Only 10 days to go here at Ondarte and although I am very happy with the results (8 paintings in 6 weeks), it will be bittersweet to leave this special place. I would have to attribute this successful residency experience to Alec von Bargen and Maribel Bianchi (founder and director) to creating such a wonderful atmosphere in which to produce. In an earlier blog "Paradise Found!" I knew it would be a wonderful experience and I was right!
An open house at the end of July was proof of the support of the locals - all very excited to have a new cultural centre in town, but Ondarte has already made its mark and it is expected that most of the Mayan Riviera will be attending the next event on August 27.
Working in oils also has it's benefits! I have the excuse of having to wait for the paint to dry in order to transport my paintings, so I have the opportunity to see some more of this wonderful country and am heading off to Chiapas, then back for the exhibition.
Adaptability can be good for the soul and one’s work. I have just completed 4 weeks at the Ondarte Residency in Akumal Mexico and several new paintings with a welcome return to figurative work.
It’s easy for us to play it safe, but then what’s the point of making safe art? I highly recommend a residency experience for those of you who are looking for a way to move forward in your work. When you put yourself in a position of vulnerability; a totally new environment; surrounded by a group of new individuals/artists that you live, eat and work with on a daily level; in a foreign country with a foreign language and sometimes unfamiliar customs; and faced 24 hours with your self and your work … you will surface changed in one or many ways. This can be very beneficial for your work especially. It gives the artist a chance to explore, experiment with new methods and ideas, and the benefit is a new group of friends and contacts from other parts of the world.
I also recommend staying as long as you can in order to get into a new body of work… this takes time even when you have al the time in the world for your work. Of course there are distractions, especially here in Mexico, but they will have to wait until the end of the month. For now, happy and busy and working toward a strong start to a whole new direction – for the better! Viva Ondarte and residencies in general!
One year ago today I said goodbye to my friends at MIRA (Martignano International Artist Residency) in Italy having spent 2 months there. And here I am …three weeks into my next residency at the new Ondarte International Artist Residency in Akumal, Mexico and have already completed 4 paintings in preparation for an exhibition with my fellow artists on the 23rd of July. The night was fantastic and it seemed the whole town turned out to see our work and there was a lot to see! There must have been 300 people and wihout a doubt this will probably be a regular monthly cultural highlight for Akumal - perhaps even the entire Mayan Riviera once word gets around!
Last week we were invited for an additional artist talk for the locals and were pleased that so many attended that also. The town seems very supportive of this new residency and of the visiting international artists bringing exciting ideas to this beautiful part of the world! The work is pouring out of all of us. This must be attributed to the comfortable and exotic surroundings and the particular mix of artists. We jump on our bikes when we need a break from work and ride into town, head for the beach (we’re anxiously awaiting all the turtle nests in the area to erupt), or grab a long cold drink and sit by the turqoise waters. There’s also a lagoon behind Ondarte perfect for snorkelling! This is an artist’s paradise if you are into residencies!
I have returned to figurative work and am very happy with the new series that deals with expressing alter egos or enhanced emotional connections through the use of reflections in the surface of the water. I am very fortunate that not only is there a pool on the grounds, but that my fellow artists are always willing to model for me!
The weather has been perfect (perhaps a bit hot but that just helps with the excuse for a quick dip and more photos) and I am so glad that I am here for another month. A new group joins us today and the anticipation is high with what will be produced here this month! Stay tuned for updates or visit Ondarte Residency on Facebook! Also visit my site cathrynmcewen.com to view my latest work! Hasta Luego!
Ondarte Artist Residency in Akumal Mexico is hosting a huge open house for myself and the other 4 artists who are fortunate enough to be the first group here! We're looking forward to a big night as everyone along the entire coast of the Mayan Riviera is talking about it! See the invite on Facebook.
I have only been here 2 weeks and have already completed 4 paintings. Another 6 weeks to go and a new group will be joining myself and Nassar Lubay at the start of August and Ondarte will be on the map. I really believe they will be a huge success as I really don't believe there is another artist residency to match this one - for price, people, or place!
I'll let you know how this Saturday goes! Hasta luego!
Ondarte International Artist Residency
Hola! This is something that has to be shared! I was picked up at Cancun airport one week ago for a two month stay and have settled in nicely to life at Ondarte and as predicted, one day might be paint, pool, paint, pool… the next day sun, sand, snorkel…. and the next, might be a combination. The mix of artists is great, the premises outstanding, and the surroundings – simply magic. For instance, one crawls out of bed, goes for a swim in the nearby lagoon teaming with all varieties of colourful fish or jumps on a bike and rides in to ‘town’, perhaps at this time of year, lucky enough to catch a turtle digging a nest which will hatch in 60 days…. then it’s back to the studios and getting down to the business of making art. Paradise or what?!
