal themselves to me.”
This October, Jessalyn will be an artist in residence at SÍM Residency in Reykjavik, Iceland, and during 2018-2019 is a fellow at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In spring 2019, she will begin prototyping and fabricating her sculptures at Real Time & Space in Oakland, CA. Keep up with Jessalyn’s practice at jessalynaaland.com.
Tristan Gordon (Northampton, MA) is a composer and ardent shape note singer. Shape note or Sacred Harp singing is a participatory practice of singing music in the style of early American hymns and folk tunes. It is not oriented towards an audience who listens patiently to performers. Instead, it is a practice for members of a community to come together and sing for each other collectively. Singers take turns choosing and leading songs, providing everyone a chance to direct a song. This aims to restructure conventional hierarchies often found in performance and ignites a deeper sense of community.
Many shape note tunes are named after specific locations, often referencing where they were written or a source of the song’s inspiration. Goose Neck, a road junction at North Mountain, is now a title of one of Tristan’s songs. “I find myself and many fellow singers excited and intrigued by different encounters with place, like an unfamiliar landscape, an old chapel’s acoustics, or a community of singers that one visits.” Might Goose Neck be sung as a trail guide to understanding a new place?
While in residence, Tristan spent a lot of time outdoors. Their short walks turned into long hikes along the trails, which soon became off-trail explorations. On July 4th, an intense storm washed water and forest debris down the mountain, revealing new trails. The natural formation of the new trails inspired Tristan to contemplate the shared qualities of trail building and songwriting: “Trail building guides people through a place in an intuitive manner, similar to writing music that will be singable by groups of people of varying abilities. I hope that my trail building leads people to a place they would not otherwise go.”
After leaving North Mountain, Tristan will continue to compose and sing with others, including in Sweden at the second annual Uppsala Sacred Harp All-Day Singing. Follow their explorations and participation in the Sacred Harp tradition at tgrdn.com and learn more about shape note singing at fasola.org.
North Mountain hosted the ILSSA Group Residency, an opportunity for self-study, exploration, and redirection. Inspired by feminist sociologist Kathi Weeks, ILSSA organizes this group residency “not so that we can have, do, or be what we already want, do, or are, but because it might allow us to consider and experiment with different kinds of lives, with wanting, doing, and being otherwise.” As Weeks suggests, the ILSSA Group Residency is an example of “collective autonomy,” offering “freedom as the time and space for invention.”
Now in its third year, the ILSSA Group Residency is an experiment in living: creating the time, space, and place to imagine new ways of being. Consisting of skillshares, readings, reflection, walks, individual practice, cooking, shared meals, meditations, and conversations, the ILSSA residency creates an opportunity to reimagine and redirect our lives after the time on site. The 2018 ILSSA residents included Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Mari Jaye Blanchard, Amanda D’Amico, Nike Desis, Tristan Gordon, Emily Larned, John Labovitz, Stina Soderling, Erin Sweeney, and David Yockel Jr. Member-led workshops included zoetropes, metaphor, discussion of Weeks’ The Problem With Work, sonic meditation, and bookmaking.
2018 was also the inaugural year of the experimental ILSSA Family Residency. Following the Group Residency, ILSSA Co-Operator Bridget Elmer and member Sheryl Oring brought their daughters to North Mountain to join ILSSA Co-Operator Emily Larned for an additional week of shared meals, collaboration, and conversation.
Read more about ILSSA at impractical-labor.org.
“I specialize in sunny side up eggs, Swiss rolls and layer cakes, tea time sets, crone witches with familiars, mischievous cats, kimchee buffets, and noodle bowls.” Jai Arun Ravine’s (Charleston, WV) miniature kitchen scenes of clay polymer evoke the intimacy of domestic family routines, food, eating, and a relationship to their mother who recently passed. Jai notes that sculpting has been a kind of grief-work: “I find that working with my hands on such a small scale helps to ground me in my body as I work through my grieving process.” Using the natural outdoor and indoor settings of North Mountain, Jai stages the miniature figures in scenes to shoot in stop-motion photography, telling short personal narratives. Jai’s sculpting practice departs from a long career in dance and writing. Interested in how materials retain the trace of the body, movement, and time, Jai began experimenting with 3D modeling. They model the figures and objects using childhood memories and family photographs.
