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My Work with Focus on International Residencies

Artist’s Talk – West Virginia University at Morgantown
February 2008

Work of Carol Hummel with Focus on International Residencies

Slides of India running while I give my introduction
Hello, I’m Carol Hummel and I’m a sculptor. I’ve spent the past couple years making art and traveling – primarily in India – so today I’m going to talk to you about my art and the benefits of international travel and art residencies.

My undergrad degree is in Photojournalism and I have a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from Kent State. I’m a conceptual artist – which means my artwork is idea driven… and I draw inspiration for my pieces from ideas and experiences about what I know best – my life. So, thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a life that’s been pretty dysfunctional at times – you know, the usual – alcoholic father, abusive husband, strange relatives, wacked out friends – and now I have plenty of weird and wonderful travel experiences to feed my creativity…

But while art has always been one of my driving passions, as it often happens, life got in the way – you know making a living, getting married, raising kids, attempting to grow up and evolve as a human being… So it wasn’t until seven years ago -- when I decided to divorce my husband – that I said “OK, it’s MY turn and I’M going to do what I want to do” which is make art and see as much of the world as possible. And as soon as I found out about art residencies, I knew that they were a way for me to accomplish this goal.

There are thousands of art residencies around the world for traditional visual artists as well as writers, composers, filmmakers, photographers, performance artists, choreographers, installation artists, architects, art historians, scientists and scholars. Seven years ago there were 4,000 artists in residencies in American communities alone. Basically, residencies are artists’ communities run by professional organizations that provide time, space and support for artists so they can nurture their creativity in places rich in stimulation and community. They’re located in all sorts of places from rural countryside to urban warehouses. The programs and facilities vary widely – from relatively expensive places that provide total seclusion and spoil you totally to fully subsidized residencies that let you trade your skills for the artistic experience. Residencies differ – vastly -- in atmosphere, cost, degree of seclusion, competitiveness, size, and length. But most residencies try to gather groups of artists with diverse cultural, social, geographic, and disciplinary backgrounds.

For me, the first step toward my goals to make art and travel was to get an art degree… Although I had a photojournalism background – and there are residencies open to writers and photographers – I wanted to express my ideas through sculpture. So, I went back to school in 2000 and started building my portfolio.

At first I had real difficulty deciding what to create – there were so many different options, so many different directions in which to go, so many talented people around me, that I was creatively paralyzed. But once I realized that I could simply take the ideas from MY life and turn them into artwork that would – hopefully – connect with other people’s lives, the creative process became much easier.

This “discovery” occurred when I was in Sculpture II and had to make a project that used “multiples of a form.” I was totally freaked out! Here I was, an older lady in a class of college kids and I didn’t have a clue what to do! But I read and listen to the radio a lot and science programs and articles are my favorites. At that time the lead story was about Dolly the sheep being cloned… they were creating MULTIPLES of a form! DUH!!

So I decided to use the CONCEPT of cloning and create a laboratory where you grow babies instead of sheep. My mom had always used Grow Lights to raise her African Violets, so I decided to “grow” these babies inside light bulbs. So the first bulb in each series would be empty, the next would have a tiny egg in it and over the 9 bulbs, the embryo would grow into a baby until the last one broke and the baby was “born”. After much experimentation and MANY failures, I finally figured out how to create very clear light bulb babies using clear cast resin and fetuses sculpted out of Sculpy.

My final piece had 5 strips of 9 grow lights
SLIDE #1 -9 STRIPS
the first bulb was empty
SLIDE #2 – EMPTY
and in the successive bulbs, the fetuses grew
SLIDE #3 and SLIDE #4
until the bulb broke and the babies were born
SLIDE #5
In my final piece, 3 single fetuses and one set of twins made it full term and were “born”
SLIDE #6
and one aborted at 5 months.
SLIDE #7

When I was finished, I proudly hung my piece, thinking that I was making some deeply moving statement about genetic engineering and cloning.
SLIDE #8
I watched as people walked through the installation, oohing and ahhing and –then -- CRYING! The range of emotion the piece evoked was – to me – amazing. By the end of the night, I had heard that my piece was pro-abortion, anti-abortion, about their abortion, their miscarriage, a friend’s miscarriage… I don’t think one person made the connection to cloning or genetic engineering.

