A Moving Journey

Yep, it’s true. Yet another creative decamping to a small town from a large, expensive city.

After spending the past 20+ years in Austin (most of my adult life up to this point), I began to feel ready to move on a couple of years ago. I’d stopped lamenting any kind of unreclaimable Austin heydey long ago, and had accepted the city as just a place to live.

Much of this contentment with settling had to do with the comforts of home. In 2012, my husband and I bought our house near William Cannon/Manchaca in south Austin, an area I’d always wanted to put down roots in since my days as a student at St. Edward’s University in the late 90s, shopping for cheap art supplies at the Hobby Lobby that is now a Sprouts grocery store. It’s an established, homey suburban area, the type of place I’d always idolized. Growing up, my family moved around a quite a bit and we always lived way out in the country or in an aging downtown area, never anywhere “normal.”

For a few years, it was great. My husband was getting on in his teaching at Austin Community College, my freelance business was growing, but after awhile I got tired of driving over to east Austin to attend and volunteer at art events. I got tired of driving anywhere in general. When I did go out for an evening, I was always shocked the next day at how easy it was to spend $100 for casual dinner and drinks for two over the course of a couple of hours. I had a hard time accepting that food and beverage culture had taken over the city, that this was the experience people wanted to spend their money on. So perplexing… and boring. The crowds also began to get to me as well. It was difficult to go anywhere any time of day without sitting in traffic, hunting for parking, waiting in line to get in, then being squished in a noisy patio, park, pool, coffee shop, or bar with a bunch of people. So I stayed home and fluffed my nest; it was a tranquil refuge from the outside world.

My other rationale for staying in Austin was work. Most of my business is based in Austin, but in-person meetings were rare. Like many professionals, the overwhelming majority of my communication with people takes place online and over the phone. I could technically work almost anywhere, but my husband was still seriously invested in his teaching career. Since it provided a steady paycheck at the first of each month, we relied on the income (my freelance work provides a second full-time income but the monthly amount is not as reliable — feast or famine). A gifted and highly-regarded educator, he had been passed up for promotion several times and began to get more and more disillusioned with the bureaucracy of the higher education system.

Once the burnout set in, it was time to go.

Last year, we got serious about starting over somewhere new. City life was off the table, neither one of us wanted to deal with the same crowding and cost of living issues we disliked about Austin. We also didn’t want to stay in central Texas for a couple of reasons: 1) I know some artists have been moving out to smaller surrounding communities like Lockhart, Elgin, Smithville, Johnson City, etc., but I’d still feel psychically tethered to Austin, and I could see its problems following artists there in the not-too-distant future. 2) I’ve lived and traveled around the whole area my entire life (I was born in New Braunfels; my ancestral home base is near Hallettsville, Texas), and these towns just weren’t different enough for me. However cold winters were another non-starter for us, so we knew we wouldn’t be going too far.

Those are a few of the things we didn’t want. What did we want? A slower, more relaxed pace of life, not constantly bombarded with events and new restaurants to try and new clothes to buy. A small town with some interesting historic architecture, underutilized real estate, nature close at hand… a place to make a difference, to draw new visitors and residents. But how to get started? We just started checking out places online, and dreaming, dreaming, dreaming. I also took a road trip through north and west Texas last year that got me inspired.

We made visits to a couple of places that ultimately didn’t feel right, till we thought about Roswell. Our first and only visit up till then had been a day trip on our way to Colorado in 2018, but we really enjoyed everything from the kitschy alien tourist attractions to the amazing Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. My husband then re-connected with an artist in the Roswell Artist-in-Residence (RAiR) program he’d at a residency in Maine a few years ago. He generously offered us a free apartment at the studio compound so we could spend a few days checking out the town and housing options.

From there, the decision to move went quickly. We ready to move on that we just decided to go for it. To clarify, this was not a move of desperation, but one of hope for the future. That feeling you get when you take a big step in life that feels too positive to be scary. A couple of months later, we had sold our beloved sanctuary in south Austin (I was more sad about leaving behind the trees I’d planted – as for the house, I felt it was ready to change hands over to owners who would appreciate it and build on what we’d already accomplished) and found ourselves the homeowners of a 100-year-old semi-fixer-upper in downtown Roswell. We’ve lived here for just over two months and in spite of everything that’s going wrong in the world right now, it feels just right for us.

I thought of leaving out my specific complaints about Austin in this post, but each story of artists moving to rural areas is different and I wanted to share mine. Some people have kids they want to grow up with certain experiences, some are priced out of the city, some need more space to work, some need a quieter place to focus.

