The Gift of Time: Painting in Roswell, New Mexico
Jennifer Moses, associate professor of art, was awarded a 12-month residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program in New Mexico. She has been in Roswell for several months now, working on a new body of paintings in preparation for solo exhibitions in the coming year. Prof. Moses was kind enough to share some of her experiences thus far in her residency.
SD: I imagine that moving to a new place can have an effect on your ability to create art—perhaps for the good, perhaps for the bad. What effect has your new environment had on you?
JM: It took a couple of months for me to feel acclimatized to New Mexico. I could work on small drawings and prepare panels for painting, but I felt somewhat overwhelmed, and it takes focus to paint.
Everything is different here. It is like a Twilight Zone episode and I am in the land of opposites! The sun is always shining; it is so flat here that you can see four different things happening in the sky at once. And the pace of life is completely different. My life in Boston and at UNH is very compartmentalized—I have my urban life, my teaching life, and my studio life. Here, everything is more fluid and I am only responsible to myself and to my work. Weeks fly by, but the days are long and seamless.
I am more connected to nature than I have been since childhood. One day in late August, I was photographing a double rainbow after a vigorous summer storm and when I went to lean against my house to steady my hand, I came eye to eye with a five-inch tarantula escaping the storm on the wall of the house! This is a good metaphor for how it is here: double rainbows and surprising tarantulas, magical but hard and menacing.
SD: What is your living situation like?
JM: Here at this amazing place we are given a two-bedroom house with an attached studio. The house has the basics and one is left alone to figure out day-to-day logistics. No meals are offered, but there is a common area building in the middle of the compound with a big banquet table, a TV, a print shop, a photo room, and an attached woodshop.
SD: And what does a typical day look like?
JM: A typical day is up by 7 a.m. and then in the studio by 10 a.m. I work on and off all day. I am also taking a ceramics class at the Roswell Museum, and so a few days a week I ride my bike to the museum and work in the ceramics studio. I also go to the nature preserve nearby called Bitter Lake, mostly at dusk, and bird watch and marvel at the thousands of Sandhill Cranes and other birds that winter here. I have taken lots of photographs and videos and that is completely a new thing for me.
SD: How has your work been going? As planned? Anything unexpected come up for you so far?
JM: For me, I think that painting never goes quite as planned! In my creative practice, I use improvisation in even the most preplanned of my work. My drawing is going great. Painting is still going rather slowly. I am trying to take my time and go over the paintings and add and subtract imagery more slowly. One of the phrases often repeated at artist residencies is that the residency is a "Gift of Time." I am trying to use this incredible gift wisely. I am trying not to jump to conclusions in the work and allow the work to breathe. Though I am under some pressure, as I will have a big solo exhibition in the Roswell Museum in April. So painting is a balancing act.
The fact that my work is more attached to nature and my surroundings is surprising to me. I usually am more inspired by art and artifice than by immediate experiences and nature.
SD: What are you working on right now?
JM: Thus far, all the work is mostly influenced by the places and natural things that I am seeing and experiencing—Carlsbad Caves and the incredible rock formations there, Ghost Ranch and the Painted Desert, and motifs closer to home, spider webs and tumble weeds. I have been inspired by the salt filled marshes and lakes at Bitter Lake but also the tacky craft paper I am using for collages from the mega craft store Hobby Lobby! I am letting my day-to-day experience influence the work as much as possible.
Prof. Moses would like to thank the UNH Faculty Scholars Program for additional support that made this full-year residency possible. She will return to UNH in the fall of 2011 to resume teaching duties and become chair of the Department of Art and Art History. Solo exhibitions of her work are in the planning stages at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and the Kingston Gallery in Boston.
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