The image above is one of the first images I took with my new Sony RX100 point and shoot upon arriving at the Kaaysá Art Residency in Brazil.
I have been home 2 1/2 weeks now and I am now ready to write more about my artmaking process in Brazil and my experiences at the Kaaysá Art Residency. I am just beginning to look at and produce the performative photographic works and drawings in my studio here. I have not done any final editing of the images and the drawings are also still in process…
Kaaysá Art Residency was an exceptional experience for me as an artist and as a human being. As you know I have been doing international artist residencies the last 4 years, mostly at the Obras Artist Residency in Portugal, but I have also been to the Sanskriti Art Residency in Delhi. I went to Brazil partially because of my connection to Brazilian artist Mira Schendel, and partially to get over my intense connection to Portugal (this did not work), and because Kaaysá and it’s location in the rain forest and near the ocean looked like a potentially awesome environment to work in – and I had never traveled to Brazil…
It was also a very lucky circumstance that I found myself at Kaaysá with an amazing group of artists in a very open and beautiful situation. Kaaysá is a very young artist residency. Lourdina Rabieh and Lucila Mantovani have created a unique and wonderful concept. They are my beloved sisters now. Lourdina, moved from Lebanon to Brazil in the 70’s with her family, she is an incredibly talented energetic woman, running multiple creative projects as well as a gallery in São Paulo. Lucila, a Paulistana, is an equally multi-talented woman – a poet, writer, curator, eco-feminist, activist, yoga teacher and amazing facilitator of multi-dimensional projects.
The residency is housed in a lovely pousada that Lourdina and her brother Tony and family built in the beach town of Boiçucanga, about three hours from São Paulo. It is a couple of kilometers to the praia/beach and literally in the Mata Atlântica/ Atlantic rain forest. The rain forest is a unique environment, luscious and verdant and housing huge biodiversity and it is a rapidly shrinking territory. I found it to be inspiring and overwhelming and beautiful and very wet!
There were 12 of us artists at Kaaysá , some of us were there for the full 4 weeks and some for shorter periods. I set up my drawing table in the group atelier/studio next to Tiago Mestre, a Portuguese (Alentejano) architect and artist who has lived in São Paulo for eight years. Of course I felt immediately comfortable with him. My dear Jorge Medeiros, a Paulistano sculptor and amazing performance artist, became my friend from the first day. Deco Adjiman, a poet and sculptor from São Paulo also set up in the studio at the very beginning. The beautiful Margherita Isola, an Italian (but has spent a lot of time in Brazil), dancer, activist and artist was mostly working outside the studio. My dear Luciana Magno was not working with us in the studio, but we fell in love immediately. Luciana is an amazing performance video artist from Belém. I call her the 10 x Ana Mendieta (and I don’t mean this as a criticism of Ana Mendieta). Luciana is a remarkably talented artist. My dear Gabriel Nehemy, another Paulistano, joined us in the studio a few days later and produced very hot intense large paintings and drawings. Rafa Alves joined us in the studio, another Paulistano and lovely artist and young man. My dear Sally Sølvstjerne arrived from Denmark a few days in. She is an incredibly talented artist, making drawings that are related to graphic novels and also to sacred geometry, an architect and light designer and just an amazing woman – we became very close… Renata Egreja, a very talented Brazilian painter joined us a week or so in. Then Thato Sbk came from South Africa a couple weeks in, a wonderful young artist from South Africa. And the last artist to arrive was Kitty Paranaguá from Rio – a remarkable photographer and woman. So that just sets the scene – you can look them all up on Instagram…
I followed my research and ritual art making process, surrounded by talented and supportive artists at Kaaysá. My main connection to Brazilian artist Mira Schendel on this trip was my re-initiation of my I Ching practice that relates to my drawing practice and also to my performative photographic works. Schendel and I do have a similar aesthetic in many ways in our drawings and paintings as well. She consulted the I Ching regularly too. The I Ching is the ancient book of Chinese wisdom, composed and compiled over thousands of years. The I Ching configures and forecasts around elemental aspects of nature and humanity – heaven, earth, water, fire, the mountain, the wind, thunder, the lake and many more iconic elements in nature and in human life. I threw the I Ching every few days while at Kaaysá and integrated it more thoroughly into my drawing and performance practice.
I “threw” a lot of water, and I was so deeply in the water in this environment. It was raining a lot… and there are the waterfalls… I threw “Ching /The Well” my first session, and “K’an / The Abysmal Water” the second time. This brought me back to some of my work in Portugal with photographer Luís Branco and with the red cloth. Red and black, colors I have been using quite a bit. I have posted some of these drawings on my previous blog posts.
I was at Kaaysá for two weeks before photographer Fernando Lima came to work with me. So I was “ready” to do the performative work – I had explored the environment and chosen certain sites. Fernando and I had talked on the phone and I had sent him images of my performative work with Luís Branco in Portugal, and also some of my ideas for Kaaysá. When Fernando arrived at Kaaysá, the sun came out for several days. We started shooting at the big waterfall first, Pedra Lisa. We got there early in the morning and there was A LOT of water and beautiful light. We shot a large sequence of images with this translucent red chiffon. Rafa Alves assisted us, thank you Rafa. There are many beautiful images from this shoot. We have not done any final editing of these images yet. Here are just two images from this series.
We shot a large sequence of images in the lower water fall as well, a smaller waterfall. We used large swaths of translucent white fabric in this series. I like these five images together as a sequence, maybe printed smaller. Again I have not finished any final editing on these images.
We also shot this series of images “In Lourdina’s Garden.” Lourdina has created beautiful gardens at Kaaysá and I discovered this amazing flower, the Bastão do Imperador or emperor’s staff, in this beautiful grove in Lourdina’s garden. We used both a nude fabric and the red chiffon in this series. I think these images relate to my performative “flowers” that I made with a fabric flower in Portugal.
And finally we shot at the beach. I had not spent a lot of time at the beach because it was raining so much. But I had taken an image with my I phone that I wanted to reproduce with me in it and the blue chair. Chairs have figured a lot in my work before. But I have never been this naked… There is a series of these, but this is the one I like. I have been unsure of this image, because it is very different from my other work.
My dear Deco Adjiman refers to this image at the beach and also the images at the waterfall in this short prose he wrote about me. It is so sweet, I don’t think anyone has ever “seen” me this way in words … Here is the text in Portuguese and English, and my most “naked” picture, it’s Brazil why not…
“então o livro-livro de jogar da senhora do colorado, da menina americana que dança em varanda em cachoeira, da garota que brinca nua equilibrada com uma cadeira azul na linha de fronteira entre mar azul e céu azul e nos explica o oscilar azul do horizonte, da mulher que lembra e sorri, que planeja e sorri e faz e sorri e então nos mira em carinho e nos mira como só fazem as mães e nos mira em abraço” – deco adjiman
“then the book-book of playing of the lady of colorado, of the American girl dancing on the veranda at the waterfall, of the girl playing bare balanced with a blue chair on the border line between blue sea and blue sky and explains the blue oscillate of the horizon, the woman who remembers and smiles, who plans and smiles and does and smiles and then looks at us affectionately and looks at us like only mothers do and looks at us in a hug” – (forgive the google translate)
I miss all my dear friends I met in Brazil, we became a family of artists and friends, really beautiful….