Three weeks after returning from France, I’m finally sitting down to reflect on this residency experience and the profound impact it has made on my art practice and my life.
I spent the month of September at Chateau Orquevaux in France with 17 other artists. We’re writers, painters, collage artists, photographers, builders and makers from Iran, India, Ukraine, Russia, El Salvador, Canada, and the US. All but 2 were there for the full 4 weeks. The setting was sublime. Every resident had a private room and private studio. Just imagine waking up to this view every morning!
I lucked out by also having an en suite bathroom (shhh!!) and a private bath. And here’s the kicker ~ all meals were provided. There was never a shortage of food. Or wine. Or coffee…
Especially as a mom, having all my needs met, having nowhere else and no one else I needed to be, nothing else I needed to be doing but diving deep and creatively exploring was life changing.
My studio was in the stables, just down the driveway from the Chateau. As someone with a home studio, this ritual of walking to my work space was new to me. I came to appreciate this short commute between where I live and where I create. This distance gave me the privacy I needed to release the pressure valve and finally explore matters I’d been avoiding. With no to-do lists cluttering my mind, my journal pages were filling with hopes, dreams, and fears that needed a wide expanse of time and space to surface.
Then, with my heart wide open and vulnerable, I would head into the studio. Instead of listening to podcasts, as per usual, I listened to music. Following a tip from my writer friend Jonathon, when I found a song that resonated with the emotional space I was in (or wanted to be in), I added it to my ChateauO playlist and put it on repeat. And wow, did that open doors I wasn’t ready for. My thinky brain was no longer in command of my creative process. All I could do was paint my way through my feelings…which was one of my creative goals.
At this point, I could write about the work I made, the breakthrough pieces, my choice of medium and materials. And maybe I will in another post. But here’s the honest truth. I was ready to show up and make a lot of work. I was prepared to push myself to go deeper. I was looking forward to luxe accommodations and exploring the grounds and the town.
But what blindsided me was the degree to which I would fall in love with my fellow residents. After 2+ years of being an isolated pod person, I felt socially awkward and dreaded having to engage with strangers for 4 weeks. Luckily from what I could tell, socializing was limited to dinners and sporadic evening events.
I never imagined a gathering of such talented, brilliant, wickedly funny people. We laughed, danced, sang, cried, explored, told stories, bore witness, made art, played dress up, took chances, and bared our souls. My final Instagram reel contains no images of the mountains of art we made. Just photos of people falling in love, making memories that will last a lifetime. All in the span of 28 days.
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