Grad School: Part 1
I just returned from my first residency at Lesley University College of Art & Design. This low-residency program allows me to create films from my home studio, while learning from Artist/Mentors who specialize in my specific medium. Each January and June for five semesters I will fly out to Cambridge, Massachusetts and participate in a 10 day residency. During this time we take classes on Critical Theory, workshops on specific topics such as blogging and social media for artists, listen to Artist Talks and Panel discussions, take Seminar Classes on special topics, go on field trips to museums, and meet with visiting artists, faculty, and students who critique our work. By the end of each residency you feel like you've been gone for at least a month and the way you look at your art has transformed due to the amount of honest feedback from so many perspectives.
For my first residency I decided to arrive early and explore the city. Life in northern California did not prepare me for the first day where the wind chill made it feel like -20 degrees. This was followed by a winter storm that completely covered the streets and closed down all schools. Luckily I was able to fit in a trip to The Museum of Fine Arts and The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum before spending a day stuck in my hotel room. Since my first day of orientation was canceled, it was a rough transition navigating the schedule and figuring out what to do. Fortunately, the students, faculty, and staff were very helpful and after a few days most things were manageable. One night they held a Time-Based Media screening where students working in film and animation could screen their films to a larger audience. I chose to screen my 2015 short film The Spaceman which was very well received. During this time I connected with other filmmakers in the program and asked them more specific questions on how the school worked with time-based artists. As a consumer of pop culture and everything Sci-Fi and nerdy, I was delighted to find out that one of the grad students worked as a cameraman on RoboCop 3 and other great films of the 80s and early 90s before eventually deciding to get his MFA with Lesley.
Critiques of my work varied a lot based on the experience of the viewer. The film and animation students were much more technical in their feedback and able to point out a few areas I could improve on that I hadn't noticed before. For those not as familiar, their feedback helped me pose questions about my work, and introduced me to new and old artists that could inform my films moving forward. I was very fortunate to get a critique from Video Artist Mika Rottenberg, whose film NoNoseKnows I had just seen at the Institute of Contemporary Art. She was a guest speaker and only available for a handful of critiques so having even 30 minutes of her time was an honor. She really honed in on my connection to children's television and we talked about the many surreal and psychedelic children's programs that exist.
My favorite Artist talk was by the conceptual artist Mark Dion. He explained how he conceptualized and created instillation pieces for museums and locations around the world through the process of curating. Hearing Mark talk about his work had a major impact on me, because I finally understood that my films can include multiple layers of meaning while referencing all of the topics I am interested in. I learned that my work is allowed to be personal and complex. Up until this moment I felt that everything should be simple and the meaning should be universally understood.
I've been home for four days now and trying to get back into a creative rhythm. For the remainder of the semester I will be creating a new short film that will attempt to get more personal. I will still work with some of the same themes found in my previous films while adding depth to the work. This process will begin with some rough sketches, research on the history of cardboard and puppetry, reading the work of Freud, Jung, and the subconscious, and watching the many films that were recommended by faculty and advisors. This will be a process of discovery and a time to experiment and I look forward to seeing what my films look like when I reach the other side.