Tuesday, April 7, 2009
This, my first international residency, is a strange mixture of familiar and foreign. I am in Andalucia, the southern-most section of Spain, on the Medditerranean coast in a small town called Mojácar. The town had draped itself over a steep hilltop like a puddle of melting whipped cream. Behind it rise grand, mysterious mountains that have been clinging to the fog for the last few days, only allowing sonambulent glimpses of their peaks and mounds. Orange groves around the hills are doubled over with fruit and flowers, the scent of blossoms of all sorts intoxicate the air. Wildflowers abound – bursting from the ground in spurts and sprays of yellow, purple and pink, with smaller scatterings of blue and white. The sea is a long walk away, and at present with the early April chill, I prefer to look at it from the top of a hill rather than walk along its shores, but that may change with the seasonal transition.
There are 3 ladies who come everyday to cook lunch and dinner for us and clean up after our messy breakfast forays to the kitchen. We are treated to authentic Spanish cuisine in giant earthen casseroles– tortilla, calamaris en su tinta (which only four brave souls dared to try), bread that comes steaming out of the oven right at dinnertime as we sip the red table wine and nibble tapas.
The first evening was spent with the usual questions – family, children, work, and what other residencies have we all been to. The writers do get around and there was some overlap and some tips thrown into the conversation. Now, as the first of 4 weeks slides by, we come to the hard business of actually getting to know one another. The heavy drapery of our artistic reclusiveness pushed aside by our curiosity and the awareness that this is the extent of our social world for the next 4 weeks. Bits of the past life dropped casually into conversation and left clattering loudly on the table like a lost marble that no one jumps to claim. I am the youngest here by a good 15 years, which makes my upcoming 30th birthday suddenly seem rather trifling. Everyone, (with the exception of, Hagit, the Israeli playwright) is on their second marriage, or recently divorced. Life takes on a new perspective, depending on the company.
I was in Andalucia last fall for 6 weeks and while I was ostensibly here to be highly productive on several projects that were sorely neglected at home, I found myself pulled out of focus by a need to thoroughly explore the landscape and culture surrounding me. Reflecting back on that time has led me to the realization that my artistic productivity is based on external and internal exploration. Because landscape is so much a part of my work, I must internalize it before I can infuse it with the internal meanings and concepts bouncing around in my head. One friend, a master of metaphor, described my need to set out anchors in a place, familiar landmarks from previous explorations which make that particular external place a safe place in which to explore internally. Now, here once again in Andalucia, I am no longer dazzled by the white towns on the hillsides, no longer entangled within the narrow web of old men and women winding through the streets to the plaza mayor. I am no longer surprised by the crumbling, roofless houses tucked away in the hills or the little dogs yapping at the edge of the drives as I walk past. I know I should order a vino tinto or a café con leche. There are still things to discover to be sure, but the anchors hold firm and my mind is free to begin its own exploration.
You can see more photos of the first week on Facebook