The studios are outside under a giant palapa where we work day and/or night, depending on the collective mood. But it’s easy to stay and work all day, serenaded by the many birds with the fan blowing beside you and the pool not far away to cool off even more. Hot but good, and it’s to be expected for the middle of the summer. The tropics may take some adjusting for some but having lived in Australia for 28 years, I was happy to get away from the Sydney ‘cold’ of winter. And I couldn’t have picked a better spot…
Already, an exhibition of our work is planned for July 23 where all of the locals and tourists have been invited. The entire town is looking forward to the event. There are many expat Americans in this hidden oasis on the Mayan Riviera, so the idea of international artists coming to the area has been welcomed with open arms. And that’s what you will find with the friendly folk around here – open arms. The ruins of Tulum and Coba are closeby, and further supplies can be found in Playa del Carmen, a half hour north.
I’m looking forward to the coming weeks and achieving the goal of a strong body of work, so stay tuned for weekly installments! Hasta luego!
Paintings by Cathryn McEwen / February 16 to March 5 2011
Gallery Aloft, 660 Darling Street Rozelle NSW 2039
“Cani - può vivere con loro, non potrei vivere senza di loro.”
(“Dogs - can live with them, couldn’t live without them.”)
C McEwen 2011
I noticed Dogs initially as a potential focus for painting from my time in Berlin, and started some canvases early in 2009. Dogs were everywhere - which was not surprising given most Berliners live in apartments. I was impressed at how well they behaved in small places – more noticeably on the crowded trains. Dogs there seemed to have a more important status alongside the human inhabitants, being allowed in the restaurants, bars, and shops – anywhere their owners were found.
From there, I made my way across the south of Europe in April 2010, and completed a few more paintings in Barcelona, where Dogs were also a big part of everyday life. My travels culminated in a two month invitation to the MIRA artist residency in June/July, in the small rural town of Martignano in the south of Italy, where I didn’t expect there to be many Dogs at all. But they were everywhere.
I soon discovered that there is a huge problem with stray dogs in Italy – I expected stray Cats, but not Dogs. But in Martignano, about 10 years ago, a few of the children – now prominent citizens of the town – ‘adopted’ a few of the more exceptional puppies as “pets”. These animals were the ones to greet me everywhere I went in town and they were all known to the inhabitants who cared for, fed, and accepted them as part of their town life. There were happy dogs everywhere you went, and I never heard of any problems. Like their other European counterparts, these Dogs also knew they were on to a good thing – a harsher existence but still a good thing. Where every other town in the area seemed to have a problem with strays – the people here were smart enough accept them. It soon became apparent to me that if all the surrounding towns were to adopt the same practice, the stray Dog problem would be noticeably reduced. I enquired if a few of the local children could possibly take over the care of the animals and continue the good deed started by a handful of individuals. The next generation could then potentially learn to respect and care for these lovely animals. This was readily accepted as a viable and positive option.
In getting to know the individual Dogs, they became special to me too. I felt lucky to have experienced this relationship – they would never beg for food, they only seemed to be happy with the connection of someone talking to them (even in a foreign language) and a familiar face. At least that’s what I imagined for myself. They seemed to understand my concern for them. I get that bond every time I come in contact with Dogs especially, wherever I am, and I’m sure most people would say the same. You don’t have to be a pet owner to feel the connection. And we shouldn’t take this connection for granted, but honour it and learn from it. The lovely people of Martignano have.
Wouldn’t the world be a lonely place without Dogs. These wonderful animals have been associated throughout history with possessing our more positive human traits – traits such as protectiveness, guidance, loyalty, generosity, and companionship, and the outcome is that this evokes these positive emotions in us.
It’s disappointing that our capacity to feel this basic instinctive bond with this animal is not practiced with our fellow man in our everyday global existence, and leads me to conclude and therefore believe, that Dogs probably possess a higher intelligence.
Recently I was approached by a "curator" asking me to submit works for an exhibition they were organising in a large American city at the end of this year. Naturally I was interested and asked for more details. I also did a search on this person to ensure they were reputable. Everything looked great until I received further details from this "curator" asking for 3 specific works and .... a submission fee to be included of 2500 euros!?! (Which would bring the price up considerably!) The gallery would then take a further percentage of any sales!
You do the sums, but the "curator" would be the only one making any money here. And to me this is outrageous - no matter what their reputation is. It's a huge win for the curator and huge loss for any artist.
Even with a potential 50% of sales, most artists are out of pocket before they start with most exhibtions. They must for any framing, are expected to send or deliver the works, insure the works, pay a percentage of their sales to the gallery, and now often have to pay for the invitations and the opening!
Why is this "curator" asking for so much money? Pure greed. It should not be necessary if they are inviting the artist for a specific exhibition. Why not take a 10% cut of sales, give 30% to the gallery and everyone would win! They would have the prestige of the exhibition, and for providing a professional service that serves both themselves, the gallery, and the artist.
