jeanine sheroes

Interview with Jenine Shereos

Jenine Shereos’s residency application was jaw-dropping. Her small sculptures made with human hair were exquisite and unique and a good reminder that small work can pack a powerful punch. Like many who come to the residency, she abandoned her initial plan and responded instead to the materials available here in Chapala. The result was a spectacular site-specific installation.  – dek

Your website features amazingly delicate work using human hair. Tell us about what this material means, why you use it, and some of the history of hair art.

leaves detailFor the past few years, I have been attracted to working with hair. I often think of my work as dimensional drawing, and as a material, hair has the potential to produce such a fine, delicate line. I love the idea of working with detritus that is part of our everyday lives but goes unnoticed, and what it means to transform such a material and attribute meaning to it. I am also fascinated with the personal quality of hair. I love that it is an extension of the self that goes out into the leaves2world and is encoded with our unique DNA. It functions as a sort of memory or a trace. There is the reference to the Victorian mourning jewelry popular in the 1800s. And then there is of course the attraction/ repulsion juxtaposition. Hair is seen as attractive and even luxurious when it is on one’s head, and at the same time repulsive or disgusting when found as a single strand apart from the head.

 

6a011168ca5559970c0133ed7833e8970b-800wiYour residency was in Chapala, a small town in central Mexico. You live and work in Boston. How was it for you being in such a different environment and how did it influence the work you did during the residency?

Leaving behind the cold, dark New England winter for a month in Mexico was a welcome change! I was incredibly inspired by the light and the vibrant colors in Chapala, and I think that really came through in the installations I created while I was there.

 

 

mantis on yarnYour residency included visual artists, writers and a musician who seemed to form a special sense of community. Tell us about how this affected and inspired you during the residency.

I loved getting together with the other artists and talking about the creative process. It was great having a broad background of visual artists, writers, and a musician, and I really enjoyed seeing and hearing what everyone was working on. I have kept in touch with the artists that I met, and getting to know them was definitely a highlight of the residency for me.

 

What can you share about your creative process during your residency? What ideas were you exploring? How did your work change during the residency?

close up bloomBefore arriving in Chapala, I had planned to work on a weaving project during my residency since I knew I would have access to a loom. After taking several walks around the neighborhoods of Chapala, I realized that I wanted to respond to the vibrant color and light of the location. There was a shop on my street that sold fabric flowers, and every time I passed by, I stopped to admire the wall of striking colors. I started buying some of the flowers and soon, despite my extremely limited Spanish, I made friends with Dora, the owner of the shop and her husband Luis. They were so kind and welcoming and we shared many funny moments! At home, I would never be drawn to working with artificial flowers, but in the context of Chapala and the space where I was working, it made perfect sense. Coming from Boston, sitting in the sun and working with color in the middle of winter felt very therapeutic for me as well.  I was also very inspired by the layout of the house where I was staying. On the second floor there was a room that was essentially four walls, but without a ceiling. There was a ladder where I could climb up to a higher part of the roof and look down on this space while also overlooking the city of Chapala. I really liked the idea of creating a site- specific installation in this space.

You have been to other artist residencies. What was special about your time at 360 Xochi Quetzal? What were some of the highlights of the residency? What was hard or challenging?

close upI loved having the opportunity to create my art while also experiencing a different culture and exploring a new place. Working in my studio, I would get into my own headspace, but the second I walked out the door I was immersed in another world. The whole experience was very inspiring and stimulating. Also, Cobra and Christian are so generous and hospitable. I really enjoyed getting to know them as well as the other artists.

Jenine, you are preparing for a solo show at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. What else are you working on?

leaves1I’m really excited about my upcoming solo exhibition at the Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst in the Spring of 2017. It will be my first solo-show since graduate school, and I look forward to pulling together many of the concepts and materials I have been exploring over the past several years. After living in Boston for ten years, I am getting ready to relocate! Beginning in September 2016, I will be the Fibers Artist-in- Residence for a year at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee.

Where can we read about and see more of your work?

http://jenineshereos.com/

This summer, I will have a piece on view at Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn, and in September, I will have several pieces from the Leaf series on exhibition at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA. Also, in October I will have a piece in the Miniartextil 2016 exhibition in Como, Italy.

You can see the projects that I worked on during the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency on my website at:
http://jenineshereos.com/section/410873_Bloom_2015.html and
http://jenineshereos.com/section/410876_rbol_azul.html

 
sue lindton

Interview with Sue Lindton

Sue has been an enthusiastic participant in our personal residency program. She has visited Chapala annually for three years and intends to continue.