I also think it takes a certain kind of artist to want to move to a small town or rural area. Just as it takes a certain kind of artist to successfully “advance” to Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, London, etc. It takes yet another kind of artist to chase residencies all over the globe. There’s room in the art world for all of these experiences.

My practice has always been rooted in some degree of activism. Not necessarily the letter-writing or phone-banking kind (respect to those who can handle that sort of thing), but between the subtleness of satire and mystery that opens the door to a questioning perspective and audacity and ridiculousness that incites and inspires. That’s probably why my day job as a graphic designer has remained gratifying for the past 20 years as I spend a great deal of time thinking of the right way to peddle influence.

I would say if your practice takes this angle, or if you are working artist looking to hunker down and focus with minimal distraction, I say do your research, find the right place for you, and make the move. While the usually conservative-leaning culture may be a shock for some folks, rural America needs artists right now. People with guts and vision who aren’t afraid to flout convention and try something new can make a big difference, much bigger than anything you could do in a large city. And I don’t think you even have to be very public about being an artist in a small town, such as starting a gallery or studio. For many artists I know, it’s a compulsion just to make your living space more interesting, and these changes stand out in a small town.

Regarding culture shock, I admit it can be an affront to the sensibilities sometimes — and I say this as someone who’s family is largely conservative and lives in deep red Texas. While the culture isn’t anything I haven’t closely encountered before, living with it day-to-day is a whole other story. But I think a big reason the U.S. is so polarized right now is because people are encountering others from different walks of life less and less, so they have little sympathy for the experiences of anyone outside their immediate social circle or culture. I’m willing to tackle this. Not on social media comment threads, but in real life through my work and involvement in the community, through building personal connections. The more creatives who move to small towns, the better we can move the needle. To me, this is an art project in itself.

However, I think you might find we have some common goals. Conservative small towns are grasping at straws to bring much-needed economic sustenance to desperate residents. It’s been shown time and time again in large and moderate-sized cities that (overwhelmingly white) artists make an economically challenged area more desirable to live, which usually draw employers and higher paying jobs in tow. However, the economic violence wrought by gentrification has largely affected established black and brown communities, another link in America’s 400-year-long chain of physical and economic oppression.

Since much of the rural U.S. is white, I believe it’s time for white artists to face our own. To provide the enticement for business development local conservative leaders say they want, while also dealing with the cultural ramifications. This is why I say it’s time to gentrify rural America.

I’ll share some of my goals and dreams for the move in future post as they have changed/are changing somewhat due to current events. But if this new chapter is showing us anything, it’s that time is fleeting. Waiting for something life-changing to happen is dull at best, depressing at worst. You just have to get out there and make an effort.


N.B. Glasstire has some great articles about artists living and working in rural areas. Be sure to read the comments. If you have other insights, experiences, articles, or resources to share, drop me a line!

Snow Beach

Happy Solstice and good new year plantings (in physical, mental, etc. endeavors) to all my fellow universe worshippers out there. May these sunny tunes get you through both the wet, gray, and beautifully brilliant days of winter.

  1. Sogor (Rim Rim Siag) – Vanatu Women’s Water Music (Traditional)
  2. Liquidator – The Young Ones Of Guyana (1970)
  3. Rise – Herb Alpert (1979)
  4. Melodies of Love – Pink Rhythm (1985)
  5. Summer Breeze – Baiser (1984)
  6. Love Tonight – Al Musci (1985)
  7. Tears – HNNY (2013)
  8. For All Of Us – PFM (1996)
  9. Dolce Vita – Ryan Paris (1983)
  10. Cha Cha Cha – Finzy Kontini (1985)
  11. Computer Soul – Loui$ (1986)
  12. The Magic Garden – The 5th Dimension (1967)
  13. Life of the Poet – K. Leimer (1983)
  14. Barreras – Iury Lech (1990)
  15. The Sea – Saint Etienne [PFM Remix] (1996)

TEXAS TOAST

OPENING RECEPTION
Saturday, November 2, 7-11pm

EXHIBITION DATES
November 2 – November 24, 2019 Extended through December 21, 2019

Co-Lab Projects @ Springdale General
1023 Springdale Road, Suite 1B
Austin, TX 78721

I’m excited to have work in this group show with some very talented people during East Austin Studio Tour 2019. Please consider buying art, a portion of sales go directly to Co-Lab. They are in the process of breaking ground on a major new self-owned art facility in East Austin and need community support.

food
noun, often attributive
\ ˈfüd \

Definition of food:

1 a : material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy
b : any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth

