Mauser Foundation Residency

Musings from the Jungle of Costa Rica

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I recently spent a month in Costa Rica with my partner Dan and our twenty-four year old daughter. We were all artists in residence at Mauser Foundation Eco House. Sounds better than it really was but it was a creative and productive adventure.

The novelty of being in such an exotic place is a draw for visually oriented persons such as myself and my family. Costa Rica is very special. There is a huge variety of flora and fauna because of the tropical conditions here, where North and South America form a connecting land bridge. There is more diversity in the natural world here than in the neighbouring countries to the north and south. I wonder if I have the eyes to see what is here.

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Discovery and picture taking….

It was a thrill to discover new things and to see the beauty and magnificence of nature. We had close encounters with hummingbirds, butterflies, monkeys and ocean waves.

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Collecting and Preserving

Often an artist will collect natural objects, found in the places they visit. Here at the end of the road in a rural setting with not many people around, our focus is on the flora mostly and the extraordinary birds and insects that happen by.  

Flowers catch our eyes as they punctuate the landscape with splashes of colour. We take pictures of course. Flowers are plants’ triumphant moment! It’s all about sex and reproduction, not dissimilar to our human culture. Naturally they are showy, in an effort to attract pollinators.

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Banana Flower

Anthotypes:

My project here in Costa Rica is the archaic process of Anthotypes, using flower petals to make a light sensitive emulsion, which fades when exposed to the sun. The process is similar in some ways to an old fashioned herbarium, where plants and flowers are collected, pressed, mounted and labeled. These prints are a marker of particular time in a particular place.

To make an anthotype I took the freshest flower blooms of the day, ground the petals into a paste, diluted that with water or alcohol and applied it to paper. The resulting emulsion renders the paper sensitive to light and it can then be exposed to sunlight to fade. I used leaves as a light resist to create mostly tone-on-tone images.

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Three different colours of emulsion from the same flower.

The prints are left to be exposed by the sun for a day or two or ten. The length of time of the exposure is an artistic decision as well as an experiment. This project has been a discovery of the plants of this particular place and of my time here. And like memory they will fade with the passing of time.

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Anthotypes being exposed to the sun.

I think this work might be presented as a book project entitled “Costa Rican Jungle Book”, (working title). The book would be a collection of plants I found and which I preserved in this odd way, and would also function as a record of my explorations, discoveries and art-making in this place.

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Initial experiments with Anthotype process

I initially thought the experimental phase would lead to the making of larger and more complex compositions but I found that the project has been more about the process and not so much about the end result.

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Costa Rica Anthotype Collection

Cross Pollination

I am undertaking this residency with my family. My partner Dan is making paintings, mostly abstract, but I can see the influence of this place creeping into his colours and forms. He uses a lot of green! Our daughter Willow is working on a project of natural fabric dyeing using plants and soil. 

As I observe what Dan is working on, I am inspired to make a companion piece to one of his compositions. I notice that one of the anthotype emulsions I make is a similar green to a colour he is painting with. Then he starts to make fields of colour in a rectangular form that look just like the emulsions I paint on the paper I am working on. He remarks that I am really a painter!

 

I notice how Willow’s dye baths change with the various mordants she is using to set them and I try adding a little baking soda or vinegar to my emulsions to see if they will yield a different colour. Sometimes it works!

One of the other artists in residence tells a tale of how scientists only publish the successes of their experiments. This gives me something to think about and another way to view the “failures” in my project of anthotypes. If I exclude these failures because they look too dull, then am I being true to this place and to the process? How will anyone else learn from my mistakes if I edit out all my failures? This is something I struggle with as I am not a scientist, I am a visual artist and my decision making is visual and aesthetically driven.

In Conclusion:

In Costa Rica we have been to the beach, to a local waterfall, to the nature reserves and we even traveled to a different ecological zone to escape the relentless heat. Each of these little adventures becomes part of the background, part of the field of what an artist works from. Traveling is a way to know a place that is very different from our home.