But I learned a VERY IMPORTANT lesson that night: everyone connects with the world – and artwork – very personally, through THEIR eyes, THEIR experience, THEIR history, THEIR filter. WhiIe this piece began with an event that I thought was interesting and culturally significant, the piece transcended MY ideas and connected very personally with each individual viewer. In other words, “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as WE are.”

Since then, I’ve always kept this revelation in mind when I create pieces of art. Whether my sculptures are about a scientific idea, my abusive marriage, or a cultural phenomena, they only BEGIN with my personal perspective on the subject. My goal is to create something that transcends ME and my ideas and connects – very personally – with the experiences, thoughts, or emotions of EACH of the individual viewers. If I do this, I feel I’ve succeeded with the piece.

I’ve brought along some of the light bulbs that you can pass around and look at as well as a couple samples from another piece called Baby Vegetables.

From that point I concentrated on learning as many skills and processes that I could, and I began paying more attention to my stories, experiences, thoughts, basically, my life to come up with ideas for my work… Not for what they meant to ME, but as a way to lead viewers into THEMSELVES and THEIR experiences… and maybe, just maybe, connect with – and find shared comfort in – the deep feelings and insecurities that are common to all of us.

“You Are Ugly” is a piece that illustrates this point well. The idea for this piece started with the following story from my life:
Every day he told me I was ugly – in a look, a scribbled reprimand, words, his absence. From
The day of our marriage until I called it quits on February 26, 2000, he had told me I was ugly
6,943 times. On that day, I realized the truth: He is ugly. I am beautiful.

To illustrate this idea, I took a 25’ long roll of rice paper and using a manual typewriter, typed “You Are Ugly” 6, 943 times.
SLIDE #9 (CLOSEUP)
I dipped the paper in hot wax and hung it in the gallery
SLIDE #10 (OVERVIEW)
I didn’t create this piece to get sympathy or to purge myself of the ugliness I had personally experienced in fact, to me, this piece is a declaration of independence, a realization that personal beauty and freedom can triumph… after all, the scroll does end!

But like the Light Bulb babies, people view artwork through THEIR eyes and THEIR experiences. On the first day I hung this piece, a 20-year-old student walked in and promptly burst into tears. Being an astute individual, I realized she probably wasn’t crying about MY screwed up marriage. When she finally turned to me and said, “This is my life,” I realized that the trauma of my 20-year-long marriage had – through my artwork – connected to the trauma in her 20-year-long life. In the big picture, MY story was insignificant, but my ART was significant because it connected very personally with this girl. And I think this point is important to remember, too, as you VIEW art… don’t worry about what the artist “means” or is “trying to say”… simply experience the art and let it connect – or not – with YOU… that’s where the magic happens!

From that point on, I’ve never had any problem in coming up with ideas for artwork – they’re everywhere – in my history, my relationships, my thoughts, my dreams, in books, magazines, movies, on TV, in conversations, in silences, in the stories of strangers, in India!!… What does it all mean? How are we alike – or different? How do we relate to one another, to our culture, to the environment? What are the common threads that hold our societies together and the differences that tear us apart? Where do we find comfort? What causes us pain? How can we grow, evolve, reach our potential?
The ideas are there even though it’s still VERY DIFFICULT to translate these ideas into artwork

But I find that the more passionate I feel about the idea, the more interested I am in putting in the immense time and effort it takes to create the pieces. In recent years the issues that have captivated my interest – because of my divorce I’m sure -- are those involving personal awareness, potential, and choice as well as the forces that attempt to demean, control, manipulate and destroy.

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater is a piece
SLIDE #11
born from these issues…. The idea for this piece came from personal experience – my failed marriage to a very controlling man and my escape from that marriage. I used a well-known nursery rhyme to anchor the basic concept… “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater had a wife but couldn’t keep her; put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well.” But while the nursery rhyme has Peter entrapping and keeping his wife, I wanted my piece to be about the impossibility of keeping – or controlling – another human being without his or her consent. To demonstrate this concept, I built contradictions into each of its main elements.