A food-themed group exhibition featuring the work of Adrian Aguilera, Alexis Mabry, Alison Kuo, Amy Scofield, Anastasia Kirages, Andrea C Magnus, Annie May Johnston, Annie Miller, Ashee Brunson, Becca Estee, Beth Hoeckel, Brenda Armistead, Brydan McNeely, Cecilia Yakin, Cedric Ingram, Chad Hopper, Cheyenne Weaver, Diego Nava, Drew Liverman and Veronica Giavedoni, Edmond Heusner, Erica Lee, George Zupp, Glenn Twiggs, Greg Davis, Hattie Lindsley, Henry Smith, Iva Kinnaird, Jackson Sutton, Jacqueline Overby, Jozef Winemiller, Kate Hers Rhee, Lalena Fisher, Landon O’Brien, Matthew John Winters, Megan Hildebrandt, Meghan Shogan, Museum of Pocket Art Featuring Justin Favela, Niko Gouris, Olwyn Moxhay, Rachel Gibson, Rachelle Diaz, Rebeca Milton, Rebecca Marino, Robert Jackson Harrington, Ron Geibel, Ryan Davis, Sandy Carson, Stephanie Reid, Stephen Fishman, Susan LaMarca, Suzanne Wyss, Ted Carey, Tori Anne, Tsz Kam, Valerie Chaussonnet, and Zeke Brill.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by Springdale General.

Technorganic

New Work by Carlos Carrillo/Yevgenia Davidoff and Rachelle Diaz

OPENING RECEPTION
Friday, September 27, 7-10pm

EXHIBITION DATES
September 27 – October 26, 2019*

ICOSA
916 Springdale Rd., Bldg. 2 Ste. 102
Austin, TX 78702

In Technorganic, the two-person creative team of CCYD Studio (Carlos Carrillo and Yevgenia Davidoff) and multidisciplinary artist Rachelle Diaz present an homage to infrastructure that exposes the vulnerability of built and natural environments while documenting the sweeping social changes of late-stage capitalism on a human scale. Through an immersive installation that utilizes assemblage, photography, and painting, the artists activate new relationships between everyday materials and recontextualize readymade elements.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Carlos Carrillo and Yevgenia Davidoff are a husband and wife visual art team. They met at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2001, founded CCYD Studio in Brooklyn in 2007, and relocated their studio to Austin in 2015. Their multidisciplinary works range from the traditional to the experimental.

Carlos Carrillo is best known for deconstructing everyday objects, exploring frameworks and reconstructing them using both planned and chanced additive and subtractive processes. He intertwines vintage technologies, ready-mades and obsolete objects to construct nature-inspired sculptures and power plant zones. Suitably so, his installations have been described as “feeling alive”. His works are also driven by the formal investigations of light, tension, contradictions, drawing in space and the atmospheric qualities of unlikely materials. To date, Carrillo’s body of work resonates with yesteryear-futuristic dreams and subtly suggests to the viewer the importance of logging off and tuning in.

Yevgenia Davidoff is interested in exploring the botanical world from physiognomic point of view. The investigation of aesthetic and poise became the focal point of her functional art collection launched in 2006. In parallel, she methodically explores the inner character and temperament of plants while analyzing relationships between the hand-drawn image and ready-made objects. Simultaneously Davidoff draws inspiration from Carrillo’s material choices. Their synergy of multi-perspective views is perfect for collaborative formal material experimentation.

Rachelle Diaz is a multidisciplinary artist living in Austin, Texas. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Studio Art and a minor in Graphic Design from St. Edward’s University in 2002. Rachelle also studied printmaking and sculpture at SACI in Florence, Italy. Her work features a variety of subjects and varies stylistically from project to project, the common threads being femininity, nature, death, and humor. Evergreen, her current body of work (2016-present), is based on observations of the foodways, landscapes, and economy of far south Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley along the U.S. – Mexico border. These assemblages are an attempt to synthesize the ongoing societal and environmental change wrought by the national security industry through the minutiae of daily objects and natural ephemera found in this culturally significant region.

I was so busy last month, I forgot to post my own show on here! Thank you to the 1000 or so visitors who visited the gallery to experience Technorganic.

The Black Months II

About 10 years ago in 2010, I published a mix along the theme of this excerpt from A.S. Byatt’s novel Possession:

Today the storytelling beings. Everywhere in Brittany the storytelling begins at Toussaint, in the Black Month. It goes on through December, the Very Black Month, as far as the Christmas story.