We’d love to hear about your fiber art journey

I started to knit when I was five. I have always loved the tactile feel of fiber and the endless colors. I am a person who needs to make things and working with fiber gives me energy and feeds my soul.  Eight years  ago, when I got burnt out from working in the corporate world, I bought a yarn shop so that I could be surrounded by color and people who spoke my language.

I’m sure our readers are wondering how you heard about the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency program and why you keep coming back.

I currently live in the city of Melbourne and have been a long time subscriber to the Textile Fibre Forum., the most comprehensive fiber magazine in Australia. The residency was advertised TFF and there were also two great interviews, one with the founder, Deborah Kruger and another with an Australian artist named Louise Saxton.  There is something precious about time spent at a residency. You don’t have any housework to distract you and can forget about daily worries leaving you free to concentrate on your work. I love walking along the lake and not having to get into a car. The landscape on Lake Chapala is very inspirational and the Mexican people are so friendly. I’ve been coming every fall for three years and intend to continue.

Tell us about your current embroidery work

When I had my yarn shop, I had a customer who gave me skeins of gorgeous silk thread that she bought on a trip to China. I began to research silk embroidery and found out that the only teacher of Chinese embroidery in the Southern Hemisphere was a woman named Margaret Lee and amazingly, she lived in Adelaide, Australia!  I began to take workshops with Margaret so that I could learn this ancient embroidery technique. I’ve been studying with her for 2 ½ years now and take 4 – 5 week trainings at least once a year. Margaret is also a master of Japanese embroidery and I am studying that as well.

You also weave. Tell us about this part of your textile life

Museum view of tapestries of Maxima Laura

Once I retired in 2014, I decided to commit time and money to study techniques that I wanted to incorporate into my art practice. In 2016 I was fortunate to be accepted to a 3-week workshop with Maxima Laura. He is considered a National Treasure and Master tapestry weaver in Lima, Peru.  Studying with Maxima was a life-changing experience. He accepts 5 students twice a year and the workshop is held in his home studio. He doesn’t want tapestry weaving to die and as a result, he gives freely, holds nothing secret and allows us to see all his tapestries hanging throughout his house. This was a truly inspiring experience for me and my colleague.

What advice do you have for other artists?

Make sure you choose a partner who will give you the space you need to create, even if they do not understand your work or process. I married a businessman later in life to and I’ve remained financially independent from him. I recommend this. It’s better to want someone rather than need them. Dedicate your time and resources to perfecting your craft.

What are the qualities that are required for the detail oriented work you have chosen?

To work with silk embroidery or tapestry weaving it’s best to have a lot of patience and persistence. I find the work very meditative and not at all arduous. Being introverted and enjoying your own company are good qualities, since this work demands hours of concentration.

Tapestry weaving from master class with Maxima Laura

Summer Play, fish imagery Chinese silk embroidery from master class with Margaret Lee

 
CA1

Interview with Catherine Armbrust

Catherine was the first resident at 360 Xochi Quetzal. We received over 100 applications from talented artists around the world. As we evaluated the images, videos and manuscripts, Catherine’s work stood out. It was fresh, authentic and passionate. We really wanted the residency to make a difference in the artist’s work and process and as you will read below, Catherine squeezed every bit of inspiration from every hour she was in Mexico. Enjoy! -dek

Describe a typical day during your artist residency

One of my favorite parts of each day was waking up in a sunny bedroom and gazing at all the birds—especially the hummingbirds—enjoying the gorgeous bougainvillea bush outside the window.  After a Ca2little breakfast and tea I would normally work in the studio most of the day, taking a break for lunch or to run out to buy art supplies at the local papeleria (paper supplies).  Most evenings I would walk down to the lake to watch the sunset, then wander through the neighborhood to find a taco cart or cenaduria (only open for late dinners).  The town has a different personality during the day so sometimes I would shop in the mornings in order to buy salsa or herbs at the plaza and fresh tortillas at the tortilleria (torilla shop).  On the weekends I spent a lot of time down at the malecon (promenade by the lake), people watching…and knitting—I always met interesting folks when I knit on the boardwalk.    

Your residency was in a small town in Mexico, a place that you didn’t know. How did finding your way around and exploring the town affect your residency experience?

ca3The residency house is located in truly the perfect place—situated in the middle of a neighborhood bustling with small, local businesses and only about 5 blocks from the lake’s malecon, as well as a huge, shady park.  I wandered down a different street almost everyday to see what new stores and eateries I could find.  This type of wandering allowed me to not only find supplies for my collages, but also to enjoy the varieties of colors, patterns, and textures used for the neighborhood architecture and signage—which translated into my work—and discover delicious treats along the way.  One day I ran across a woman selling quesadillas outside her home; another day I was quite thirsty and found a guy selling the most delicious “diablito” drink from his bicycle cart.  Walking through town and following my inner compass rewarded me with interesting interactions and fantastic sights.  I fell in LOVE with Chapala—everyone was so kind to me—it is wonderful to be in a place where folks greet each other on the street. 