For me it has been important to discover and have access to work with plants that are very different from my home place. I have made work that is very much about this place, even though I am not from here and don’t belong here.

I am very grateful to have been able to spend time in a place I have only ever dreamt of. Thank you Mauser Foundation for the opportunity to discover Costa Rica in a creative, intimate and artful way.

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Palette of the day. A variety of flowers to be turned into Anthotypes.

An interview with ZoneoneArts

A Storied Recipe: Kanelbullar

A Storied Recipe: Kanelbullar is an Artist Project exploring and documenting a family favourite and tracking its variations through three countries (Canada, USA and Sweden) and three families and is a collaboration between three artists, Barbara Brown, Liz Nilsson and Adriana Ciocci.

A Storied Recipe: Kanelbullar is the result of Alchemy 2018: an international artist-led residency devoted to exploring the synergy between artistic practice and cooking and the sharing of locally grown food within a community setting. Twelve participants gathered in the summer of 2018 in the rural setting of Prince Edward County in Ontario, Canada to explore, create and cook together. I arrived at the residency with the idea of a book project based on gathering recipes and documenting the various cooks and the dishes they made. 

Each evening at the residency all the participants gathered to enjoy a meal together. I soon realized my ambition to document all the meals and the recipes was too big. Akin to eating too much, such an undertaking was too grand for our time together. So, I settled on documenting one recipe and gathering the surrounding stories and images and set to making this book. A Storied Recipe: Kanelbullar book project fermented after our time in the residency and has given rise to furthering international friendships.

On the occasion of an open-house for the community, two of the resident artist/cooks discovered a common culinary heritage and undertook to make A Storied Recipe: Kanelbullar or Cinnamon Buns. As these little gems also form part of my family story, I was keen to document the process and story of this family favourite. The result is a recipe book containing only one recipe but in three variations with accompanying photographs and stories.

It is my hope that this book will inspire younger folk to seek out older ones, to learn together how to create family food legacies. 

Bon appétit!

Barbara Brown

To order a copy click the link: A Storied Recipe: Kanelbullar

 

 

Studio Sixty Six

Very pleased to be exhibiting my work at Studio Sixty Six in Ottawa with MaryAnn Camps and Angelina MacCormick.

I look forward to greeting you at the opening on Friday June 14, 2019 from 6-9pm and at the Artist Reception and Social on Friday June 21st, 2019 from 5-7pm.

 

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LifeCycle Conversations

Barbara Brown and Cynthia O’Brien

Judith Parker, curatorial collaborator

Exhibition Catalogue

Documentation of Returning video installation

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November 8, 2018 to January 9, 2019

Vernissage: Thursday, November 8, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 2018

 Death Café: Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at 5:00 to 7:45 p.m. and Sunday January 6th, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. in the gallery

Death Café is an opportunity to talk about all aspects of death over a cup of tea, coffee and cake.

Artists’ tour and catalogue launch: Sunday, December 2, 2:00 p.m. 2018

Curatorial talk: Sunday, January 6, 2:00 p.m. 2019

 Karsh-Masson Gallery Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West

 LifeCycle Conversations is inspired by the theme of memento mori – a reminder of human fragility, mortality and the inevitability of death. In traditional Western painting it is represented symbolically by flowers, fruit and other objects, but here memento mori has been transposed into immersive installations created collaboratively by Barbara Brown and Cynthia O’Brien.

This is the first time that Barbara Brown (photography) and Cynthia O’Brien (clay sculpture) have chosen to work in a collaborative manner – their new works are the fruit of their combined artistic vision. Though the artists work in different media, both employ the changing beauty and delicacy of plants and flowers as a commemorative act and as an observance of transience, loss, memory, decline and rejuvenation in all living things. Brown and O’Brien’s installations also reflect the emotional impact that working as artists in a long-term care residence, where they befriend individuals who are near the end of their lives, has had. Their work reveals profound insights gained from this experience.

