For those of you who have not had a chance to read my article about the Joshua Tree Highlands Arts residency, the link is: http://artsconnectionnetwork.org/news/item/822-joshua-tree-highlands-artist-residency-2014
I wrote about JTHAR and the four artists who have just completed six weeks creating art in Joshua Tree. The artist are: Shea Hembrey, Jed Ochmanek, Andrew Malan Milward and Zoe Childerley.
So now that Shea, Andrew, Jed and Zoe have completed their residency and are leaving Joshua Tree it is time for me to reflect on what all this means to me. Many people were touched by these four young artists. People enjoyed meeting them, talking to them and being photographed and interviewed by Zoe. The final show this last Friday and Saturday, July 11th and 12th was an event that many showed up for. It was lively and interesting. There were many points of view, things to be learned and Art to be viewed. For me personally, it was an experience that I will walk away from feeling enriched and expanded.
I was deeply affected by each one of these artists in different ways. Having the pleasure of interviewing each one of them, spending time with them, and seeing them work, brought an awareness of a larger world to me. As much as I love Joshua Tree, it is when I meet people from other places that I realize how isolated I am here. The high desert is a little Island and the rest of the world doesn’t think or act the way we do. That statement embraces a full spectrum, but mostly, it is a protected Island and when someone or something new shows up and opens new vistas, I am deeply touched. When they leave, the work of integrating what I have experienced begins.
Sometimes people touch your life for a short period and that is lovely. Sometimes their work makes a lasting impression and that is heaven.
Andrew’s writing kept me up all night thinking and reflecting on his words and his view of the world. The portion of his book that he read at the final show was about his going to a basketball game to see his favorite player. His book is about basketball, well sort of. For me it was about the world and more importantly, about love. It doesn’t matter what we love – our cats, dogs, basketball players, family, friends, art, the world. Love takes us out of ourselves and opens us up to something new. That is why it can be so damn uncomfortable at times, like following a player that isn’t even going to be playing when you have traveled many miles to see him. Andrew relaxes into what others would lament over. Andrew observes and invites us in where others might be inclined to preach.That gives me insight into him – interesting young man. His writing bridged his love of a sport and those that can truly play the sport, with a greater knowledge of the world around him. He’s a true observer and in that, he embodies another important element – humor. He has a magnificent ability to craft a scene and take you right into it, leaving you so absorbed that you don’t remember how you got there. As one who knows absolutely nothing about sports and personally, doesn’t care, I found myself surprisingly content to listen to him read, and I believed everything he told me. I walked away knowing that somewhere in his writing he would introduce me to another world that would ultimately give me insight into myself. Isn’t that one of the true joys of good literature?
Shea is the creator of other worlds, with some speed dial connection to the big creator. His fantastical imagination and his ability to go from the essential to the elaborate in a couple of dancer-like leaps is reminiscent of a player making a basket (back to basketball). It keeps me running alongside to catch up. Oh My God, I’m often thinking around Shea, ‘how did he come up with that?’
Jed is in another world altogether. His deliberate, hesitant and contemplative speech mirrors the exactness of his beautifully complex and at the same time, simplistic paintings. Layers on layers on layers is what he pours before he reaches the effect he desires. When I look at his work I wonder if he is adding or uncovering. His paintings are architecturally aware, color sensitive, and texturally imploding with a manufactured purposefulness. And he is young, just beginning.
Zoe, who has become a friend, has given me a friendship of inspiration and challenge. Her work reflects the thoughtfulness in which she observes the world around her. I was with her on some of her expeditions and was amazed to see how easily she was able to extract the essence of the person and place without ever imposing herself on them. Her ability to see light before it’s even reflected on the surface of a person’s face is painterly. Her ability to draw people out and make them comfortable enough to spill the beans is artful. Her process of reflecting, conjuring, and documenting is enlightening. There is an inherent fun to her drawings, mappings and connections and this project has just begun.
I look forward to tracking these young artist and to see what time reveals.
Thank you JTHAR for making this possible not just for the town and the artists, but for me. I have had more inspiration and excitement in the last six weeks than I can derive from days in the Metropolitan Museum or a week of window shopping in New York – all favorite past-times. Ah Joshua Tree, you are so rich and exciting. I just didn’t know it. It took the outside coming in to show me what I have right here. No need to go any where else.