Jai is making West Virginia their home again for the first time since leaving fifteen years ago. In June they will travel to the Yew Mountain Center in Pocahontas County to further their interest in outdoor work, foraging, and garden practices. Contemplating their new and old relationship to the state, they remark, “My time at North Mountain is the beginning of a path. I’m asking myself, How does my artmaking relate to my social practice? How can I bring it in conversation with social justice? Food justice? Racial justice? I want to find a way to reckon with the state I’m from and find a way to make change here.” To see more of Jai Arun Ravine’s work, visit jaiarunravine.com.
Jeremy Dennis (Shinnecock Indian Reservation, Southampton, NY) makes his work personal. He starts his research by interacting with a site, often hiking, marking specific locations, returning to them again and again; then he introduces props, costumes, and his own body. In his ongoing photo series, Stories (2013–present) and Rise (2017–present), Jeremy uses digital photography and creative editing to manipulate indigenous stereotypes, mythologies, and their relationships to contemporary culture and landscape. The terrain at North Mountain provides his practice with ample natural space, but also the liminal areas of human intervention in nature. “I’m interested in places with artificial features, landscapes that are both managed and natural.” He activates these spaces with his particular brand of visual wit: “For many viewers, my photographs are the first visual representation of indigenous people they encounter outside of Hollywood movies and sports mascots. Humor is an invitation to be in on the culture.”
After leaving North Mountain, Jeremy embarks on a fellowship for documentary storytelling at Skidmore College. In August, the Parish Art Museum in Southampton will host a solo exhibition of his photographs. See more of Jeremy’s past work and ongoing projects at www.jeremynative.com.
Jessica Gengenbach (Austin, TX) focused her time at North Mountain producing prints in the downstairs studio. She started with a drawing, then cut it up, rearranged it, and glued it back together. Next she scanned it, flipped and scaled it in a photo editing software. She transferred it to a copper plate with carbon paper, and started to make marks on the surface with sandpaper and a pointed tool called a scribe. This technique is called drypoint, and unlike other intaglio processes such as etching, it creates an image that degrades under pressure from the press. This process encourages variation, making subtle changes to the image each time Jessica prints it. The print’s subject is a small figure sitting side-saddle on a billowing horse-like body. Though atop one another, the two figures belong to different worlds — the small character looks off frame morosely while the horse charges into a pair of legs, into a chess piece, then into two arrows encircled by a snake.
Jessica’s works tells pictorial allegories of the old West. Her characters are haunted by American promises of freedom; they dramatize her timeless landscapes with their suffering. Developing a brick pattern by burnishing a large plate with steel wool, Jessica produced a landscape element to use again and again in different compositions. “I’m striving towards the most economical descriptions of landscape in these compositions.” She imagines collaging this pattern into multiple scenes for future dramas.
After leaving North Mountain, Jessica will attend Art Farm Nebraska where she will develop her prints into paintings and collages. See more of Jessica’s past work and on-going projects at https://jgengenbachart.com.
As 2017 closes and we look to the horizon, we see the 2018 season ahead: new friends and partners to collaborate with, risks to take, and political waters to cross. In these interesting times, small grassroots projects seem more meaningful, more potent, and more critical for sustaining the spirit of creative risk for social change. We’re excited to continue our role of North Mountain participating in this process.
Making a donation to North Mountain Residency is tax-deductible and helps our mission to make art-making more accessible. We are fiscally sponsored by the amazing Alliance of Artist Communities. Please consider donating today.
Keep up with the happenings at North Mountain as we start our journey into 2018. Follow us on Facebook or on Instagram (@northmountainresidency / #northmountainresidency). Or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on for some highlights of how we spent our time on North Mountain in 2017.
We changed how we refer to our project from ‘artist residency’ to simply ‘residency.’ We’ve found that the identifier ‘artist’ can be divisive and exclusionary, and is often reserved for those that have received expensive, formalized training. A primary mission of North Mountain is to be equitable, inviting, and open to all creative people. We have learned that being direct and explicit about our values served us well this year in drawing together the inventive, thoughtful, and engaged people that make our work so fulfilling.
From May through October, we hosted four three-week individual sessions and three one-week collective sessions, with a total of 20 residents. Some highlights:
- An electronic music producer composed new material for her upcoming album release.
- A casket designer invented new ecological burial rituals.
- A hip-hop activist media group collaborated on new tracks.
- A food writer focused on political eating in her watershed’s region for a book.
