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)

 

Memorial Day (Commission) – Origin Story

collaboration, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress
This Spring, I received a captivating commission request. Chris Weber and Jack Gingrich were long-time employees and soon-to-be co-owners of The Herbfarm, a restaurant that creates thematic 9-course dinners showcasing the exceptional seasonal food and wines of the Pacific Northwest.

In his initial email, Chris shared The Herbfarm’s compelling origin story. Theirs is an inter-generational story of hope, ambition, success, tragedy, resilience, and grace. At its essence, this painting would be about inheritance and legacy ~ my creative core. As I read it, I could clearly see how every layer of this painting could correspond to a chapter in The Herbfarm’s life.


On our site visit, a few more things came into focus. The decor of the restaurant is formal Victorian, which is not in my artistic wheelhouse. Having an abstract piece was going to be a departure, so I wanted to keep it simple, organic and elegant. I wanted the painting to feel like a weathered, textured rock face you might encounter on a hike. Against the dark walls, this statement piece would be mostly white and monochromatic. We decided on a diptych with a circle connecting the two halves, but wanted to make sure the two halves could also stand on their own. And mimicking the restaurant’s palette, I limited my paint palette to natural, earth-based pigments ~ ochres, umbers, saffron, indigo… 

 

The following process photos show the evolution of this painting. The captions are pulled from Chris’s initial email…but you can find a beautiful rendition of The Herbfarm’s history on their website.

The original owners, Carrie Van Dyck and Ron Zimmerman, started this restaurant in a plant nursery; Memorial Day 1986. 

 

 
It was built from the ground up…

 

The restaurant flourished…

 
…receiving national recognition and a dedicated cult following within a decade. 

 

 

 

The Paths We Travel

Art, Exhibition, family, Gallery, Narrative, Origin story, Story

Artist Statement

As a kid, I found it comforting to think about how wildly the universe had to conspire just so I could be here. I would lie in bed and think about all the serendipitous moments that had to happen just so my Tanzanian father and South Korean mother could meet, halfway around the world, and have me. I would think about the epic stories of love, betrayal, sacrifice, migration, survival ~ all the random encounters and deliberate life choices extending back generations that had to happen just so my parents could meet and have me.

And as I got older, made friends and met their families, I realized that everyone has stories that are epic in scope ~ even if their families have lived in the same town for generations.

Every one of us is the embodiment of the life stories of our parents, our grandparents, our ancestors. We carry their stories forward with us, whether we’re conscious of them or not. But make no mistake ~ we are all here because of these stories.

Making art is how I make sense of these stories I’ve inherited about who I am and where I come from…and the stories I’m now passing down. As a mother, I feel compelled to think about where I stand in this flow of cultural inheritance and legacy. These paintings reflect the internal and external landscapes that have been traversed just to reach this point where our paths could cross in this gallery, in this city, at this moment in time…

Currently on exhibit at
Columbia City Gallery (Seattle)
through Jan. 5, 2020.

Nine Elephants – Origin Story

Exhibition, Narrative, Origin story, Story, Works In Progress

Backstory:  Twenty years ago, I was reeling from the upheaval of my Saturn returns. So I rented a beach cabin and spent 4 days in silent meditation, writing about what values I wanted to guide my life choices.

photo by Zorn B. Taylor

I came away from that retreat having whittled my list down to nine values…values that my spirit animal exemplifies. I got a tattoo of 9elephants as a reminder of the Being I aspired to be.

The theme of 9elephants has since informed my activism and filmmaking. It’s the name of my production company. These values formed the cornerstone of our wedding vows 16 years ago, and the foundation of my parenting principles 11 years ago. And so I suppose it was just a matter of time before this recurring theme manifested in art form…

 

5/8/18 – Starting my new biggie piece (36″²) while watching Hari Kondabolu’s Netflix special that dropped today!!! Wood glue burn of my Chagga nickname written in Korean — which will hint at land masses in the final piece. The paint palette will simply be the colors of the Tanzanian flag.  And so it begins, again…

 

5/8/18 – End of Day 1: I’ve been having WAY too much fun painting a background watercolor.  Most of this will be obscured when this is all done. But I am a big believer that all the energy, attention and intention I pour into each layer will be felt in the final piece. The beauty is in the making…

 

 5/12/18 – Saturday morning, added layers of encaustic and oils to this Biggie piece today. Reminds me of Tanzanian kitenge cloth.

 

5/18/18 – After putting this painting in Time Out for a week, I had a huge AHA! moment while writing this morning. My way forward with piece suddenly became clear. And now, instead of playing hookie today like I’d planned, I am completely Obsessed with bringing my vision to life!!! Folks who’ve known me a while can probably see where this piece is going…