When you arrived in Chapala, you had just finished a graduate program in Fibers. What can you share about your creative process during your residency? What ideas are you exploring?

ca4I had just finished a very intense year (well, 3.5 years) making, researching, and writing about pop culture, mating rituals, gender stereotypes, and personal ornamentation.  The graduate program simultaneously built me up and beat me down, so I was extremely grateful to have this experience and time to make work on a different physical and intellectual scale.  The work I made in Chapala was still related to my thesis work in terms of materials (sequins, glitter, lace, etc.), concept (idealism in media), and masking/ornamentation (in relation to the figure or character).  Instead of large-scale costumes and installations I worked on a series of brightly colored collages based around anonymous figures/characters found in magazines and cultural archetypes—like pop stars and religious icons. 

I also had the need to work on something more dimensional so I created a small vessel (inspired by Jerry Bleem’s work) made up torn loteria cards and staples, as well as a large-scale sculpture made of hula hoops and recycled “trash” that now hangs from the side of the residency house.

You hadn’t ever been to an artist residency before coming to 360 Xochi Quetzal. How has this time alone influenced your work and thinking?

 ca6I know that most residencies often have a group of artists living and working in close quarters—a treat for folks who might be missing that type of community.  Since I had just finished graduate school I had been privileged to be a part of a close-knit art community for the past 3.5 years.   It was actually a nice change to be on my own for a bit.  I think that being alone—rather than being surrounded by other artists everyday—allowed me to tone down my “filter”.  Instead of questioning every color, material, image, and object placement as I would in graduate school, I let myself make decisions with less judgment and more freedom.  Sometimes I would ask myself, “Does this make sense?” and sometimes I would answer, “I don’t care…just do it.”  I mostly tried to follow the “What if…?” in order to see where the work would take me.  Part of me did miss being able to get another set of eyes on the work in progress though. 

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What was hard about this month?

I often have a difficult time being able to sleep in a new place.  From my first night there I slept beautifully.  That to me was a sign that I was in the right place.

ca7Having this time to just work was a gift.  I had been working long days finishing up my thesis work and writing my paper, so that routine of hours in the studio was already in place.  But this time I was more relaxed doing the work! 

Other highlights included the migrating white pelicans and hummingbirds; the holiday cheer and decorations; the family band & people watching at the malecon; the FOOD (tamales, ponche, champurrada, tacos, pozole, etc.); new friends (Deborah introduced me to Chris, Jackie, Alberto, Norman, Ernie, Rich, etc.); the sunsets; practicing Spanish; being near water; and being able to just wander and explore a new place. It was all an incredible adventure.  

I am extremely grateful for the house’s wonderful Wi-Fi—I was able to Skype with my family whenever I wanted, work on my blog, and load photos onto Facebook.  Having Internet at the house helped me keep in touch and feel closer to my loved ones.

What else can you share about your residency experience? What surprised you about it?

ca8The aroma of this land struck me the moment I stepped off the plane—it has always amazed me how a place can smell like smokeca9 and dust and sunlight and simultaneously feel so fresh and wonderful.  I studied in Guadalajara for a semester when I was an undergrad and Mexico has been embedded in my soul ever since.  I was thrilled to have been accepted to this residency—and the first of the venture no less—so that I could return to the region that I fell in love with 20 years ago.  I was surprised at how immediately comfortable and “at home” I felt in Chapala and at the house.  I would love to return to Chapala one day and perhaps follow through on the installation ideas I had.  I would also love to share the area with my husband.  This magic place has definitely impacted my body/mind/spirit in very positive ways.  Thank you so much for granting me this opportunity to explore.          -Catherine Armbrust

To read a recent interview with a video about Catherine: http://www.voxmagazine.com/stories/2013/03/07/catherine-armbrust-displays-craft-studio-show/print-story/

Justin-Lytle-289x300

Interview with Justin R. Lytle

 

6a0133ed05424c970b019104b3b017970c-800wiJustin was the second resident at 360 Xochi Quetzal. His work stood out from the applications that poured in from talented artists and writers around the globe. In contrast to our first resident whose work reflected the saturated color of Mexico, Justin’s visual and sound work is quiet and meditative. Justin soaked in the deeply spiritual energies that have been long known to the native peoples who inhabit the mountains and shores around Lake Chapala. You will enjoy reading this personal reflection. dek

How did you structure your time during your artist residency?