Visit our news page to read more about our residents who put their shoulders to their respective wheels at North Mountain Residency during 2017.
We collaborated with Shepherd University, the nearby liberal arts university, to host the multi-skilled artist, casket designer, and parade producer Katrina Brees. Katrina organized community workshops to empower locals to design their own funeral rituals, and installed her first solo show in Shepherd’s Phaze II Gallery. Her line of eco- and ‘ego’ friendly fabric caskets and gurneys turned the gallery into a funerary showroom. Read more about Katrina’s work and NMT’s collaboration with Shepherd.
The farm dogs, Ruth and Paisley, have found it both functional and fashionable to don winter wear during these cold months on the mountain. Reflective and resilient, their florescent orange reminds us of the warm summer months that lie ahead.
Happy holidays and spirited blessings for the new year from us all.
– The North Mountain Residency team (John, Susanna, Anne, and Francis)
North Mountain hosted Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA) for its second group residency. “ILSSA offers thoughtful opportunities to reflect on certain aspects of impractical labor/art making and collects that data and shares it with its members and larger art-going audiences.” Four ILSSA members arrived with their individual interests and skills, and a shared interest in art as social practice. Through common meals, skillshares, walks, idea exchange, and book recommendations, the group found “the time, space, and place to both focus (narrow) and to imagine (wide).”
Susanna caught up with ILSSA members to hear about the group’s mission and time on site.
What is ILSSA about? What does it facilitate for its members and community? Nike Desis: Through regular mailings, ILSSA offers thoughtful opportunities to reflect on certain aspects of impractical labor/art making and collects that data and shares it with its members and larger art-going audiences. It does this by facilitating surveys and exercises and other outlets for declaration (i.e. manifestos) and then republishing, exhibiting, making, and hawking them. The whole project is expertly curated/conceived by its co-operators. The data, paper objects, research materials, essays, and posters are beautifully printed and sent to individual members, who do not know each other, or each other’s work, necessarily. It’s not about direct communication within the group, though it is very much about solidarity. As an ILSSA member, I feel like the issues raised in the ILSSA literature and exercises invites the kind of reflection that actually supports the maintenance of a creative practice.
Who came out for the NMT residency this year? What are their practices and how did they use NMT? Nike Desis: I make zines, posters, stationery. I occasionally write. I also consider my group work in non-hierarchical/not-for-profit/community or consensus based/small/arts-related organizations part of my practice. At NMT, we were able to talk about issues that I perceive to be central to ILSSA’s output: investigations into narrative, labor, meaning, group work, and creativity. We helped Emily collate and pack the next mailing for ILSSA, so that she could send it from West Virginia. Emily Larned: As both ILSSA Co-Operator and outside of ILSSA, my practice could be described as publishing as a socially engaged art practice: reading, thinking, writing, collaborating, editing, designing, typesetting, printing, binding, collating, shipping, distributing, community building, repeat. We shared so much at the ILSSA Group Residency: meals, skills, walks, ideas, books. Katie Latona: My practice speaks to a redefinition of home space and work space: how we mark these borders in our lives, and how those markings have become increasingly messy and inexact. Being in the quiet and beauty of a rural setting only helped to clear my mind of distractions, find some focus, and be able to catch my breath. John Labovitz: Although I’m a practicing photographer, typographer, and printmaker, my main gig these days is running North Mountain. So for me, life at the residency is a normal rather than exceptional event. This is my home. It was refreshing and educational to see the place and use the time as a resident here. I enjoyed observing how others were inspired by the place, and by seeing how I have been so directly inspired by ILSSA in the formation and continued evolution of the residency program.
Was there anything particularly generative, or better yet, re-generative about being in a rural residency setting? Emily Larned: The time, space, and place to both focus (narrow) and to imagine (wide). Laying out in the orchard on a warm sunny afternoon, I read Kathi Weeks’ book The Problem With Work, which contains a line that summarizes for me the main gift of the residency: the opportunity “not so that we can have, do, or be what we already want, do, or are, but because it might allow us to consider and experiment with different kinds of lives, with wanting, doing, and being otherwise.”
