Like many artists, I enjoy getting away from my daily life and periodically indulging myself in an artist residency. In August 2021, I spent a heavenly two weeks at Hypatia-in-the-Woods located in South Puget Sound, south of Seattle, WA.
This is a residency of one – my favorite type! Many artists and writers who come to my residency program in Mexico, 360 Xochi Quetzal (see link below), are looking to not only connect with their creative work but also connect with other colleagues for feedback and to expand their professional networks. For me, an artist with a team-based practice, having time alone was extremely appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t function without my team. But as a basically introverted person, I love my own companionship and this was a wonderful opportunity to spend time alone to think, work and rejuvenate.
Named for the third century Greek astronomer, philosopher and mathematician, Hypatia-in-the-Woods was the brainchild of the late Elspeth Pope, a Canadian writer who was influenced by the mission of Hypatia Trust in England. She decided to create a US counterpart and her vision was to provide a safe space to support the work of women in the arts, academia, and entrepreneurship. Elspeth’s husband, Jim Holly, built Holly House, the Hypatia cottage, from trees grown on the surrounding land in Hammersley Inlet. Hypatia-in-the-Woods is run by a large group of volunteers, who all knew Elspeth and most of whom are also writers.
Suzanne Shaw, a Hypatia resident writer and volunteer, picked me up at the Amtrak station in Olympia, WA and drove me almost an hour to a town where I bought enough groceries for two weeks. Then she drove me another 20 minutes to the residency. Although Hypatia is in the town of Shelton, WA, the writing retreat is in the woods about 5 miles from town. Suzanne helped me unload groceries and get me settled in the beautiful cottage.
While some visual artists also attend the residency, from the trove of residency journals, it appears that most of the residents are writers and poets. There was a writing desk on the upstairs loft and this is where I did most of my work. During the two weeks, I did eight new drawings of endangered birds including the Collared Aracari, Scarlet Macaw, Royal Flycatcher, Reddish Egret, Shining HoneyCreeper, Harpy Eagle, Grasshopper Sparrow and Crested Owl.
My days generally looked like this: wake up and exercise or do yoga, go for a walk, read and have breakfast and then start to draw by 11am. I usually took a nap and also went for an evening walk. The rest of the day was spent drawing. My drawings are very detailed and having nothing more to do except draw, I found myself spending more time on each drawing than I had done previously and this time paid off in better drawings. Sometimes while I worked, I listened to an interview with artists on youtube. It was a tremendously productive time and also deeply peaceful.
During this solitary time, I had two public appearances. One Thursday evening, other volunteers picked me up and drove me to the Timberland Shelton public library, where I gave a talk about my artwork. The library tech team was able to project my documentary on a large screen (see link below). It was fun to talk about my work and take questions from a very responsive audience. Afterwards, there was a delicious potluck dinner served at the home of the director, Carolyn Maddux.
The second public talk was held in conjunction with a group show titled “Abstraction” in the Manifold Global on-line gallery. This was my first virtual exhibition and I was introduced to the new technology that allows one to ‘go’ to the exhibit and ‘see’ it. The two curators, Emily Strong and Matthew Pring, facilitated the conversation asking many questions about my art practice and art philosophies. There is a link to that talk in the Resources section below.
One day in the second week, Carolyn, the director, picked me up for a day of hiking the nearby Olympic range. As an avid hiker most of my life, spending time in these majestic mountains was a huge treat.
I am also an avid reader and it was a pleasure to read four books in two weeks! One of them is Brainard Carey’s “How to Make it in the Art World.” My big takeaway from this book was to aim much higher in terms of where I want to show and who I want supporting my work. Brainard runs a great artist resource called the Praxis Center (see link below) which offers artists of all levels a large and helpful network.
There is something profound that happens when I am alone for long periods of time. Without the constant distractions of life and the art team, my thoughts run at a deeper level. In a way similar to yoga, where deep breathing helps one to drop down into the body in a different and deeper way, being alone for long stretches at the residency saw a parallel drop down into my thinking and creativity. New ideas bubble up, as do new art marketing strategies. Living in the woods was so healing. On my daily walks down the inlet, I often picked wild blackberries for snacks and for breakfast. The forest smells and sounds made me feel drunk with happiness. I never felt lonely and only wished I could have stayed another week!
Transitions back to ‘real’ life can be difficult. Suzanne Shaw made this much easier by picking me up and bringing me back to Olympia where we spent a gorgeous morning walking at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I am not exaggerating that we saw millions of black raspberries!
Hypatia-in-the-Woods Residency: http://hypatiainthewoods.org/
The Hypatia Trust: https://hypatia-trust.org.uk/
360 Xochi Quetzal Artist & Writers Residency:https://360xochiquetzal.com/
Artist Communities Alliance: https://artistcommunities.org/
Manifold Global: https://manifoldglobal.com/
Artist Talk on Abstraction: https://youtu.be/pgPHM0Jygu4
Artist Documentary: Deborah Kruger Art & Process https://youtu.be/fzUzWZI5w1A
Praxis Center: https://praxiscenterforaestheticstudies.com/
How to Make it in the Art World: https://www.amazon.com/dp/162153765X/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR0m2cFPe9xHLHPOV6ZWn4LLIYT6KcNYm6pGmWSxRBQedXbFxe-n82LTyfo&ref_=dp_ob_neva_mobile