My suggestion - if you are approached with a similar unreasonable "offer" - refuse. You are better off getting a group of artists together and approaching a gallery (just like they have) - and doing it yourself. Whether you are an emerging artist or a professional - weigh up the costs first of paying someone as a go-between - and ask yourself if it is really worth it - on any level.
I am writing this about one week after leaving Martignano, Italy and, as a follow-up to my previous blog, “The Power of 10”, I am happy to announce good news and a lovely ending to a perfect artist residency at MIRA – and a couple of nice stories about the dogs of Martignano, which had become a focus of my painting and time there.
To summarise, it seemed that Martignano has successfully found a way to care for the stray dogs in the town in an area of Italy where stray and abandoned animals are a big problem. One lovely man (who incidently pays out of his own pocket when the dogs require being de-sexed or are in need of medical attention), told me of growing up with 5 or so of these dogs that are now about 10 years old. He recalled that the dogs would play football (soccer) with the children and seemed to even understand the point of the game. They gave the dogs names and the townspeople came to recognise and call them by name.
When you ask about the dogs, they are quick to tell visitors an amazing (and true) story of how special and so much a part of the community these dogs have become. It seems that when someone in the town passes away, the dogs convene and actually lead the funeral procession to the deceased’s house, as a miraculous show of respect! How special is this relationship and these particular dogs, not to mention show how much these animals can sense way beyond our normal expectations.
At the end of July, I participated in an exhibition at the Palazzo Palmieri in Martignano (along with 3 of the other MIRA artists). Of 7 canvases, 2 were of the local dogs that lived there – Turbo and the wee dog I called “Bella”. In my artist statement, I stressed the need for a continuing fund to help these and other dogs in the town, in order that a few caring individuals providing food and necessary medical care for them had some further support, and not have to pay out of their own pockets. I was happy to give a small percent of any sales toward starting this fund and urged anyone wanting to help in any way, to contact the local council. It occurred to me that the successful relationship between the people of the town and the dogs would potentially stop if these few people were ever to move on, or if funds were limited. It was my hope that a regular source of funding be available through donations and that this would be a much more suitable solution than a “dog pound” approach. I also believe it is possible that the example set by Martignano, could be followed by the other towns in southern Italy (as a start).
Of the hundreds of visitors during the San Pantaleone weekend festivities in the town, ultimately the most important visitors to the exhibition were a few local children. As it turned out, they were moved by my artist statement, and realised how much a part of their lives these dogs had actually become! And they came to me eagerly with the perfect solution! Just as these dogs were being cared for by a handful of people who grew up with them, it made perfect sense that the children of Martignano as the next generation, should now take over the responsibility for the care of the dogs. It should be easy to organise themselves to take turn in caring for the dogs, perhaps with the help of their teachers and parents. Regular donation drives for a small fund would help with any costs. And even if just a few of them ultimately watch out for the animals as time went by, it would still be a wonderful result for a successful and ongoing process of care.
I left the town and MIRA with the feeling that my time there was very worthwhile, not only for the artistic experience, but for the opportunity to learn more about this lovely relationship I was witnessing. I hope the people of Martignano continue to successfully solve the problem of stray dogs in the area by including them in their lives and remaining a charming addition to the community. I also hope that surrounding towns are able to learn from this and trial it for themselves. It’s a beautiful relationship worth keeping, and I felt privileged to have seen it work with my own eyes. Thank you Martignano and thank you to MIRA residency for artists! I invite you to have a look at the resulting paintings from my time there at cathrynmcewen.com
Week 6 MIRA artist residency and my time here is “drawing” to an end. (Couldn’t help myself!) The exhibition of the four of us: myself, Margherita Martinelli (Italy), Angela Ginn (Northern Ireland) and Hilary Robin Schmidt (New York), who have been here over June and July, opens this Friday night the 23rd of July and is running concurrently with the annual San Pantaleone Festival, Saint Pantaleone being the patron saint of Martignano.
For me, this has been a very worthwhile and rewarding experience on many levels and MIRA comes highly recommended in my book. The bonus for me has been the opportunity to meet some very special people in this small, quiet, rural town and I have felt welcomed for a brief time, to be a part of it.
There are many fond memories I am taking with me, but my favourite will be the experience of wandering back to the residence from the studio late each night and being greeted by several of the town’s other inhabitants - the local dogs (please see my previous Blog #4 “Message in a Bottle”). Two of these particular well-known locals are “featured” in a series of paintings I have completed here; one is called “Turbo”, and the other I have named “Bella”. I noticed recently from a photo I had of Turbo that there was a huge gash in his forearm and made some inquiries as to whether I could get some help for him. As it turns out, several caring citizens had already attended to him. Turbo had been grazed by a car, and after they have made several approaches to help him (because he kept licking off the medicine and bandages), I can now report that he is happily wandering around town again with much more energy.