The first couple days of my residency at 360 Xochi Quetzel were spent in a state of sensory awe. I was quickly overloaded as I took in each sight, smell, sound and sunray. After a brief adjustment period, I slipped right into a daily routine. I would wake in my wonderfully light-filled bedroom. After breakfast and coffee, I would do some reading and meditation before venturing out to explore. I documented the wealth of local street life through photography and sound recordings. Mondays, I would set out early to the weekly tianguis market on the edge of town, where I would snake the streets in search of incredibly inexpensive quality produce. I’d grab other incidentals at the corner abarrotes or tortillarias on the walk back. For meat and fish, the market in the plaza was perfect. On warm days, the young man selling Agua de Coco was a godsend. I’d work in the studio through siesta and into the evening and would catch a bite at a taco stand or at one of the neighborhood Cenadurias at local dinnertime, around 9pm or so. Then I’d spend the rest of the night back in the studio, and prepare to repeat the process.

Your residency was in Chapala, a small town in central Mexico. Tell us about your explorations and how you found your way around.

6a0133ed05424c970b019104b3b267970c-320wiChapala was the perfect introduction to the authentic Mexican experience. The residence, situated in a lush corner of town is a mere cobblestone step away from all that the community has to offer. Following my ears, eyes, heart, and gut, I meandered virtually every street, eager to explore. I particularly enjoyed walking along the edge of Lake Chapala, where the low water level revealed mysterious exposed artifacts. Once I felt I had a small understanding of my immediate surroundings it was a breeze to branch out and explore the other pueblos along lakeside including nearby Ajijic. The bus station, just blocks from the residency house, offered efficient, and prompt service. I was pleasantly surprised by the rather new Guadalajara direct buses that would quickly escort you to the big city in style with recliners and air conditioning!

What can you share about your creative process during your residency and what ideas were you exploring? How did your work change during the residency?

6a0133ed05424c970b0192ac7d1773970d-120wiFiltering my impressions of simple moments in time experienced in a strange place and rendering them into tangible forms through the use of sound, light and fiber substrates was my chief aim when I began my time in Chapala. I enjoyed vibrant, fleeting moments: an abuelita singing beautifully out of tune for a peso on a cobblestone rocked bus, a grown man crying into a book walking along the Malecon, the siren song of a shamanic pan flute greeting the lake spirits in a simple ceremony hidden in the brush along the water’s edge. I came home with fragments of composed and found sound, sculptural mockettes, and a sense that what precisely is is far more gripping than a pristine idealistic version.

360 Xochi Quetzal is located on Lake Chapala and colors around you are lush and saturated. How did the natural surroundings influence or affect your work?

Something magical exists in the ether between Lake Chapala and Cerro San Miguel, the hill overlooking Chapala, with its looming white cross protruding from endless tones of umber. It lives in the dust kicked up by wild horses running through town, and in the confetti underfoot left by each vibrant bugambilia tree. Each detail of daily life, no matter how mundane seemed to hold more weight than what I take for granted as my daily life in Seattle, Washington (USA). Each moment felt less controlled, less sterile, and more alive. A balance exists between ugly and beautiful realities in small town Mexico, and I found the lines between the two blurred for me as time went on. As a perfectionist, learning to love the flaws was a huge step for me, and one I owe to this residency.

Some artists come to a residency with a particular creative game plan. Others just arrive open to whatever inspires them at the moment. How did you approach your residency and how did your studio time compare to what you anticipated?

6a0133ed05424c970b01901ebdc33b970b-320wiMy creative game plan flew out the window in seconds flat, and I ‘d be remiss if I didn’t admit that. I just tried to stay open. Rather than coming home with crates of finished work, I left with much more raw material and booming questions surrounding who I am, what I am doing, why it is important. My familiar creative practice, which is often a very physical, labor intensive process, felt different under these skies and somehow forced. I had to let go of a great deal. Now, with time to reflect and breathe in what returned from Mexico with me, I am reaping the benefits of my residency’s creative gestation period.

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What parts were hard?

6a0133ed05424c970b0192ac7d1bd2970d-320wiI could walk the lakeside endlessly, and found that I was drawn to it on a basis that pushed far past intellectual or even artistic curiosity, and into the realm of the spiritual. It’s no wonder that Huichols and other indigenous tribes still make pilgrimages to send offerings to the spirits of the lake. I had many experiences that I will cherish, but making my way to Tepetates Temezcal to take part in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony was certainly very high on the list. Other memories include an afternoon at the thermal springs in San Juan Cosala and trekking to the Guachimontones on the route to Tequila

I had no real trouble with language, but felt that most locals weren’t sure what to make of me because I was not an expat retiree. I was often uncomfortable using my documentation equipment because I felt like a braggart alien amongst what at times was true poverty.  Sometimes I had to let go of moments that I really wanted to capture especially in the small pueblos outside of Chapala and Ajijic. As a city dwelling person, I found myself much more comfortable on the streets of Guadalajara. I had several wonderful visits to the city and saw many of the sites including all the Orozco murals.