North Mountain was proud to host the activist media and music group 1Hood Media (Pittsburgh, PA). “1Hood Media is a collective of artists and activists who believe that art is the best way to challenge inequity, raise awareness, and unify humanity. For members, 1Hood provides a space to learn, explore, challenge and create. We offer a variety of programs including 1Hood Media Academy, 1Hood Select, 1Hood Presents and 1Hood Artivist Academy. These endeavors engage youth 16–25 in media literacy, performance art, artist sustainability, and liberation literacy (our term for movement and navigation of social justice oriented spaces and concepts).”
We were excited to learn how they occupied North Mountain to activate their collective and respective practices.
Jasiri X is a writer, author, speaker, rapper and the Creative Director of 1Hood. He used this opportunity to meditate, reflect, and gain inspiration for his upcoming project.
Ray Carrington is a photographer and graphic designer. During the residency he focused on documenting and videography. He also did a photoshoot for the other participants.
Idasa Tariq is a rapper, producer, teaching artist, and former Assistant Creative Director for 1Hood. During the retreat he focused on producing new beats, experimenting with new sounds, and supporting his colleagues in beat selection for their own projects.
Jordan Howard is a rapper, teaching artist, and producer for 1Hood Media. During his stay at North Mountain, he streamlined and focused on only his music.
Jacquea Mae is a singer, performance artist, and teaching artist for 1Hood. During the residency, she focused on vocal training and wrote new music.
Ayana Sade is a singer and performer with 1Hood. The residency was a more collaborative opportunity for her, as she started a new song with Jordan and Idasa, got pointers on production and beat selection, and recorded a nature walk with Ray.
Follow their progress at www.1hood.org.
The Nefertiti Alliance (Pittsburgh, PA) attended a self-care residency, and reported that “we were able to practice stillness and mindfulness, without all the hum, hustle and bustle of the city and the distractions of our home lives. The rural setting, layout of the house which provided us plenty of space to interact as needed or not, and the hum of nature rather than electronics was very peaceful, refreshing, and allowed for the type of silence one needs for genuine meditation and deep introspection.”
Susanna caught up with Taliya Allen to share about the mission of the group and how they recharged on site.
The Nefertiti Alliance, what a femme-powered name! What does this alliance do for its members and community beyond? Nefertiti Alliance is a group of women that focus on the self care and protection of the cultural capital of black women. In application, this means we continually identify and promote ways for black women to practice wellness and to care for themselves. We recognize that black women are pillars of the community, and yet are often underrecognized and undervalued. We also understand that black women are creators, innovators and cultivators that face a unique set of obstacles and barriers in the various social and cultural stratas. We recognize this by creating a space for these various powerhouses to come together and be understood, uplifted, empowered, and recharged. This Alliance is truly “the sum of its parts.” We come to create a bond, an energy, wherein we as women are replenished and able to go back and do the work of healing, community building, loving, cultivating, nurturing and wearing the many hats that we all wear.
Was there anything particularly generative, or better yet, regenerative about being in a rural residency setting? During this trip, we were able to practice stillness and mindfulness, without all the hum, hustle and bustle of the city and the distractions of our home lives. The rural setting, layout of the house which provided us plenty of space to interact as needed or not, and the hum of nature rather than electronics was very peaceful, refreshing, and allowed for the type of silence one needs for genuine meditation and deep introspection. We lit the fireplace and sat, sipped tea, danced in the house, saw a strangely beautiful convergence of birds who seemed to be plotting something, and enjoyed a walk with John through the forest. This was just the right space for collecting one’s thoughts and feeding creativity.
A little about the Nefertiti members who came out:
Celeste Smith is a writer, administrator, independent arts consultant, and speaker as well as the Chief Curator of Culture and Strategic Initiatives for 1Hood Media. She used this time to catch up on work, entertain her muse, and write creatively while resetting in the peace and quiet.
Erin Perry is a dancer and administrator who runs the Legacy Arts Project. She and Celeste, along with Staycee Pearl (not present), are co-founders of the Nefertiti Alliance. Erin used this time to reflect, practice some new dances, and write.
Taliya Allen is a writer, educator, and administrator who is the Director of Cultural Enrichment and Efficacy for 1Hood Media. She used this this time to catch up on work, reflect, write creatively, and work on her personal strategic plans, mission and values.
NOIA (Barcelona, Catalunya/Spain and Brooklyn, NY) is uncovering her process at North Mountain. Her studio space is covered in a layer of synths, modulators, drum machines, cords, contact mics, and electric and acoustic instruments. She assigns herself the task to create two minutes of new material each day. Affectionately referring to this as her “quota,” NOIA is a disciplined and inventive electronic composer.
