Chateau Orquevaux

collaboration, creativity, inspiration, process, Residency

Day One

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!

View from my bed(!!!)

View from my bed (!!!)


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…

Classically trained Chef Marie brings the joy every single night, providing numerous menu options to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs.


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. 

The Stables. My studio = carriage doors on the left.

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.

Rise & Shine, Acrylic & oil on 30″x 40″ linen canvas.


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.

Chateau Orquevaux ~ September 2022 Residents

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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A post shared by eliaichi kimaro (@elikimaro)

 

Residency Goals

creativity, inspiration, Narrative, process, Residency, Story

I have the good fortune of spending the month of September at an international artist residency in the Champagne region in France. Chateau Orquevaux offers 2- and 4- week residencies to artists of all disciplines from around the world. This will be my first experience at an international residency.

As I close down my studio and pack my bags, I have a few goals in mind:

1. I will leave my oil and encaustic paints at home, and instead travel with acrylic paints, charcoal, ink, watercolor, crayons. And I want to work on paper so that I can pack all my work in my backpack and suitcases when I come home. Travel light. Keep it simple.

2. When COVID shut the world down, I took advantage of the increased access I had to teachers/mentors. When they went online with their course offerings, I was right there, ready to soak up their teachings. So the past 2 years for me has been a period of intensive learning about color, value, design, texture, best studio practices ~ just arming myself with knowledge to expand and deepen my ability to paint and see.

But the more I learned, the harder it became to paint instinctively. My brain became a bully, taking command of the creative process. All my choices became conscious, calculated decisions. I was thrilled to discover that I could apply what I know to resolve my painting at any stage ~ especially those early stages with fresh, energetic marks. The flipside was that I grew precious about my work, fearful about letting go and trusting that something better would emerge. As a result, my paintings ~ which used to be 20-30 layers deep ~ became very surface and shallow.

So my goal now is to find my way back to how I used to paint. I need to trust that all my learning is there and accessible if/when I need it. But I don’t want to lead with my head any more. I want to return to using my gut as my guide to painting my truth.

Residency Day 21

Activism, family, Installation, Narrative, Residency, Story, Works In Progress

With my title banner done, and the first “layer” of paper panels with family image transfers complete, I went to the shipping container today to do a quick install.  I took this short 30 second video with my phone to capture the look and feel of the piece.

I also wanted to test the sound. I will not be playing the audio from my movie.  Instead, I will be playing field recordings I gathered while filming on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I have 2+ hours of Chagga women elders singing the work songs they would traditionally sing to keep their energy and spirits up.  I have slowed the track down, and added a slight reverb that plays beautifully in the shipping container.

It’s so exciting to see this piece coming together!! I can’t wait to see how this space feels when I add more layers of paper to give a feeling of depth extending all the way to the back of this cavernous shipping container.  The layers of paper panels are not meant to be an actual screen for viewing the film — but rather, a surface to be illuminated with color and light.  The moving images of my family on Mt Kilimanjaro will illuminate the Korean side of my family, extending back generations, embedded in the paper.  I have lots of paper panels awaiting image transfers…but at least the way forward is clear. It’s just work. I know I can do that.

Residency Day 19

Activism, Art, Exhibition, family, Film, Installation, Narrative, Residency, Story, Works In Progress

Going thru so many family photos today, feeling profoundly still and in the flow, cracked wide open, and aware of how intertwined love and grief are for me in this moment. Really feeling the beauty and depth and value that age brings as I reflect on the complexities of our real lived lives. looking deeply into the faces of those who came before, I can see the indelible imprint of their love in Lucia’s being. Been crying on and off all day, feeling so very grateful for these creative openings….

Residency Day 16

Art, Exhibition, family, Film, Installation, Narrative, Residency, Story, Works In Progress

Today was Photo Day – tracking down, doctoring, and printing out images of the Korean side of my family. The images in the final show won’t be this crisp. They’ll be faded, broken up, washed out, imperfect…just like our memories.

End of day:  First image transfer done (my grandfather), many more family photos to go…

Residency Day 11

Art, Exhibition, Film, Installation, Residency

I’ve been laid up with a hacking cough all week. But I finally made it out to the container for a quick projection test. Total Success!!! The fact that this worked, and that it looked as good as it did in my mind, is such a rush!! 🙂 I’m bringing back all my materials so I can continue working in the comfort of my own home…

Residency Day 8

Art, Exhibition, Installation, Residency, Works In Progress

Today in the shipping container, I had a photo shoot for some upcoming press about the residency. I hung some freshly waxed papers for the backdrop, and fired up some wax to lay down the final layers on my Morning Meditation panel.  Many thanks to Anthony Bolante for snapping some extra pics on my cell phone 🙂

Residency Day 4

Activism, Art, Exhibition, Film, Installation, Narrative, Residency, Works In Progress

For 40 years, journal writing has been my key to unlocking my story.  I write to explore the stories I’ve inherited about who I am and where I come from, and to examine the stories I am passing down to my kid.

This journal writing has also served as my gateway to art.  When stories surface in my pages, I figure out the best medium to express these emerging stories, I immerse myself in learning a new creative language — film to explore Dad’s side of the family, encaustic mixed media for Mom’s side.

So today, I pulled out 40 years of journals, and then took a stencil and paper cutter to the pages to carve out the letters for my title banner…