Our 2017 Cascadia Artist in Residence Colleen RJC Bratton recently spent the month of October making new work and connecting with artists at the Vermont Studio Center. The Vermont Studio Center is the largest international residency program in the US, hosting more than 50 visual artists and writers each month from across the country and around the world. We asked Colleen a few questions to learn about her experience and the art she was making while there. We’re lucky enough to be the first to get a peek inside her studio, so enjoy!
What’s a normal day look like for you, Colleen?
A normal day for me at Vermont Studio Center consists of waking up in time for breakfast and then heading into the studio to work on a few different projects. I’m making some wall mounted work, a temporary installation, drawings and performance work. Some are more experimental while others are along the same lines I’ve followed for awhile. If I’m feeling a fog or block while working, I’ll go outside & enjoy the crisp fall weather here. The color change in the trees has been fantastic and very inspiring. At night the other residents usually all hang out either around a bonfire, singing karaoke at the local bar or sharing our progress with one another.
What have you been reading while you have been away?
Currently I’m reading one light-thinking book and one heavy-thinking book. My light reading is C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (part of his sci-fi space trilogy). The heavy reading is The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Both by happenstance are about the interpretations of environments and their social structures. In addition to the books I’ve also been watching some films/documentaries. One documentary Ethnic Notions by Marlon Riggs is about the gross misrepresentation of blacks within American society during the 19th and 20th centuries and its negative impacts on public conceptions. The other artists have been extremely kind in helping each other navigate sensitive issues within our work. Through our conversations I’ve felt emboldened to begin to create work that more clearly addresses contemporary issues.
It looks like your work has shifted a bit more towards the figurative and the body, tell us about that…
I’m trying to incorporate more figurative aspects into my current work in order to create a stronger correlation between their inspiration and manifestation. My work is inspired by my time within the public sphere (specifically public transportation) and witnessing the interactions between people within those spaces. However, a lot of my wall mounted work has only represented the architecture and not the actual people. Here, I’m working on building a style of figure representation through drawings. These drawings have inspired some larger sculptural/wall mounted pieces. Many are still in the editing stages but I’m excited about how they’re starting to look! Another fun aspect of my practice here has been listening and dancing to music within an installation I have set up. The movement of my own body has helped me understand new ways to represent the energy and interactions I’ve seen in the public sphere. The gesture of the body can translate into the gesture of the drawn line, and then into the finished painting or sculpture. One big goal while I’m here is to trust and allow the Holy Spirit to take me outside of my comfort zone to try ways of making. It’s resulted in some very unexpected ways that I’ll take back with me to Seattle.