Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Homestead National Monument art resideny, the first full day

(Above:  The Visitor's Center at Homestead National Monument, just four miles outside Beatrice, Nebraska.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

I left Columbia bright-and-early Sunday morning and spent the night outside St. Charles, Missouri.  That left about six more hours to Homestead National Monument outside Beatrice, Nebraska.  I arrived yesterday mid-afternoon, met some of the park rangers and interns, and moved into the provided housing.  It's hot here but that didn't stop me from walking most of the trails.  I wanted to get the lay of the land, the feel of the place, and the sense of history.  I wanted to settle my racing mind and think about my residency proposal.  I wanted to set my own goals and start to see a connection between this special place and the focused work I intend to make.

 (Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears, detail.)

My residency proposal centered on buttons.  I wanted to explore buttons as a symbol of long gone relatives and the ways ordinary objects are saved or discarded.  I wanted to link buttons to the thriftiness and "make-do" lifestyle necessary to homesteading.  A phrase kept running through my head:  Waste Not, Want Not.  An image stuck in my mind:  the universal jar of shirt buttons that everyone's grandmother had!

Well, I posted my original residency proposal back on May 13th ... at the bottom of a long blog depicting "Romantic Buttons".  (CLICK HERE to read it.)  Since then, I've been using buttons in unique ways, expressing all sorts of things.  There's now even a new section on my website called "Button Art".  I've never before had an art residency where I started the work two months in advance.  So now I'm here and trying to wrap my head around my original intentions ... trying to get back to my imagination from months ago when I first wrote the proposal.

 (Above:  The housing and maintenance area of Homestead National Monument.)

So ... where, exactly, am I?  I'm living in the building at the end of this driveway.  It is one of several structures in the maintenance and housing area of the National Monument.  (It is not an area open to the public.)


Here's the building itself.  The window to the right of the door is my bedroom.  The other window is another bedroom but no one is staying there.  It has become my studio.

Inside the front door is a spacious living room ... a place I will probably never use.  If left to my own devices, I'd rarely watch television.

The living room is connected to this dining area ... but I probably won't be eating there either.  I hate to cook.  Nibbling on fresh veggies and fruit is more my style.

 So ... the kitchen is also one of those areas where I have little use ... except for a few shelves in the refrigerator and as a place to brew coffee.  These areas are all very nice, clean, and well maintained.

Now ... the bedroom, however, will obviously be used.  I have a nice place for my laptop.  There's a big closet.  The bathroom is across the hallway.  Further down the hall is a third bedroom.  One of the National Monument's interns is living there.


I've never actually been to an art residency where there wasn't some sort of studio space provided ... something separate from the bedroom and not part of a shared area.  I could manage, of course ... plus this is Homestead National Monument, a place with a one-room log cabin that had been home to a family with ten children.  As an embroiderer and art quilter, I can work anywhere.  Yet, there are three bedrooms in this building.  One of which wasn't being used ... so I made it my "studio".  By the way, the lighting in these bedrooms is GREAT!

Today I ironed four digital images printed on fabric by Spoonflower.  (I ordered them a month ago.)  I basted them to some of my recycled, black acrylic packaging felt.  All four images are in the public domain.  I found three of them on the Homestead National Monument website. (The fourth is a copy of the 1962 Homestead Act US stamp.) A National Park art residency requires a public program and an artwork donation.  Artists are supposed to explore the "historical and natural themes" in their work.  Without having been here before, planning for this can be hard.  For me, however, it is pretty easy.  I have these art quilts ready to go.  I can stitch on them in public, allow the public to add a few buttons, and then donate one to the park. 

(Above:  Waste Not Fresh Tears, 18" x 14".  Xylene photo transfer on print-making paper fused to fabric.  Water soluble crayon highlights.  Hand stitched assorted buttons.)

I brought other, older things with me too ... things to which I might add buttons.  I started with one of the many xylene photo transfers I made several years ago when creating a series called Angels in Mourning.   To me, the pioneer spirit struggled for life.  Sometimes, death won.  Yet, the demands for subsidence, success, and the American dream meant there was little time to grieve when tragedy did occurred. Weep a bit ... but then go on.  Homesteading was a 24/7 job.  Euripides quotation would have made a great deal of sense to these hardworking souls.  (Euripides, Greek tragic dramatist, 484 BC - 406 BC:  Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.)  This is the first piece completed during my art residency!  I'm off to a good start.
 (Above:  Along the Cottonwood Trail loop, looking toward the Homestead National Monument Visitor's Center.

I do not plan to spend all my time in the two bedrooms.  I will daily walk the trails and explore the cultural resources here.  I've already snapped 325 photos (though I pared them down to fewer than eighty). 

I plan to write a new blog post every day while I'm here.  Some will show the prairie flowers ...

and the morning dew.  Some will share the quilt block signs along the trail, the exhibitions in the visitor's center, the brick school house, the homesteader's log cabin, the rusted farm equipment on display, and other things of interest (like the Pet Cemetery in nearby Beatrice!)  Naturally, I'll be blogging about the artwork I am making too!

I have no plans to blog about the tornado shelter ... because tornado season has already passed.  I will not blog about recycling ... but I'll be doing it!  Check back tomorrow to see what's going on at Homestead National Monument!


Mosaic Magpie said...

Thank you for including us in another of your adventures.

Julie said...

The rusted farm equipment would be very tempting for rust printing if it's allowed. Your residencies are always in really interesting places.