– Excerpt from the essay by Judith Parker

Barbara Brown’s recent exhibitions include Red Oak Labyrinth, an outdoor installation in Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens, Experimental Farm, Ottawa, 2014 (Canadensis Botanical Garden Society), and Desire for Acadia, a solo exhibition at David Kaye Gallery, Toronto, 2018 (Contact Photography Festival). Residencies include Kingsbrae International Residence for the Arts, Saint Andrews, NB, 2017; the Art Collaborative Residency, Jaipur, India, 2017; and Alchemy: An Artist-Led Residency, Hillier, ON, 2018. Recent grants include support from the Ontario Arts Council.

Cynthia O’Brien’s clay sculpture is collected by the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taiwan, the Canada Council Art Bank and the City of Ottawa. O’Brien’s recent grants include the Explore and Create Program, Canada Council for the Arts, 2018 and Arts Funding, City of Ottawa, 2015. Residencies include Tanks Arts Centre, Australia, 2012; Watershed, USA, 2013; Ayatana Artists’ Research Program and CPAWS-OV Dumoine River Art Camp, Quebec, 2017; and MASS MoCA, USA, 2018.

Judith Parker is a curator and art historian. Exhibitions include: co-curator, Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens, Experimental Farm, Ottawa, 2014 (Canadensis Botanical Garden Society); two artist-in-residence exhibitions at the Bytown Museum, Michèle Provost – Rebranding Bytown, 2012, and Cindy Stelmackowich – Dearly Departed, 2011; and Freedom of Association: Dennis Tourbin and Other Artists, Ottawa Art Gallery, 2012. Residencies include Elsewhere – Living Museum, North Carolina, USA, 2014. The Ontario Arts Council has supported her work.

The artists gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council.

KARSH-MASSON GALLERY Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West

Alchemy 2018

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Background:

Alchemy 2018 was a summer gathering of selected visual artists hosted by Claire M Tallarico and Tonia di Rico, set in the quiet rural community of Hillier in Prince Edward County, Ontario. In its 4th year, the artists’ residency is a mix of social experiment, communal cooking, studio practice and culinary exploration all wrapped up in remembering  and sharing family recipes and stories of those who made them.

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Ingredients:

-12 Visual Artists from Canada and beyond (Korea, Ireland, Sweden and USA)

-Pecha Kucha – illustrated introductions by each participant

-10 days in full summer at the peak of the harvest season

-Rural setting with 3 residential houses in wine county

-Large Community Hall transformed into a temporary studio 

-Well equipped community kitchen

-Communal dinners made from local produce

-Pasta making workshop and dinner

-Visits to local wine makers and organic gardens

-A beach picnic at sunset

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Method:

Bringing together a group of strangers who have accepted to travel from near and far and hoping they will gel into a functional community in a 10 day period takes some tending and some time. This is what the hosts Claire and Tonia provided. They cared for all the logistical details and made introductions. Once settled in our houses and our communal studio, Claire and Tonia hosted a welcome dinner. Claire is a master chef and knows how to host a conversation that draws each person into the mix. Tonia has her eye on all the details and works to sort out the myriad issues and challenges that arise.

Each house was asked to host a dinner and also to contribute to pot-luck dinners during the week. The meals were occasions for house mates to work together to plan and shop then cook the meals. Attention to all the details including the story of the food was always apparent and as each meal was presented there was something of an unspoken competition arising between the houses. The table settings were always a sight for the eyes, the aroma from the kitchen was very fine and the conversation was woven between cooking and the practice of art making. This is the Alchemy of the residency!

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Summary:

While the focus of the residency was on the gathering of community through the making and hosting of evening meals we also found time for yoga in the mornings, touring the local wineries and making art in-between. 