I constructed the pumpkin “jail” out of solid steel bar similar to that used in actual jail cells. However, I designed the spacing of the bars so you could squeeze through them if you wanted to. I polished the bars to a creamy silver finish to make them attractive and alluring, even though they ARE bars of a cell.
SLIDE #12
I placed a throne-like chair inside the jail that was modeled after an electric chair, but instead of straps to hold you in, the back of the chair is a ladder that enables you to climb out.
SLIDE #13
I upholstered the chair in bright colors – to look beautiful, plush, and inviting – but used straight pins for the upholstery with half of the pins poking dangerously outward
SLIDE #14
The scale of the structure was selected to mimic the feeling of a jail cell – large enough to exist in, but not be comfortable in.
SLIDE #15
I wanted the piece to be simultaneously beautiful and dangerous, alluring and repellent. I wanted it to be about endings and beginnings. When people view this piece, I want them to consider THEIR relationships, THEIR situations, THEIR histories, THEIR lives.

This piece – and the concepts behind it – led to a series of work in which I used crocheted afghans to explore the endings and beginnings of relationships as well as the continuing repercussions from these relationships.

Mother-in-law #1 (240”x120”x2”)
SLIDE #16
was inspired by a story about my first mother-in-law and a very ugly afghan she gave me soon after my marriage. .. It was so ugly that I used it for absolutely everything…we had picnics on it, the kids used it as the rug in their treehouse, the dogs slept on it, it lived with us during our day-to-day lives… it remained long after the marriage ended. And that is the larger issue behind the piece: what remains after relationships end? The fact is that relationships do unravel… we choose some relationships and others are thrust upon us, but in both cases, many of these relationships unravel. However, the affects of these relationships resonate within us long after the relationships end. Therefore, the unraveling of the afghan represents the unraveling of relationships … but even though the strings are regrouping and moving away, the strings are still connected….there is a continuing connection to and impact from these relationships even as new relationships are formed.

Similarly, Red Carpet (72”x72”x120”)
SLIDE #17
is about the unraveling of one aspect of life and the formation of a new one. Although the afghan has unraveled, its arms are wide open, welcoming the new… and the debris of the unraveling is regrouping and inviting in the future with its red carpet.

Stepping Out (72”x72”x120”)
SLIDE #18
too, has come undone, but has rewoven its tatters and is moving forward… as you can see in the beginning formation of slippers
SLIDE #19 .

To me, it’s important to realize that relationships are tenuous, whether you like it or not, but that each and every interaction we have resonates within us and those around us. The afghan pieces are about simultaneous endings and beginnings, about comfort and discomfort, some of the basic processes of life...

These pieces brought me to Cozy (96”x108”x60”)
SLIDE #20
I still wanted to illustrate personal power and resilience and the fragility of the human experience, I was still fascinated by the ideas of comfort and confinement, but I wanted to address these concepts on a more global level. I found my inspiration in the following childhood memory:
When I was seven-years-old and my little sister three, she moved into the hall closet and I moved into her crib. I filled the crib with my stuffed animals and blankets and pillows. I was safe. I pretended that we were on Noah’s Ark, but since there was just one of each kind of most animals, they paired up as they pleased. We rolled through the waves, singing and laughing. We weathered violent storms and avoided sinking until my big sister yelled at me to shut up.

This story takes me to a place where I felt both safe (in the crib) and threatened (by my sister). I felt completely in control (of the crib) and totally controlled (by my sister). Therefore, this sculpture serves as a metaphor for the situations faced in adulthood that are simultaneously comforting and controlling, entrapping and empowering and explores issues involved with the difficulties inherent in trying to grow beyond the confinement of controlling forces.

