Karla Garcia's work in progress. Photo by Melissa Barker.
Review of the RISE Ceramics Residency in St. Raphael France.
The Ceramics Residency by Wendy Gers, Ph.D., is a short-term one month residency program that took place at the International Artist Residency Exchange (IARE) ceramics studio in St. Raphael, France. The residency focused on professional development, research, personal growth, and creative exploration. Dr. Gers is an art historian, curator, and board member at Studio Potter. When I researched her publications and curatorial projects, I knew that this residency was one that I needed to do. I was excited to learn from her most recent curatorial project, "Post-Colonialism?"—a project involving international artists that developed new work dealing with borders, culture, and migration. The quality and care that she dedicates to artists all over the world is extraordinary. Thank you Wendy and Lauren for your encouragement and for giving me a good shake to claim my confidence!
I first applied to the artist residency at the end of my MFA program. When I graduated in May 2019, the anxiety of finding a job, paying school loans and mortgage, and not having access to a kiln, had taken my focus from my work. Of course, that anxiety of post graduate life a year ago really does not compare to what we are going through now with the Corona pandemic.
Coming into this residency, I was ready to move forward with my research from my thesis exhibition. My work deals with migration, cultural identity, memory, and the human experience. I wanted to explore this concept using the qualities of clay. I had notes and photographs of the desert landscapes of the Chihuahua-Texas border, which are harsh environments, yet beautifully open, quiet, resilient, and full of life. To me, this is the perfect metaphor for the human spirit.
A major lesson from my residency involved planning for a sustainable long-term artist career. We began our work in the studio by having evaluative discussions and exercises which helped us see where we are in our professional careers and determine what we need to do to accomplish our goals. The first week was about looking at ourselves and our work, and planning through creative exercises like drawing and experimenting with materials such as wire, ink, graphite and charcoal. We also had personal conversations with Wendy about our ideas for our work, which engaged us in important discussions about ceramics as a field around the world.
Process photos, click to enlarge:
Each artist at the residency came with their own ideas and challenges. It was a great experience for me to get to know each artist on a deeper level and to form friendships and professional connections around the world. The artists, mostly emerging and mid-career artists working toward new bodies of work and establishing practices, came from South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, and the U.S. In one month, we explored our ideas and went home with a sustainable plan for the long-term future. In addition, we visited some major modern and contemporary art institutions, including the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence and the FRAC PACA in Marseille. We had guided visits of a pair of solo exhibitions in Nice by emerging French artist Charlotte Pringuey-Cessac and a curatorial walk-about of the exhibition Voyage Voyage by MUCEM curator Pierre-Nicolas Bounakoff.
The studio’s director, Lauren Kearns, is the owner of IARE. She is a potter, a contributor to Ceramics Monthly, a former resident at Archie Bray Foundation, and former Director at Carbondale Clay Center. Lauren provided incredible support at the residency by offering technical knowledge as well as honest feedback through formal critique. The studio was arranged as a communal space for artists, which was challenging for me since I am used to working alone. However, working in this environment with other women, who, like me, were open to being vulnerable and honest about their work and goals, became invaluable.
Lastly, I am very lucky that I could explore South France and come back home just as governments all over the world shut down travel. I am now at home reflecting on what I learned, feeling thankful for my family, home, and friends, and for getting to know people like Wendy and Lauren, as well as my studio mates Kara, Melissa, Nadine, Sharon, Swanica, and Sherry. During my residency, I initiated conversations for future collaborations with some of the participants, and I look forward to developing these international creative partnerships. Thank you all for making the residency a place for growth, friendship, collaboration, and exploration.
Here are some photos of the beautiful sites in France in no particular order.