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What parts were hard?

6a0133ed05424c970b0192ac7d1bd2970d-320wiI could walk the lakeside endlessly, and found that I was drawn to it on a basis that pushed far past intellectual or even artistic curiosity, and into the realm of the spiritual. It’s no wonder that Huichols and other indigenous tribes still make pilgrimages to send offerings to the spirits of the lake. I had many experiences that I will cherish, but making my way to Tepetates Temezcal to take part in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony was certainly very high on the list. Other memories include an afternoon at the thermal springs in San Juan Cosala and trekking to the Guachimontones on the route to Tequila

I had no real trouble with language, but felt that most locals weren’t sure what to make of me because I was not an expat retiree. I was often uncomfortable using my documentation equipment because I felt like a braggart alien amongst what at times was true poverty.  Sometimes I had to let go of moments that I really wanted to capture especially in the small pueblos outside of Chapala and Ajijic. As a city dwelling person, I found myself much more comfortable on the streets of Guadalajara. I had several wonderful visits to the city and saw many of the sites including all the Orozco murals.

You haven’t been to an artist residency before. How did this focused time influence your work and thinking?

Truthfully it sent my mind reeling. I felt I lost the ability to pretend I knew the ins and outs of what I was doing in my practice. The questions became more important, and the answers became harder to come by. Letting go became vital, and I found I gained much more from my time when I stopped trying to force a previous practice that didn’t feel right into this new context. It brought about more opportunities once I could free myself from expectations. I am still learning from my time in Chapala. – Justin Lytle 

To see Justin’s website: http://www.justinrlytle.com/

To listen to Justin’s sound work: http://justinrlytle.bandcamp.com/track/sin-la-grimas-amigo

 
Chad-Eschman-750

Interview with Chad Eschman

Chad Eschman is an extremely talented actor and playwright from Chicago and LA. He gives us a rare, inside view of his playwriting and creative process and his honest and self ­reflective experiences at his first writer’s residency. ­  -dek

In your writer’s statement you offer the following provocative description: “I like to write about liars, the ghosts of religion, and the ways we search for and define our families.” Please tell us more about what this means and how it translates into your work.

I think a lot about the identities and roles we have as members of a family. Those roles can be based upon blood ties and shared DNA, sure, but families form in all sorts of other ways, too. Maybe it’s about sharing love, finding connections, feeling safe. Sometimes you find it with your blood relatives, sometimes you find it with others. I think the main thing is to find it. Most of my plays take place in slightly different versions of our world: the government isnotebook-cocktail-rooftop taxing our memories; little girls talk to sad angels; lonely vampires visits missionaries late at night. There’s usually something strange and dangerous going on.  I like to think about who we bond with and where our loyalties lie, when things get shaken up like that ­ when there’s a crisis you never would have expected. By moving things just outside of reality, it allows us to step back and apply the stories to our own lives. To think: if war came knocking on our doors, who would we hide with? Or fight for? Or betray?

Attending 360 Xochi Quetzal was your first writer’s residency. Tell us why it was important for you to attend a residency at this point in your career.

lake-chapalaAt the time, I was in a state of transition: moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, leaving a steady job to return to the chaos of freelancing, and trying to re­focus on acting and writing. While I’d been doing a ton of projects with our theatrical collective, Living Room Playmakers, I hadn’t written my own full­length piece in almost two years. A good friend, Jessy, came across 360XQ residency and immediately sent it my way. I had the idea for a new play, so the possibility of spending an entire month writing sounded amazing. I was also drawn to 360XQ because there would be artists working in other mediums besides writing, and that appealed to me as an inspirational atmosphere. On top of that, my grandmother’s family is originally from Jalisco, and I’d never been, so a residency in Chapala just felt right. Some artists come to a residency with a particular creative game plan. Others just arrive open to whatever inspires them at the moment.

How did you approach your residency and how did your time compare towhat you anticipated?

writing-el-arbol-de-cafeI definitely had a plan. My goal was to go through the entire writing process of a full first draft of this new play. I had the basic idea of my story and knew the major points, but everything else happened at the residency. Week one was spent brainstorming and outlining, as well as getting acquainted with the area, the 360XQ team, and my fellow residents. During weeks two and three I wrote out the play, scene by scene, entirely by hand. As I did, my outline kept changing, which was interesting. The story kind of defied me, but that was okay because it never felt out of control. Having a solid plan kept things level, even as that plan shifted. The final week I typed up and formatted the script, re­writing and editing as I went along. I completed the draft on the night before my last full day in Chapala. That felt great.