Levels
SLIDE #21
addresses similar concepts but in an entirely different way. It utilizes topographical mapping as an analogy for the strata of human existence and understanding. In one regard it’s about the physical mapping of a place and its topography. I mapped a stand of brush, created a grid, selected 4 trees within the grid and remapped it in the gallery. On another, it wraps the topographic divisions in colors of crocheted yarn, representing the various levels at which cultural influences impact natural objects – trees, people, our planet and also highlights the double-edged sword of these cultural influences, which are not only comfortable, but also constraining
SLIDE #22 CLOSE-UP
This piece is currently on display at the Heights Arts Gallery in Cleveland Heights.

Tree Cozy was – until recently -- on display in front of Cleveland Heights City Hall
SLIDE #23
For this piece, I crocheted a cozy for a living tree – a big one! I covered the tree – a natural object – representing masculinity and strength – with a cozy – a handmade covering representing femininity and comfort. On the most obvious level, it is a piece of clothing, personifying the tree and keeping it cozy and colorful throughout the year, enhancing the beauty of nature.
SLIDE #24
On another, the brightly colored crocheted cozy wraps the tree in personal and cultural nostalgia evoking memories of bygone times and places when life was good. On yet another level, the cozy softens the strong tree form while also emphasizing it. It simultaneously caresses and encases the tree.
SLIDE #25
and fluctuates between comforting blanket and suffocating cover-up; it conceals as much as it protects.

Since this piece, I’ve created cozies for two palm trees in Florida
SLIDES #26 and #27
and a tree in India during my residency in 2005
SLIDE #28.

This led to a piece I did for a show at the
SLIDE #29 BOXED
Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland. I love how the art critic for Scene Magazine described it: “Like Spider Man on drugs, Hummel has spun a thick, multicolored web of yarn over both the gallery’s open areas, complete with grandmotherly cozies over parts of the railings.”

Conceptually, this piece is about the tug-of-war between comfort and confinement. Each strand of the soft yarn evokes memories of comfort and home while simultaneously tying and binding space itself. Like other pieces, this is meant to be analogy about life. From the moment we are born, we are wrapped by the influences imposed upon us by family, environment, and culture. We are continually transformed by these interactions; changed by each thread of influence.

Boxed led to an environmental piece I did in 2005 at the Stark Campus… Before going to India the first time, I spent a month doing a major installation at the Stark Campus with the help of student and faculty volunteers. Approximately 300 volunteers wrapped the environment in 875,000 feet of yarn over a 4 day period.
SLIDE #30 and #31

There were two installations. The larger measured 375’ long by 50’ wide at points.
SLIDE #32, #33, #34 .
The smaller measured approximately 50’ x 30’
SLIDE #35

And so….. getting back to my goal to do Art and Travel, during a four year period, I obtained my MFA and built up a portfolio and resume….. I also created a website www.carolhummel.com ….and I was ready to apply for art residencies…

My favorite website for researching residencies is www.resartis.org because it is nicely organized by country although if you Google art residencies, you’ll find an abundance of great sites. Art Calendar is a monthly magazine that lists residencies as well as show opportunities, internships, jobs, art competitions, and scholarships. And there are quite a few books on residencies…. I brought three of them for you to look at if you’re interested.

But before applying, really think about what YOU’d like from a residency… although many Europeans and Asians get MONTHS off each year, we all know that it’s not easy to get time off in the US… so you need to figure out how long you can you afford to stay away from your “real life”… residencies last anywhere from a week to a year or more… And on a similar note…. Most residencies (with the exception of Japan and a few others) don’t pay for your travel to and from the residency so you have to determine how far away you can afford to travel... My solution to travel expenses is to constantly use credit cards that offer Air Miles… but make sure you pay them off each month or you end up with NO points and skyhigh interest!

Even more importantly, think about what you hope to accomplish during your time away? How much solitude and seclusion do you want or can you handle? Do you want to be alone or in the midst of an artists’ community? If money is tight – as it is with most artists -- do you have any skills or time to trade for fees? Answering these questions up front will narrow down the number of residencies you want to apply for and will also give you the energy to tackle the sometimes long application procedures.