My project was to make a recipe book of sorts from the experience of the residency. Initially I thought I would document each meal and the recipes and stories involved but soon realized that was far too ambitious. I settled on one recipe for Cinnamon Buns made jointly by Liz from Ireland who grew up in Sweden and Adrianna from NYC whose Swedish grandmother made a similar recipe. With the 200 or so images collected during the making of the Kunel Bullar (cinnamon buns) and the stories from each of us highlighting our memories and family traditions around this recipe, we three artists will collaborate over the internet to make an artist book which might be called “A Storied Recipe”. I look forward to continuing the spirit of the residency with this collaborative project. Stay tuned for news of the publishing date.

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Desire for Arcadia: Field Notes from an Art Practice

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Very pleased to be exhibiting Desire for Arcadia with David Kaye Gallery, Toronto. The work is printed, framed and ready to go for an opening on May 3rd 2018. Stop by on Saturday May 5th for a reception when I will be in attendance.

Gratitude to the folks at the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa (SPAO) and especially Michael Tardioli for generous support and encouragement as I prepared the work for this exhibition.

Thanks also to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

Jaipur Kala Chaupal 2017

Arts Collaborative and Residency

Diggi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

October 18 – November 6, 2017

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Early morning at the entrance gate to Diggi Palace, Jaipur.

On the Creative Process and Project Development

I used to worry that I didn’t have any or enough ideas to work with. This feeling often arises at the moment when one is required to have an idea for a project. I realize that it’s not that I don’t have ideas, but that I am very harsh and reject most of the ideas that come to me. Over the years I have learned to stop and record any and all ideas when they arrive with me. Ideas can be very ephemeral! When an idea lands, it wants to be held close, to ferment and develop before being brought into the light for examination.

Kala Chaupal loosely means “art village, conversation or community.” The organizers set as the overall theme Water and concerns about water. I arrived in Jaipur with a general idea about how humans relate to water and wondered how we can enhance that relationship. I wanted to understand what happened to the water that flows from the faucets in my home that rendered it no longer sacred? But I had no idea how I was going to turn that noticing into a project.

Connecting the Various Bodies of my Artwork

Over the past several years my art-making has revolved around exploring and enhancing our human connection to nature. Raised in the modernist age of the machine, I was taught to see myself apart from nature and that we humans have dominion over nature. Now in a post-colonial time, I am learning that we are an integral part of the web of all life, made of the same molecular components as the world that surrounds us. We are nature! Through my art practice I explore this connection and relationship and find ways to amplify and personalize how I relate to the world around me.

How to Balance Socializing, Working, Site-Seeing and Learning?

In Jaipur we were a gathering of 43 artists from many countries along with a team of local student volunteers and a group of dedicated apprentices and organizers. There were a lot of people to get to know in a short time. Balancing all the competing interests and keeping the work on track is always a concern during a residency. It’s important to look around and discover the place where you find yourself and to some degree, let it influence you. A ten-day residency is a short time to develop, explore, execute and produce finished work for exhibition, especially photography. And so, there was a palpable sense of anxiety present among the artists.

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Attending a colourful Diwali celebration at Diggi Palace with Daniel Sharp.

Each afternoon at 5pm we would gather in the great hall to hear lectures, presentations, and panel discussions. We had an opportunity to learn about local historic practices with water, and to see some of the work done by participating artists. It was also a time to catch up with each other and hear how work was progressing at the various sites as not all the artists were working on site.

-Talks by participating Artists.

-Film & Photo Essays on Water symbols and associations in Art

-Workshops & Displays by Artisans (Meena Art, Mandanas,)

-Panel Discussions by Art Historians & Experts

-Art for Healing- The Alchemy Vessel Project

-Music & Theatre performances

-Residency and Productivity report and updates

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Traditional Rajasthan Water Pot Dance

Having all or most of your basic needs met and three meals a day laid out leaves quite a lot of time to work. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish when your internet connection is weak and you are given an assistant to work with. Working with another person required establishing some kind of schedule. In a way this helped me to stay on track. Before I knew it, I had developed and was working on 4 different and separate project ideas. Yikes…., that’s 2 or 3 ideas too many! It was important to make a start on all the ideas to see how they played out visually before deciding on the ultimate project. In fact, it was the reaction from others that helped me refine and choose which direction to pursue. When there are tears from viewers, you know you are on to something!

