I kept procrastinating on writing up an overall summary of my time a Guldagergaard. I wrote a draft during my last week there, only to decide that it was totally inadequate at capturing even part of my experience. Since then, I’ve spent a week sight seeing in Denmark, returned home, and tackled nearly everything I could think of that wasn’t working on the blog. At this point, I’ve run out of other errands to do and have decided, that regardless of how awkward or incomplete it might feel, it’s worth trying to really sum up everything and think about my time at Guldagergaard.
The reason I started looking for a residency in the first place was I felt I needed a push. I wasn’t in a rut, but I felt like I could see the start of one. I enjoy my critters, but I wanted to understand them more, to figure out how to make them better, and how to push myself further as an artist. In short, I’d reached a point where felt my work was in need of some growth. I figured the best way to go about this was to apply for a residency. I want to put myself in different surroundings, in a different culture as a method of shaking myself out of my habits. After some research, I decided to apply to Guldagergaard in Denmark, a place I’d first heard about a few years back. I spent a while thinking about a how to structure my residency, and looking for a project to focus. While artist growth was my overall goal, I work best with hard deadlines. I decided to finally tackle an idea that had been kicking around in my head for a while. I wanted to tie my present small monsters back in with earlier college work in installation, creating a giant swarm of beasts. I proposed making as many tiny flying beasts as I could in my time there, turning the pieces from individuals into one giant mass, an exploration of movement, numbers, and space.
In the end, Guldagergaard decided to accept my application and project proposal. I packed my bags and headed off into the land of tasty pastries, wind power, and unpronounceable words.
Guldagergaard has wonderful facilities. It has an excellent collection of kilns and work areas, not to mention it’s permanent collection of sculptures or it’s library of ceramic literature. Its location in a sculpture park is idyllic, perfect for wandering and musing. I would walk to the top a large earthworks piece with a thermos of tea and a sketchbook almost every sunny day. However, none of those are what makes Guldagergaard work – Guldagergaard works because of the people. We averaged about 7 guest artist and artists in residence during my time there, in addition to some wonderful administrative and technical staff. This means you’re constantly working with new people with wonderfully new ideas. Almost every week, someone would head back home and someone else would arrive. With them, they’d bring a different approach to ceramics. It was amazing to see so many different approaches and philosophizes about clay, and to work with so many different artists. Every night we’d sit down a communal dinner, cooked by a different artist, and talk about about everything from art to knock knock jokes.
In the end, while I definitely found my artistic growth and new sources of inspirations, also I feel like my original installation proposal worked out even better than I could have hoped. It was my first time making such a large piece with so many parts. I typically just make one beast at a time, and move on to the next. This was a very different experience, to say the least. I was very sick of making fliers at points, to say the least. I ended up making about ninety fliers, each one hand made and unique. (The idea of casting them just didn’t feel right, though it would have been faster). I made them all in about two and a half weeks, using a week and a half the fire and install them. Mette, one of the administrators, talked to a local elementary school and arranged for me to temporarily install my piece in an unused classroom. This was a brainstorm for which I’m incredibly grateful. I’d never worked with kids, and never done anything even resembling public art before. Even entering the school was strange for me. I don’t think I’d been in an elementary school since 6th grade, and I kept expecting someone to call me out on being in the hall between classes. It was even stranger once I went and hung out in the teachers lounge, and realized that some were no older than me. Weird deja vu aside, it was fascinating to see the piece come together, as I hung each beast from the framework. I had expected the increase in numbers to turn the fliers intimidating. Surely, when confronted with a person-sized mass of tiny beasts with teeth, a viewer must feel some level of threat. However, the opposite effect occurred. Instead of amplifying their slight menace, the increase in numbers amplified their joy. Each one demonstrated pure joy in movement and flight, while being frozen mid flap in a massive and likewise frozen mob. It was fascinating. I can’t wait to try and make an even larger one.
Likewise, creating an installation in a public space was also new and very exciting for me. After the work was finished, I got to talk with several of the older classes of English students and let them check out the piece. The only real interaction my work has had with the public before this has been the occasional art opening. Sure, that’s the public, but it’s the art viewing public. These were a bunch of Danish 12 to 14 year olds just trying to go through their school day – and it made them smile. I’ve always appreciated it when my work could make other people smile. This was new, and more powerful version of that. It’s made me think more about public art, installation and all sorts of crazy things for the future. And I think that in all, that’s one of the most exciting things about my time in Denmark.