Artists apply to a jury or panel for the residencies by submitting specifically requested items such as resumes, images of past work, and proposals for how time will be used during the residency. If the application is successful, the artist arranges the details of the residency with the staff. Depending on the residency, artists may receive free accommodations, workspaces, meals, and/or materials… or some money toward living expenses and materials… or nothing at all... or they may be required to pay a fee for these things. Just because some residencies charge a fee, don’t rule them out – they’re still a bargain compared to renting a studio with state-of-the-art equipment, low-cost (or free) materials, and the technical expertise of experienced professionals…. Not to mention the interaction with other artists and making valuable professional contacts.

During the residency, you’re pretty much free to work as much or little as desired…. How you utilize your time is your choice – Relax and recharge? Research? Manic production? It’s up to you. Some residencies do require artists to donate some community service work each week and/or donate a piece of work to the organization at the end of the residency.

When applying…. Read the requirements carefully and follow them completely… As a review of the basics…. Keep in mind:

• Your RESUME is verrrrrry important… make sure it is perfectly prepared, edited and proofread by someone who is not you and is good at that sort of thing
• GOOD PROFESSIONAL IMAGES are a must… If you invest in anything in your career, invest in professionally shot -- and Photoshopped if necessary -- images. They are your lifeblood to residencies and shows.
• Most importantly, PRESENT YOURSELF AS BEST YOU CAN…present yourself –whoever that self is -- clearly and concisely. If proposals or artists’ statements are required, keep them succinct and to the point and – again -- have someone other than yourself proofread them. The more personal the writing is, the more danger there is that you will overlook errors in grammar or thought.
• Finally, make sure that the entire package -- each of the elements -- is NEATLY AND ACCURATELY PRESENTED. You can include a cover letter listing what you are submitting, but keep it short.

Remember above all else, the jurors are looking for quality work. However, different residenceies are looking for different sorts of quality – some prefer innovative, experimental artists….others want well-honed traditionalists… and still others want something in between. The people reviewing your application are undoubtedly looking for a certain type of artist. So, if you have submitted a professional application and still get rejections, REMEMBER -- IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL … keep applying. If your work doesn’t appeal to one jury, it might appeal to another, so don’t give up.

Keep in mind that getting a residency depends a lot upon:
• which residencies are advertising at the time,
• what they are looking for in their artists at the time, and
• how many other artists are applying to that residency at the time.
But things change constantly… organizations hire new people, which can drastically affect who gets selected… many juries are drawn from the creative community so the perspective of the judges changes each time applications are reviewed… there are many variables, so don’t take it personally and keep applying.

And finally… APPLY TO A LOT OF RESIDENCIES… Although you think you’d rather go one place over another, don’t limit your options. A successful residency depends so much on the other artists at the residency, on the administrative and creative support staffs of the organization, and upon how you fit within these groups that the place almost becomes secondary. If you like the people and the creative environment, your experience in the place will almost surely be positive. In 2005, I wanted desperately to go to Japan (I thought) but got a 3-month residency in India instead and have now spent a total of 11 months making art and traveling in this unexpectedly wondrous country. During this time, I have been constantly surprised and amazed -- by the sights, the sounds, the smells, tastes, textures, people, and experiences.
SLIDES -- INDIA #36, #37, #38

I went to India in November of 2005 for a three-month art residency at Global Arts Village in New Delhi. Fourteen artists – photographers, painters, sculptors, textile, video and ceramic artists -- from around the world spent 90 days absorbing the culture and creating art.
SLIDE -- INDIA #39 – SENSORY
When I went there I thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t…. I was so bombarded with sensory input that I literally could not THINK for the first month I was there.
SLIDE -- INDIA #40 – SENSORY

I’d walk out of our artists’ compound and instantly be overwhelmed by the environment – the streets were living rivers of animals, humanity and machines – cars, trucks, rickshaws, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, oxcarts, pedestrians, elephants, camels – and, of course, cows wandering around everywhere!
SLIDE -- INDIA #41 --COWS
Vehicles were honking incessantly and careening through a town filled with flowers, filth, shacks, shining new buildings, women in vibrant saris,
SLIDE -- INDIA #42– SARIS
men in vivid turbans, barbers cutting hair at the edge of the highway, children begging, men playing cards, ornate temples, statues of Hindi gods…
SLIDE -- INDIA #43 –TEMPLE
And the markets were even wilder…. When we went in search of art materials, we found ourselves in a maze of narrow, twisting streets teaming with vendors selling anything and everything except what you’re looking for.
SLIDE -- INDIA #44 – OLD DELHI
Although some spoke English, most spoke Hindi and haggling over prices was a sometimes impossible challenge. Negotiating has never been one of my favorite things to do and until I learned the ropes, I would return to the Village –exhausted -- with very few art supplies.