NOIA’s beats are volcanic, baroque, and nature-oriented. As a practiced sound producer in film, she borrows foley techniques and field recordings to construct new rhythms and ornamental moods. A self-described maximalist, NOIA’s style references dancehall, tropicalia, R&B, traditional Catalan, rumba, flamenco, and experimental sound design music. Producers Arca and Ash Koosha are major influences in her recent work.
NOIA normally works with Pro Tools software, and so is using her time at North Mountain to depart from the screen. She feels that taking the time to write before entering the world of visual representation has developed her voice in songwriting and composition. “With the screen, you hear too much with your eyes. Happy accidents are easier to come by off-screen.” By taking long walks and hikes, and using the residency’s tiny housetruck for acoustic experiments and composition, she has been productive in a new way.
“I’m still learning about myself as an artist. I’m asking myself: What is my process? What is my style? Generally I’ve been very polyhedral in my output. This has been a time to go inside myself, to experiment without the pressures of judgment. I see this as a portal.”
NOIA has dedicated her residency at North Mountain to producing a new EP for her NYC/LA-based label, Cascine. But recently, “something really cool happened… because of all the new material I’m producing, its going to be released as a LP.” The new album will be released in early 2018.
Katrina Brees (New Orleans) practices in the field known as the death arts. Departing from her longtime work as a Mardi Gras parade producer, she has dedicated her residency at North Mountain to develop prototypes for a new model of burial. Part of the green burial movement, Katrina’s designs function on multiple levels. Her caskets are at once functional objects, custom art pieces, and therapy rituals that work to restore people’s relationship to death and dying.
Katrina’s residency is part of a special collaboration with Shepherd University, the liberal arts college in Shepherdstown, WV. In this collaboration, North Mountain worked with Shepherd to produce a gallery exhibition of Katrina’s caskets and business plan. The show opened at Phaze II Gallery located in Shepherds’ art school and exhibited Katrina’s caskets, gurneys, and photography.
Parallel to constructing the caskets and installing the show, Katrina developed a curriculum to teach “pro-choice” funeral planning. The workshop series includes illuminating the funeral industry’s corporate hold on burial practices, designing one’s own funeral, surveying death arts from around the world, and most importantly, emphasizing how to put the FUN in FUNeral. Through these lively workshops, participants reimagined their legacies and grew to new understandings of their own life’s purpose. She taught this workshop to communities at Shepherd University and at Berkeley Art Works in Martinsburg, WV.
Helping to make the paradigm shift to a death positive attitude is one of Katrina’s primary goals. She aims to continue producing her “ego-friendly, biodegradable caskets and empower mortals to align themselves with death rituals that effectively function within their values and finances.”
Riley Kemerling (Mansfield, OH) came to North Mountain to paint. She drove from her hometown of Mansfield through the Ohio River Valley. Stopping at road-side attractions, locally-owned businesses, and ruins of past farm life, she collected photographs and stories as source material for her residency. In her three weeks on site she found more stories to tell. She observed that her paint palette quickly became dominated by a wide spectrum of green. Her paintings progressively took on the forced perspective looking up, or looking down – the angles of observation which reflect mountain life. Among dense foliage, glimpses of American consumer culture peep from behind the green coverage. Her work evokes a history of American painting traditions. Carefully entwining culture with landscape, her scenes bring to mind Edward Hopper’s quietude, Norman Rockwell’s Americana, and Ed Ruscha’s deadpan. One small painting depicts the iconic tail end of a Ford Explorer hanging above a lush cliffside, a blue tarp foregrounding the familiar and banal rear window. In a larger painting in progress, Riley depicts a modern coal mining operation. In large gestural brush strokes, she creates tailings and banded stripes of road ways. For more of Riley Kemerling’s work, see rileykemerlingstudio.com.
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, her 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
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
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.
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.
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.
The Rockefeller Foundation asked North Mountain program director Susanna Battin 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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
North Mountain hosted Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA) 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.
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.”
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…
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.
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) 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.
In 2016, Megan produced Creatures, a short film based partly on footage that she shot during her residence here.
Elaine Luther (Chicago, IL) 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.
Anne Hollister (Santa Barbara, CA) 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.
Susanna Battin (Los Angeles, CA) 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
Natalie Buckley-Medrano (Boston, MA) 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.