How did you structure your time during your residency?

courtyard-hammockTo be honest, I’m terrible at sticking to a consistent schedule. I often started each day with a jog down by the lake, and then I ran errands or dealt with email. It takes me a while (and some strong coffee) to get up to full speed. Afternoons are my favorite time to write, so I planted myself on the roof for a few hours and set a milestone: finish one entire scene, or write non­stop until a timer beeped, or nail down the events of the next act.  I also decided to blog every day to keep myself accountable and add structure. It was partly about the writing process, partly about discoveries I made while in residence, and partly about wandering the town.

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What parts were hard?

notebook-cocktail-rooftopThere is nothing like setting aside an entire period of time to devote to one writing project. It’s intimidating, but also liberating, and I learned that it is a great way for me to start a new play. The fact that I was in a place I’d never been before, speaking a language I don’t know very well, figuring out local rules and schedules, put me in a slightly uneasy state of mind which I found helpful, even when it was awkward.

You have worked in several collaborative settings. We would love to hear more about this process.

blogging-at-the-casaFor the past three years I’ve been co­managing Living Room Playmakers, primarily based in Chicago. Now I’m setting up our Los Angeles branch. LRP is a group of playwrights who write and produce plays for unusual spaces, and also throw some pretty good parties. There’s a couple things that make this group unique. Firstly. we write for specific locations: a mid­century furniture shop, an unlicensed concert hall, a tabletop gaming office, just to name a few. We make plays in places that belong to someone else, and are not at all designed for theatre; it feels like people are allowing us to come into their homes. So we explore, and we try to get to know how the place “works.” We look for the hidden stories there that excite us, and then we start to write. Secondly, we write as a team. Sometimes that means we’re all writing short plays that riff on a similar theme. Sometimes that means we’re breaking one big story into smaller moments that one of us takes ownership over. It’s a little different each time, but we’ve developed a process in which we are in sync from day one, sharing ideas and workshopping each other’s pages. It leads to productions that may tell several different stories, but that also have a cohesion and a flow that I find really exciting.

Tell us a little about what you are currently working on and what readings or productions are coming up?

writing-el-arbol-de-cafeI recently finished producing the first installment of LRP’s 10­minute script readings in Hollywood. The team in Chicago is putting up some pieces on the shore of Lake Michigan, and I’m helping them from afar. We’ve just launched our new website with a complete overhaul of our visual identity. I’m also having some conversations with my colleagues about our first full­scale production in LA, so we’re snooping around to find the right place for that. I’m preparing to start the fundraising campaign for Never Stop, a short film that I wrote, and which I’m producing and acting in this summer. It’s a piece I’ve been playing with since graduate school, when I became fascinated with William S. Burroughs and his book Naked Lunch. I wrote the original version using overheard conversations, stream­ of­consciousness journaling, cut­up pages of my own text, and a whole bunch of whiskey. But now, since coming to LA, the project has taken on its own life and gathered a really exciting group of filmmakers. I’m thrilled that we’re making this thing a reality.

Where can we see and read about more of your work?

I have a new website, which does include the blogging I did at 360XQ, as well as updates on all of my new pursuits.

The new LRP website has info on what we’re doing in both LA and Chicago.

My playwriting is on the New Play Exchange if you’d like to take a look.

I also send out updates on everything via Twitter, which includes my work in theatre, film, and cocktails.

donald bruce cropped

Interview with Donald Bruce Wright

As you will read, Donald Bruce Wright’s road to becoming a painter started later in life. His story and experiences in Mexico will inspire you. He’s a great example of what happens when you stay open to all possibilities.-dek

You were the first oil painter here at 360 Xochi Quetzal. Give us some background about your development as an artist, and your influences.

dbw2Making art is something that I have come to later in life. Despite having a very successful business career, I found myself feeling miserable in my 40’s.  With some professional help, I uncovered the fact that I had been repressing an interest in the creative arts.  Then, in an introductory drawing class, I also discovered that I might actually have some artistic talent.  I began taking classes, more and more over time, which eventually led me to graduate art school, where I focused on oil painting.  Since graduating in 2007, I have been working to develop my voice as an artist and find what place I want to occupy in the art world.   In this exploration, I have produced two very different series of works – one of complex narratives aimed at the collector market using realism,the figure and supporting iconography; and the other aimed at the decorator market creating unconventional, modern interpretations of a conventional, traditional subject: the still life.