But, eventually, I learned how to deal and also that the Indian people LOVE to talk … LOVE to laugh…. LOVE to have their pictures taken… and LOVE to sit and drink tea while showing you their merchandise.
SLIDE -- INDIA #45 – VENDORS
My lack of progress with creating “art” really bothered me at first .. until I received a newsflash from my brain which said: Quit TRYING to create, instead simply absorb the environment, and inspiration will flow naturally from the experiences and ideas you pick up along the journey
SLIDE -- INDIA #46 –TRAVEL
At that point, I relaxed and became a conscious observer of and enthusiastic participant in day-to-day life in India…

During the residency, I created three pieces for the art show that was held at the end of the residency. I crocheted another cozy for a tree
SLIDE #47
the exciting part of this piece was that instead of the hydraulic lift that I had in Cleveland, I had a couple bamboo ladders stabilized with bricks.
SLIDE #48

It also drew a lot of attention to our show and was featured on several TV spots and in the Times of India. The second piece I did was a Space Wrap that wove together yarn from the US and metallic thread from India -- emphasizing the interaction of the two cultures
SLIDE #49
And the last piece – Chrysalis – were cocoons constructed of saris -- a comment on the emergence of Indian women from second class citizenship.

As a result of this show, I was invited back to a show in India during November of 2006. For this, forty-three artists from around the world gathered in Bodhgaya – the place were Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree until he became Enlightened – to create site specific artwork commenting on World Peace. I created three pieces of work:

1. Buddha Bound features a tree tightly bound by rope in the colors of the Buddhist flag.
SLIDE #50
Buddhist thought supports freedom of being – thought, action, will – but through this concept they are sacrificing some personal freedom and binding themselves together as individuals, as Buddhists, as beings in this universe. And like the rope on the tree, this philosophy not only wraps and holds them together, it also binds and constricts them. Therefore, this piece is a reminder that all influences should be carefully considered and then accepted or rejected to ensure that they add to comfort, not confinement

2. Family Photos is a collaborative project that I completed with artists from Ireland
SLIDE #51
and Australia (that were in the residency the year before) …. We feel that World Peace can only be accomplished if it begins at the personal level .
SLIDES #52, #53, #54, #55, #56
‘Family Photos’ celebrates the incredible and unconditional welcome afforded to visitors in India where families invite virtual strangers into their lives and homes including them in family-orientated rituals and celebrations. During a 5 day period, we each had our photos taken with 200 Indian families and then invited them to our show to receive their photographs as a gift from their newest family members…. The piece emphasizes our desire to connect and communicate with people on a very personal level.

3. The last piece – Bushwhacked – is a flipbook that
SLIDES #57, #58, #59, #60
is about the duality of the powerful influences in the lives of individuals and serves as a reminder that vigilance is essential in seeing the truth within each influence.. The Hindi Gods specialize – Vishnu is “The Protector” and Shiva “The Destroyer”. Each is clearly identified as to its primary purpose. George Bush is not so easily identifiable -- a protector to some, the destroyer to others, and a combination of the two to many. This duality is highlighted in Bushwacked as Bush morphs between the two in this flip-book

As important, though, as the work I have produced, participation in these projects has provided me with numerous contacts from all over the world. During the past two years, I have had the opportunity to live and work with fifty-five artists…. I have become acquainted with many, many visitors, curators, reporters and collectors… In addition, following the art events, I spent seven months traveling in India – absorbing its culture, getting to know its people, having adventures and experiences, and making friends both inside and outside of the art world. I have been exposed to ideas from all over the world that I could not even imagine prior to my journey’s start.