I was curious to discover who cares for these particular animals who are so much a part of the local character. They are obviously accepted by the people of the town, which is lovely, but how do they survive? I noticed that they are fed and watered, but who pays for their medical needs? As they have given me so much (free models!), I thought perhaps I could do something small for them. I had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor to discover if the dogs were a problem and if not, how is this town successful in taking care of them where other towns are not? (Stray and abandoned animals are apparently a huge problem in Italy).
(Note:there are still stray dogs in the area, but several have been here long enough and are fortunate enough to have been “adopted” by the townspeople. I am hoping that through awareness of the problem of strays, a solution can be found.)
It seems that three individuals here volunteer their own time and money to help these animals. That’s all it takes. And I will try and do what I can by donating 10% of any sales I make during the exhibition to the community. If I don’t make any sales then I will start a fund. I can also create some awareness through reaching both the local citizens, and visitors to Martignano who attend the exhibition.
Here’s where I step up onto the soapbox. Consider this if you will. If every artist or gallery gave a small percentage of their sales to any worthy cause, big or small, local or global, think of the difference we would make collectively. Perhaps this is how we can find a voice as a cultural power - beyond what we know we already provide to the greater good of society.
Consider it… that’s all I ask.
Weeks 4-5 @ MIRA and working steadily on the glass imagery – playing further with texture and really enjoying the process, but not the result as much now. But this is a healthy and necessary part of the artistic process, especially in this new surrounding. This is exactly why I have chosen to do a residency – to give myself the opportunity to explore other options – to play with techniques and imagery that I may not have otherwise explored. I find it frustrating that many residencies cater to only the younger emerging artists, when even established artists need to take a break from their usual work – or even have the chance to see it in a new light. MIRA has offered this, at this point in my career, and I am grateful. I am certain others share the same needs and I would highly recommend a “holiday” with your work – away from the factors that perhaps inhibit or stagnate and keep you from the luxury of going sideways that we all deserve – and need.As I said in an earlier blog, I had to leave to come back again. Where I went was sideways. I gave myself the opportunity and I have come back from this journey refreshed and looking backward and forward with renewed energy and confidence – and perhaps a theme to return to someday… but now I find Martignano has provided me with another gift that I wish to explore – or return to.
When I left Berlin on my way here in April, I had decided to focus on the theme of dogs – a subject I have painted previously, but I wanted to do a body of work – up BIG and BOLD. I had started about 8 studies, but as I started travelling I found it difficult to find opportunities for collecting imagery and there was no guarantee that I would find what I needed to continue this theme at the MIRA residency. I could have stayed with this plan but I was deteremined to try the glass idea first - to see what I could do with it and to see what it would give me – and I am glad I stuck to that plan. But having had a quick peek into the glass as a subject, I now wish to return to the dogs as a tribute to Martignano and my time here. I had no idea that Martignano would have a dozen or more local characters (dogs) to study! I never imagined that there would be dogs here (cats yes, having visited Turkey, Greece, and Croatia), but not so many stray dogs. It is definitely a problem, but I was heartened that the beautiful people of this town let them roam, feed them, put bowls of water out for them and they are part of the character of this place - a wonderful character. The animals are not as healthy as they should be, but they are gentle and seem happy. It is a lovely thing to see. Rather than putting them a shelter, this is ideal - if there is funding for the animals that are here to be spade/neutered, I think they would actually be happier. Later perhaps there might be a facility to find homes for these gorgeous animals, but the system seems to work here - at least the animals are tolerated as part of the town. I have no idea if this is unique to Martignano, but I am going to find out more. If it is a problem, would it be better to work with what already exists? I will ask the Mayor here for some history and get his comments. Perhaps this could lead to something else – who knows – but I need to follow this one.
There are 2 dogs in particular that I have come to adore. I can’t say I pet them or feed them – I actually do not want to start something in fear that it will disrupt the natural process of things – I am an outsider and I am seeing Martignano through my naïve North American / Australian experience. It is different here and I am aware that I should do my homework first before barrelling in wanting to “fix” things. I will be leaving here soon and I cannot create change but I can create awareness – or I might find that it is a symbiotic system that doesn’t require change, but just “is”.
But … these 2 dogs and I have a special and very enjoyable bond. They seem to recognise me and follow for a while. They welcome me whenever I am out. (See Blog #1 “The Art of Bus Travel”) Why me? I know it’s probably because they are just hungry, but animals have a way of communicating and these 2 have spoken to me. Gorgeous souls who have a very rough life and yet seem to be better behaved than most pets!
So I am now determined to create a tribute to them and the lovely people of this small town – and the gift is a return to my original idea, something I might not have followed had I not come to this particular place! Salute Martignano and all its inhabitants and Salute MIRA!