My influences for these two lines of work have been very different.  All the artists whose work I admire have  strong technical skills in common. For the figurative work, I have studied both modern and classical masters.  Modern favorites include Vincent Desiderio, Odd Nerdrum, JulioLarraz, Edward Hopper, Komar and Melamid, and Neo Rauch.  Among the classical masters, my favorites are Reubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio – I especially love the Baroque era for the depiction of drama and intensity.

dbw3For inspiration in my contemporary still life inventions, I must first genuflect at the feet of Picasso.  His innovations remain fresh and exciting all these years later, as do the creations of Stuart Davis, whose work has a deceptively simple elegance.  I also try to channel the energy and fun embedded in the work of Elizabeth Murray.  David Bates is another modern favorite as is Amy Sillman for her color choices.  Actually, I am constantly coming across interesting work that affects how I want topaint.The latest artist whose work I have embraced for instruction is an accomplished Mexican painter based in San Miguel de Allende named Mariló Carral.  She uses color brilliantly and her mark-making vernacular is very interesting.

Sometimes the residency plan changes once the artist arrives. How did you spend the residency and how different was that from your original plan?

dbw4I wound up spending half of my time very differently than I had expected.  On the first Friday of the residency, my wife and I were waiting for a table at the wonderful restaurant in Ajijic called Tango.  We were admiring the art prints displayed on the walls all around the restaurant.  The senior partner in the group that owns the restaurant approached me and we struck up a conversation about the art.  One topic led to another, including the fact that I was an artist, and he asked to see samples of my work.  The next day he and his business partner decided that they wanted to make prints of ten of my paintings and put them in the restaurant for sale.  I spent many hours with them over the next few weeks proofing the work and getting it ready for hanging in the restaurant.   Through this process, I learned a lot about making giclée prints.

The rest of the time in Chapala was spent exactly as I had planned: painting new work in the studio.  I was very pleased that by the end of the residency, despite having spent so much time on the print project, I had also created two strong new paintings in my invented still life series.

Our program welcomes partners and you spent half the residency with your wife who is also an artist. How was that for you and for her?6a0133ed05424c970b01b8d09776cf970c-320wi

It was wonderful to have her there for the first half of the residency.   Adventures are always more fun when we can share them together.  Since Leslie couldn’t work on her fiber art while she was visiting, she indulged her creative needs by taking photographs.   Leslie takes lots of macro shots of nature for inspiration.  While I’m often looking at broader vistas, Leslie is noticing and documenting what’s beautiful and interesting close-up.   She really enjoyed the two weeks we had together in Chapala.

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What parts were hard for you?

One of the highlights was obviously the validation I felt when the owners of the Tango Restaurant, embraced my new work and asked to include it on their walls.  Regardless of whether those prints sell or not, this expression of interest confirmed for me that my new series of work has strong appeal and that I am heading in the right  direction.  I also really enjoyed the simplicity of my life while I was in the residency.  That is what a residency should be all about.  It was wonderful to be able to focus on little else but making art for weeks on end.  Would that life were that simple at home.

What else can you share about your residency experience? What advice would you give to other applicants?

dbw6It was surprising how easy it was to get to Chapala.  With the airport just thirty minutes away in Guadalajara, the trip in and out was easy.  I was also surprised that there were not more visitors in the town and more development around the lake, given that Guadalajara, a city with a metropolitan population of over  four million,  is only half an hour away.  In a comparable situation in the U.S. or Canada, the lake would be packed with second homes and small towns.

One thing I would say to those who might consider applying for the residency is that you have to be prepared for how rough around the edges it can be in Mexico.  It’s not for people who require their environs to be polished.  My wife and I visit Mexico regularly and we are very comfortable there.  But, I can think of many friends and relatives who would have trouble seeing past the coarseness that can be part of life there, especially in the poorer sections.  I always find that when I first arrive in Mexico, all I see is its coarseness.  But very quickly that disappears and then all I see are its charms and intrinsic beauty.  That is what brings us back over and over again.

 
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Interview with Karen Lentz

Karen Lentz was the first resident writer at 360 Xochi Quetzal. We just acquired a new space in Chapala that seemed perfect for a writer looking for solitude but with all the comforts of home. Karen was here in October 2013 along with our visual artist, Yuki Siroi, who ended up doing a mural on the building where Karen was staying. They both appreciated the growing sense of community that we are building at 360 Xochi Quetzal. – dek

Give us some background about yourself as a writer and why it was important for you to attend a residency at this point in your career.