While I was in India, I was awarded for a residency offered by The Center for Land Use Interpretation in Wendover, Utah. So, I spent this past summer out west in the HOTTEST, most dangerous environment I’ve ever encountered. THIS is an interesting story…. I proposed a really cool project – to crochet a virus on the roof of the hangar where the Enola Gay -- the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima – was built. It got accepted and I spent a month crocheting 300 “cells” varying in size from 12” to 3 feet in diameter. I figured out how I’d install them
SLIDE #61—Enola Gay hangar
on the hangar. I drove a couple thousand miles to Utah in my Ford Focus overflowing with “cells” only to be told that I could not use the Enola Gay hangar.

And this is where my experience with site specific sculpture kicked in. I had 300 crocheted circles and I was in the middle of the Salt Flats – an UNBELIEVABLY awesome desert made of salt – that’s surrounded by mountains. It’s 115 degrees during the day. I have 5 weeks to create something. And so the process begins…. This is how you make site specific art:

1. Check out the place you have to work with. I had a salty desert surrounded by mountains that was VERY HOT during the day and inhabited by rattlesnakes, scorpions, spiders and mountain lions.
2. Determine what materials you have to create with? I had 300 crocheted “cells”
3. Think about the ideas you are interested in that could use the materials and the place you have available. THIS part took a bit of thought. I had been sooooo excited about installing the virus on the Enola Gay hangar that it was hard to let any other thoughts into my head. HOWEVER, panic helped me step back and I realized that these crocheted viruses could do other things….such as represent a manmade element intruding upon nature. After all, here I was in the middle of pure, unadulterated nature…. If man – or woman, in this case – intrudes on it, there ARE going to be some repercussions and they are NOT all going to be positive.
SLIDE #62
Soooo I came up with the idea of creating woman-made viruses oozing out of the mountains. They would be beautiful -- colorful, interesting, intriguing -- but also dangerous – intruding on the natural landscape, covering and smothering native habitats and plants, injecting synthetic material into natural environments.

Over the following weeks, every morning, I dragged my cells up the mountains and created bacterial oozes representing (wo)man’s intrusion into the natural environment. SLIDES #63, 64, 65, 66, 67 My legs got VERY strong… my body overheated in a major way…. I’d bring gallons of water to drink AND to dump on my head when it got too hot.

After I finished installing the cells, I’d have to climb all over the mountains photographing them SLIDES #68, 69, 70, 71, 72 and THEN I’d have to climb back UP and drag all the cells back to my car. It was so HOT and I was so EXHAUSTED that I’d go back to the trailer and collapse for the rest of the day (after, of course, I downloaded the photos and danced around because I liked them sooo much!)

I did installations in the mountains and on the abandoned air force base SLIDES #73, 74, 75, 76… At some point the viruses transformed into Desert Doilies – where they attacked and surrounded objects abandoned in the desert SLIDES #77, 78, 79 making them cherished items in the middle of no where.

By the time my 5 week art residency was over, I had completely grown BEYOND my original idea and was running with the new one. And, thus, rule #4 in site specific artwork – as well as life itself...

4. ALWAYS keep your options open. Identify what resources are available to you and then utilize them the best way you can. If you have a story to tell… or a place to use… or materials available…. Analyze them, utilize them, incorporate them, mold them into your own personal story… your art!

With this said, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts:

Number one…
Get out of town… travel… see what’s outside of Kent and the United States…(INDIA SLIDE #80) the world is a huge fascinating place, filled with incredible people, places, and ideas… the more experiences you have, the more ideas you’ll have… There are residencies around the world or you can just hit the road and travel. (INDIA SLIDE # 81)
Thought number 2….
Pay attention….. pay attention to every moment of your life and share what you observe and learn through your words, your work, and your day-to-day life… (INDIA SLIDE #82)
and finally…
Be enthusiastic. Remember that passion and skill are often as important as raw talent… learn as many skills and processes as possible – and learn them well -- but ALWAYS approach whatever you do with passion and enthusiasm. If you’re going to do something, make it something special, or don’t waste your life.

© 2017 Carol Hummel