The original Black Months mix consisted only of 60s/70s psych, rock, and folk; The Black Months II is much more eclectic but nonetheless consists of my usual melange of jazz, medieval, dark wave, tech house, Italo disco, library, new age, medieval, experimental, and of course psych and folk. To complete your autumn music experience, listen to my other mixes including Dancing In the Dark, Silk ‘n’ Sweater, and — should you want to continue the mood to the December holidays — The Dead of Christmas and There Will Be No Miracles Here. I bid you good darkness.

[DOWNLOAD]

  1. The Banshee – Henry Cowell [1925]
  2. Tamara – Adam Wysocki [1933]
  3. Naked When You Come – The Lollipops [1966]
  4. Behind The Moon – No Entry [1969]
  5. No Parking – Gold [1970]
  6. Untie Me – The Tams [1962]
  7. You’re Dead – Norma Tanega [1966]
  8. Astral Cowboy – Curt Boettcher [1969]
  9. Sad Are The Days – HIGH RISK [1974]
  10. Goodnight Jack – Saint Etienne [1998]
  11. So – Hareton Salvanini [1973]
  12. Flow my teares – John Dowland [1596]
  13. Hello Goodbye – Modern Art [1983]
  14. Starknight – Bob Salton [1982]
  15. Strange Day for Dancing – Moral Support [1984]
  16. Azure – Blaukoma [2018]
  17. Plateau – Motohiko Hamase [1986]
  18. She weepeth full sore – William Lawes [1648]

Main artwork: Mel Odom, cropped and modified by me
Tracklist artwork: C.H. Page and Son architectural rendering of the Wooten mausoleum at Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas

Warmly Persuasive at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Los Angeles

I have some work in an upcoming show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Los Angeles, located in the venerable Bendix Building. It was such a pleasure meeting curator Andy Campbell in person for a studio visit, years after he selected one of my projects for The Destroyer magazine in 2012.

Warmly Persuasive: ICOSA in LA
September 7 – 29, 2019
Opening Reception: Saturday September 7, 7-10pm

Tiger Strikes Asteroid Los Angeles
Bendix Building
1206 Maple Avenue, 5th Floor, #523
Los Angeles, CA

Community can be the warmly persuasive word to describe an existing set of relationships, or the warmly persuasive word to describe an alternative set of relationships. What is most important, perhaps, is that unlike all other terms of social organization (state, nation, society, etc.) it seems never to be used unfavourably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term.

Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

Identifying community as the warmly persuasive term for being in relation to one another, the English theorist Raymond Williams rightly put his finger on community’s promise and its most common deception. Anyone who has been part of an intentional community, a collective, a consciousness raising group, a support network, or any other such organization knows that community rarely lives up to its promise—internicene fighting, power trips, and hurt feelings are mainstays of the social work of community formation and maintenance.

And yet: the potential benefits remain enticing enough to risk failure.

Investigating the terms of artistic affiliation and group structure, this exhibition features artist-members of the ICOSA collective in Austin, Texas, and aims to reflect one model of self-organization in our era of protracted economic precarity. The questions ICOSA poses via its very existence are simple and dire: how can artists create community, drawing upon commonalities while acknowledging—and fostering—difference? How can non-profit forms of governance benefit (or perhaps hinder) the artists that assemble under its administrative rubrics?

In the case of ICOSA, its mission is twofold: to provide community amongst its membership (monthly meetings keep members informed and accountable), and to generate exhibition opportunities (staging duographic exhibitions of its membership throughout the year). To accomplish these things ICOSA is organized as a 501(c)(6), unlike many other non-profits, including Tiger Strikes Asteroid, which is a 501(c)(3). The difference is slight but significant; a 501(c)(6) is considered a business league, whose primary aim is to serve the common interests its membership, while a 501(c)(3) is classified as a charity, and is meant to serve the interests of a general public. All ICOSA members are board members, and thus have a stake in the doings of the organization [this is atypical of non-profits, which often have a separate, smaller board culled from its ranks].

The works in this exhibition, taken from the roster of all current members of ICOSA in good standing, are installed to reveal networked relations between artists within this particular community. Hung in dramatic relation to the bureaucratic documents important to ICOSA’s founding the exhibition provides both a snapshot of the current members’ artistic practices, and the organizational peculiarities of the larger collective.

Warmly Persuasive includes work by: Leon Alesi, Amy Bench, Darcie Book, Shawn Camp, Carlos and Yevgenia, Jonas Criscoe, Erin Cunningham, Rachelle Diaz, Terra Goolsby, Sarah Hinreisen, Mark Johnson, Amanda McInerney, Matt Rebholz, Tammie Rubin, Jana Swec and Suzanne Koett*, Lana Waldrup-Appl, Alyssa Taylor Wendt, and Jenn Wilson.

