A few of us from Casa Tres Patios visited the other folks at Campos de Gutierrez for a charla or informal crit session. Campos de Gutierrez is another artist residency program here in Medellin. Housed in a beautiful hundred year old finca house, Campos is located up the mountain just fifteen minutes from downtown Medellin. It feels like you are hundreds of miles from the hubbub of the city. Andres, who runs the residency and can be said to be a resident artist as well, has organized weekly crit sessions with other artists in Medellin. It has been incredible to share my work with others here, as well as to learn about the work that is being done by artists coming to Medellin, as well artists working here.
During this critica or crit session we viewed the work of Belfast artist Helen Turbidy. Helen has been doing a kind of baroque interruptions in art centers around town. We talked about set design, narrative, and crime scenes. Helen is really enjoying the vast array of fabrics and plastics available here. Medellin is the industrial and textile capital of Colombia, which makes for a veritable artist's playground. You can see us ( Featured are New Zealand artists Ana Terry and Don Hunter, Andres Monzon and Helen Turbidy) in deep conversation with laptops and Jesus in the background. You had to be there! Also, we viewed Andres Monzon's paintings of Latin divas. Andres was classically trained in the Renaissance method of grisaille and glazing used to achieve that deep three dimensional look that you get in a Caravaggio painting. That "real" look in a painting is really valued here in Colombia, amongst the older generation, but He is of course taking it beyond that to address more contemporary concerns. His paintings of divas are amazing! They seem to be caught between a moment of ecstasy and agony.
After our charla, we took the bus up to the town of Santa Elena for a Colombian almuerzo (lunch) and a piping hot canelazo. Canelazo is a drink made out of pure sugar cane mixed with cinnamon and passion fruit. Usually had in colder climates, a canelazo is meant to warm up your bones, and if in the mood I believe you can add a shot of whiskey or rum. Why not?! Y Por que no?
It's been the first week of my residency at Casa Tres Patios in Medellin, Colombia and already it's looking like it will be an exciting and life altering experience. Casa Tres Patios is a contemporary arts center and residency program which hosts artists from Colombia and abroad to do projects in Medellin. Their mission is to link artists with the greater community of Medellin in collaborative social projects that engage the community. Casa Tres Patios have matched me with a non-profit called Mujeres Que Crean . During my time here, I plan to create a series of drawings and a video with women who have been affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. In the first part of the project, the women will look at and make drawings of flowers and birds found in Colombia. Colombia is a rich country in resources; being one of top five in the world in ecological diversity, everywhere you look in the city, you see beautiful and rare flora and fauna, never mind when you actually get out to where the real nature is. In Colombia, nature is simultaneously the site of many conflicting ideas; the sublime, a biblical paradise or environmental eden, while also being the locus of much devastation, the unknown and horror; where people are disappeared, never to be seen again.
Like women and children, the flora and fauna are the most vulnerable victims of war. In the second phase of the project, we will be looking at representations of women throughout art history. I'm interested in how archetypal images of womanhood as virgins, warriors, mothers, and working women can be used as metaphors for some of the experiences these women have had. The women who work with Mujeres Que Crean are either direct victims of the armed-conflict, many have lost a husband, son, or brother and some cases all of their family members through the war that is wielded in the countryside by the guerrilla groups and para-military; while others are younger women who have not experienced war directly, but have grown up in the towns or barrios and "shanty towns" that have sprung up (over many years and now are quite established) and experience day to day violence of growing up in a ghetto. Mujeres Que Crean works with these women to help them process what has happened to them and by empowering them to break the cycle of violence by becoming agents of peace in their communities.
Already, I feel very humbled by this experience, feeling that it is bringing together all the issues and work I've been doing, as a teacher working with at-risk youth and communities and my visual work surrounding issues of women and my love of nature and the way these two can be intertwined. Btw, I saw the most amazing bird called Solitude, I will try to post a picture of him later.