On Portraiture and Printing

The kind of relationship with water that I was seeking is an embodied one. It’s not formal, intellectual or academic. It’s visceral, tactile and personal. In Canada, we have learned of the North American First Nations understanding of women being water carriers as well as the female body being a carrier of water. In India, especially in rural settings, one sees women carrying large water pots on their heads and in their arms. These pots have a consistently round, big bellied shape. So, I went to the market to purchase a few. When I picked one up, I understood the correlation to the womb! This is not a symbol of a womb, it’s real, it’s a real live vessel for life! We contemporary Westerners know nothing of the tradition of women as water carriers. Our contemporary media continues to subjugate the function of the female body and sexualizes it for profit. The subject is loaded!

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Traditional earthenware water pots in the market.

As I made my first test images, a series of portraits emerged. I have never been interested in portraiture and was surprised to find myself engaged in this age-old practice. It seemed to be the right answer to the question being posed and I was on the far side of the globe. Let’s remember I was in India! Sometime being out of your familiar setting gives licence to do things one might not do at home.

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Young Rajasthan women engaged in the age old task or carrying water.

Once the idea fleshed itself out, (pardon the pun), the work just rolled along. When the first image was ready I was anxious to get established with a local photography printer. Jaipur does not have a professional printing service but it would take another week to find that out. The real challenge with photographic residencies is printing, and printing away from home and away from your usual support system. I had experienced the same issue this past summer on a residency in New Brunswick. The other two photographers in the group and I persevered and with the pressure of an upcoming exhibition we made the best of a poor situation. My final image arrived at the exhibition the day after it opened. Oh well, ……..no one died.

In Summary

It was a remarkable experience all around! I made many new friends; saw a slice of life on the other side of the world; produced new artwork; made developmental leaps that would not have happened at home; and took another step on the creative path as an artist. Now, where on earth will I exhibit this body of portraiture and the many accompanying images and stories? Maybe this project will turn into a book? In the meantime, I have two other projects to produce for exhibitions in Toronto and Ottawa in 2018, so you may not see this work for some time.

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Miniature painting on silk by Sudarshan. Resident artist at Diggi Palace.

 

 

 

 

Kingsbrae International Residence for the Arts

July 2017

Saint Andrews by the Sea, New Brunswick, Canada

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I was very pleased to be accepted for a month long residency in KIRA’s inaugural year along with 4 other artist from England, NYC, New Hampshire and Missouri.

An artist residency is an intense period of time filled with excitement, ambition and some degree of trepidation. My time at KIRA this July was a greater gift than I had imagined it would be.

To get settled and start working in the studio took some doing. The new space, the new surroundings, and technical challenges all came into the mix. My daily routine was to wake early, make a cup of coffee and head to the studio usually just after sun rise. I particularly like the potential of early mornings. On a good day, I’ve done my best work before breakfast.

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By the third week I was in a serious groove and producing work at a great pace. The intensity of time, the continuous days, the lack of interruption and the focused intent were all having their way with me and it began to show up in my work. The company of the other artist who also put in long hours helped to establish a pretty serious work ethic. We seemed to bring each other along without a conscious intention to do so.

The first week and the last week were filled with distractions, disorientation and wrapping up. The middle weeks were highly productive and I felt truly in the flow. The benefits of uninterrupted time are truly the gift of a residency. I will seek further opportunities for artistic residencies in the future and would one day like to consider returning to KIRA. The greatest gift of the residency is the momentum built within the art practice which comes from day after day after day of work in the studio.

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Deep gratitude to Mrs. Lucinda Flemer and all the KIRA and Kingsbrae Garden staff who helped to create the possibility of the residency and the warm welcome that allowed for a tremendously successful month of creative work.

It will take me sometime this fall and winter to edit the work and finish it. I look forward to my winter days being accompanied by the images of my work made at Kingsbrae Garden.

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