I am writing a book around the subject of work, which shapes people’s lives in profound and often unexamined ways.  My “day job” in the technology field is demanding which means that I work on the book in leftover time, so progress is steady but slow.  The residency came at a particularly opportune time — I was about 80% finished with the manuscript, and what I needed most was dedicated time to flip the priorities and put my creative project first in order to accelerate the time it was taking and bring the work to fruition.

How did you structure your time during your writer’s residency?kl4

I would focus on writing one chapter each week, and I also spent a day every week working on submissions of earlier pieces so I could get some of my other work out there.  

Starting early worked best for me. If I got in a good morning’s work, I felt good about the day even if I didn’t accomplish anything else. I often kept going through the afternoon or evening.  Working primarily in the morning also allowed me to enjoy a siesta in the heat of the afternoon.  

How did you hear about 360 Xochi Quetzal and why did you choose to apply to a program in Mexico?

I heard about 360 Xochi Quetzal via the Alliance of Artists Communities (http://artistcommunities.org/).  I was starting to apply for residencies, and thought the setting sounded perfecta:  a place to disconnect from the usual daily distractions and also a rich place to experience.  I used to go to Mexico a lot, and had always wanted to spend more time there, so it was an optimal combination.  

kl3Your residency was in Chapala, a small town in central Mexico. Tell us about how you found your way around and explored the town.

Exploring new places is one of my favorite pastimes.  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of the world, but it is different when you live someplace.   I noticed that carrying groceries home makes a person look like a local – when I did that, people stopped looking at me like a tourist. Chapala is a small enough town that, after awhile, people recognized me and I recognized them.  I got to feel a part of the place in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.  

I never had much of a plan as far as finding my way around – I just ventured out every day and little by little, figured out where things were.  Some of my favorite spots in Chapala were the Centro Cultural, and the trail up to the top of the hill overlooking the town.  I also developed a habit of visiting one particular ice cream vendor – I really miss that!

kl5What can you share about your writing process during your residency? What ideas were you exploring? How did this time focused time influence your work and thinking?

I am used to writing in short bursts, and the time in Chapala was the opposite.  I got used to working in a more continuous way, being more immersed in the subjects over the course of a day or a week.  Usually I’d write for awhile and then sometimes I’d go out walking and think about what I was doing, or sometimes I’d do some research for a chapter.  So even when I wasn’t writing, I tried to direct all my activities toward the particular piece I was working on.  

In a way, it felt odd to be working on this book about a fast-paced, high-tech lifestyle in the middle of a town where that lifestyle doesn’t exist.  I think (I hope) that might have ended up making some of the writing more meaningful because I was very aware of the context of the larger world, even while I was examining what might be considered a particular American subculture.

What were some of the highlights of the residency for you? What parts were hard for you?kl6

One of the highlights was getting up in the morning, having breakfast out on the patio, and then sitting down to write, as if this were my job.  I can think of so many mornings where I’ve wished I could do just that.  Getting to live the life of a writer was really satisfying, even though there were plenty of frustrating writing days.  Restoring myself to a natural sleep schedule was also great, and I loved meeting so many interesting people.

The first few days were absolutely the hardest part for me, to be taken out of a routine and suddenly dropped into a new life.  I was assailed by doubt about what I was doing and whether it was a good use of time, whether I could actually accomplish what I was planning to accomplish.  I guess you’d call it culture shock, but by that I don’t mean the culture of Mexico, I mean being in a totally unfamiliar state where every minute wasn’t already packed with demands that told me what I had to do next.  It took me a week or so to get acclimated to that, to get my bearings and start to feel somewhat normal.

How did the natural surroundings influence or affect your work?

I had a favorite spot by the lake at Parque de la Cristiania in the morning when there weren’t many people around.  These moments were all about serenity — listening to the wind in the trees, following the birds in the marsh, watching the fishing boats on the lake.  Although my book isn’t focused much on nature, these times were lovely and nourishing.

kl2Some writers come to a residency with a particular creative game plan. Others just arrive open to whatever inspires them at the moment. How did you approach your residency and how did your creative time compare to what you anticipated?

For me, this was precious time, and I wanted to make sure I used it well.  I had a pretty specific game plan which I didn’t follow exactly, but having it helped me become more productive.  I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere just being open to anything, but then I had a very concrete goal in finishing the book.  Of course, plans are always somewhat ambitious, so I didn’t finish everything I wanted to, but I got close, and I definitely left satisfied with what I accomplished.

What else can you share about your residency experience? Were there any surprises?

I really appreciated my fellow resident Yuki Shiroi (see Yuki’s interview on our website), who shared the adventure and painted some amazing murals.  Every day in Chapala was a surprise, really.  I would love to come back.

To read excerpts of Karen’s work, please download here: Download The Sounds