The past few months have been pretty much non-stop with work and all sorts of excitement, but I’m happy to at long last have a moment to stop here and say hello, and happy spring!
The day after my solo show at June Kelly Gallery ended, I was on a plane to Italy for a month-long residency fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center on Lago di Como in northern Italy (above). It was an incredibly productive time for me, an honor, and an extraordinary experience in every way.
In addition to the site’s natural beauty and fascinating history, the Bellagio Center is exceptionally distinctive because of its vision and understanding of the ultimate progressive value of interdisciplinary and international discourse to all positive human endeavors:
“Through conferences and residencies, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center brings together people of diverse expertise and backgrounds in a thought-provoking and collaborative environment to promote innovation and impact on a wide range of global issues.
We have seen the powerful results of investing in and unleashing human capacity. The Bellagio experience fosters a robust exchange of ideas between scientists and artists, theorists and practitioners, those who make policy and those who are affected by it.
Located in northern Italy, the Center infuses unorthodox, radical thinking into searches for solutions to critical social, political, health, environmental and economic challenges.
It encourages all to debate on globally relevant issues and push the boundaries of collective knowledge to translate theory into action.”
It would take a lot more than a blog post for me to describe the profound impact of sustained interaction with an intimate, international coterie of scholars, scientists, and creative thinkers — all brilliant and genial. Instead, I will just share a very simple story.
My Italian studio, I soon noticed, came with a personal rainbow. Not that I’m all mystical, but as I held this rainbow in my hand, it seemed to impart not only the wonderful energy and beauty of that place, but also the creative good karma generated by all the artists who had previously inhabited that space. It was much like the welcome I felt when I opened the supply cupboard to see their names written there, some extra supplies they’d left behind, and even a chocolate — all three practices that I was delighted to continue as tradition. [For the curious, here is a sampling of some of the drawings I did during my residency.]
Being able to work and participate in the community at the Bellagio Center was a long-held dream of mine, and one that I was not sure would ever be realized. But one of the many things I took away from that transformational experience was the justification — even the imperative — of dreaming as big as possible, and not giving up on the pursuit of those dreams.
Upon arriving home, and I will admit that the reintroduction to reality has been a challenge (like a bad case of the bends!), I have had opportunities to attend inspiring celebrations honoring two women who have exemplified through their lives and actions exactly what I mean.
Over the weekend, Just Food held an event in honor of Joan Dye Gussow, the unstoppable — even subversive, if you will — matriarch, pioneer, teacher, leader, activist and icon of the organic food movement. [Also see: http://joansgarden.org/] And yesterday, I attended the memorial celebration for Jeanne-Claude, who passed away last November. From each of these spectacularly intelligent, luminous and energetic women, I learned that in the pursuit of big dreams, passion, precision, and perseverance count. Rules and “No”, not so much.
Many times an hour, both waking and sleeping, I keep returning to my time at Bellagio. I often think about that rainbow in my hand; how happy and fortunate and connected it made me feel. Jeanne-Claude was quoted about the temporality of life and art, and the fact that such temporality imparts a sense of urgency. As she put it, “For instance, if someone were to say, ‘Oh, look on the right, there is a rainbow,’ one would never answer, ‘I will look at it tomorrow.'”
Whatever may or may not have been done before, a full life begins with dreams that will not be denied, disparaged or deferred.