The first and most important step in my artist residency project is forming relationships. I often use the word “collaborative” to describe my vision and intent for the project, which is also my senior thesis at College of the Atlantic (COA), a tiny hippie school in Maine where there’s only one major: Human Ecology. One of my mentors asked me to unpack what collaboration means to me, especially as someone entering a community from the outside. I’m a big believer in knowledge sharing, so I spent a few weeks studying what some like to call social practice, community art, participatory art, etc. Conclusion: it’s complicated. However, healthy relationships that practice mutual respect, equality, sharing, honesty, and support emerged as core values for me. I feel so lucky to have found an organization and a community that feels the same and has opened their doors and hearts to this project.
Before producing much art, I’ve been focused on planting the seeds of these invaluable relationships. Allie and Mandi have introduced me to lots of wonderful people in Yaxhachen, and the most exciting part is that they’re all artists too. While my interest initially stemmed from the embroiderers of YAXHA Bordados, I’ve met people with so much talent in a range of areas from woodworking to painting, and from drawing to writing. I already see the project developing not as I planned it, but as the community’s diverse talents and interests mesh with that plan. If I should be so lucky, I’ll make some friends in the process too.
One of these new friends is Don Oliberto. Oliberto is currently working on a contact-printing frame that I’ll use to create cyanotype images on fabric (don’t worry, it’ll make sense later). He’s also making a plant press, which I’ll use for some ethno-botanically inspired prints. Oliberto’s gift for carpentry and my need for hard-to-find, custom-made, wooden objects were a perfect match. These projects are a deviation from his usual work in furniture and he was totally up for the challenge. After talking business, we enjoyed a coconut that he cut down from a tree in his patio as he proudly shared the home improvements he’s been working on. Allie ran around with the kids taking pictures as they reviewed their Spanish homework and de-kernelled corn for nixtamal. The sun set in Yaxhachen.
The next day I met Laura. If I grow up to be half as cool as this 13-year-old artist and writer, I’ll have accomplished quite a lot in life. Laura’s mother is also the creator of some gorgeous embroidered huipiles, so it must run in the family. We shared some quality hammock time along with my fellow COA-er Kayla, who was visiting for the week. Together, we chatted about everything from flaws in the education system to the best way to raise healthy chickens. She showed us some of her drawings, which evoked a Picasso-esque surrealism. Laura also writes stories in Maya and translates them into Spanish. Blown away by her talent and poise, I told her that I was working on this weird art project with photography on fabric. She promised to stop by the casa verde next time we were in Yaxhachen to check it out. I’m beyond excited to see what we make together, but I’m more grateful for that afternoon we spent platicando en la hamaca.
Taking the time to cultivate and value relationships can be a challenge in a world where we’re pressed with deadlines and expected to produce and consume tirelessly. Even the production of art is not immune to the boom and bust cycles we often find ourselves trapped in. I’m glad that this project will take place on Yaxhachen time, when we’ll always have a moment to share, to ask questions, and to nurture the kinds of connections that can grow into engaging pieces of art. There is one deadline, though. On March 5th, I will present the work in Merida before returning north to share the project in Maine. You’re all invited.
If you're interested in more of my personal work, check out beccahaydu.com