Warmly Persuasive: ICOSA in LA is curated by Andy Campbell, Assistant Professor of Critical Studies at USC-Roski School of Art and Design, with assistance from ICOSA members Jenn Wilson and Amy Bench.

* not a member of ICOSA.

Virgo Aesthetic Mix

A sunny late summer musical harvest. Pure, polished, immersed in nature. Welcome to Virgo season.

  1. Painting – Jeff Resnick [1978]
  2. Love and Dream – Ariel Kalma [1970s]
  3. Ar Verjelenn – Les Soeurs Goadec [Breton Traditional]
  4. Sewnetuwa – Hailu Mergia [1985]
  5. Tropiq – i:cube [1999]
  6. Office Lady – Toshiki Kadomatsu [1982]
  7. Systems Breaking Down – Anna [1982]
  8. Sports Men – Haroumi Hosono [1982]
  9. Just be faithful (to me) – Manuel Darquart [2018]
  10. Colder Than Ice – Grant Miller [1985]
  11. 3 Rules – Tiga [2016]
  12. Private Life – Grace Jones [1985]
  13. Sa Fosca – Joan Biblioni [1989]
  14. Feel – Tabo’s Project [1986]
  15. Tropical Exposition – Hiroyuki Namba [1982]
  16. O viridissima virga – Hildegard von Bingen [12th century]

[DOWNLOAD]

CASPFEST

CASPFEST
Opening: April 26 at 7pm. Juror talk & awards given at 8:30pm.
Exhibition on Display: April 26, 7pm-11pm and April 27, 1pm-11pm
5&J Gallery
Lubbock, Texas

Presented by Charles Adams Studio Project, CASPFEST is an inaugural two-night festival of art, film, and music, which aims to showcase exceptional contemporary arts. The national art exhibition is juried by Christina Rees, the films curated by Paul Allen Hunton and Jonathan Seaborn, and the music will feature bands from across the state of Texas.

I’ll be in attendance on opening night. Honored to be included in this national show and excited to be a part of a brand new art event!

Vignette Art Fair Wrap-Up

I participated in the third annual Vignette Art Fair, an “alternative” exhibition featuring female-identifying and non-binary artists from across the state. It event was definitely “alternative” in the sense that it was in an alternative space! The Women’s Museum, located in a beautiful Arts & Crafts/Art Deco-era building in Fair Park, was in operation for just over a decade and closed in 2011. Prior to the museum’s opening in 2000, the structure was almost a total loss. Its future also remains uncertain. Rather than having a fun pop-up vibe, the space had the sense of a defunct mall, only much sadder in the #metoo-era because of the lofty ideas it once stood for.

My disappointment continued when I saw my 2D works were crowded in with that of several other artists in what I’m guessing used to be the museum’s gift shop. Meanwhile in the same room, other walls were almost completely blank. Rather than looking salon-style or intentionally unbalanced, the effect ultimately felt disorganized and chaotic.

I was dealt another blow when I found out (after searching the entire building three times), that my video piece, Apple Harvest, had been cut due to “space issues.” I’m really not sure how that happens in a massive three-level exhibition hall, but whatever. I would have been more understanding had a representative contacted me in advance to explain the situation and apologize, no matter how brief the missive.

But those are just my personal concerns relating to the physical setup and should be taken with a grain of salt. The entire exhibition of 78 artists with hundreds of pieces was installed in only two days, so it’s highly likely that many other details were overlooked. The key takeaway here is the simple fact that this behemoth of mind-boggling aesthetic diversity can forge on, in spite of any hiccups along the way. As female-identifying and non-binary humans, we should cheer each other on when opportunity knocks and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

Indeed, the camaraderie and pride among the artists was palpable. I met new colleagues and got to know my existing art friends even better. I’m sincerely happy that so many other women seized the opportunity to lead and participate in this undertaking, because it means there’s hope. Through my experience viewing the vast array of contemporary art in Texas, I left Dallas with a great sense of confidence, almost mission, in continuing my practice.

New Work at Dontworrybaby Playhaus @ Unit C

Apple Harvest

New work by Rachelle Diaz
ASMR audio by Cromo Fragrance House
Presented by Dontworrybaby

RECEPTION
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
6-8pm
Sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Topo Chico

Unit C Studio & Gallery
1710 E 2nd Street
Austin, Texas 78702

Apple Harvest is a one night only exhibition of my recent photography and video work, plus a site-specific interactive installation with accompanying ASMR soundtrack. By RSVP only at dontw0rrybaby.splashthat.com. I’m looking forward to this one!