Goldwell Residency, 10.09
In 2008 I purchased a small “baby” press and began working in intaglio again (after a long post-college hiatus). Its a fantastic physical medium and process – very old school technology – you’re going to get ink in your fingernails, on your clothes, in your ears, etc. In a future post I’ll share more about the process.
At some point I discovered the Goldwell Open Air Museum. Well, really I had seen it years before, just didn’t know it was anything more than a red barn! If you’ve been to the Rhyolite ghost town just outside of Death Valley then you’ve seen it. “The Last Supper” is perhaps the best known work there. I was researching printmaking workshops and learned that they offered an artists residency program.
I applied in mid 2009 and was granted a two week stay (they prefer a four week residency but that wasn’t possible for me). I loaded up my ride (then a Subaru Outback XT) and headed out through Death Valley to Rhyolite. As part of the residency you could stay at a house nearby in Beatty, NV and its a quick drive to the Goldwell.
This was a first for me, two weeks completely detached, no internet and very little social contact. Now I’m not a socialite, but being absolutely alone for a few days makes you want to see another person.
The Goldwell’s studio space is a nice working space, 15-20 feet across and at least double that in length. They had a large Takach press (beautiful) and a medium sized Conrad press. Both are excellent pieces of printmaking equipment and fairly large.
I worked normal hours, for me that was something like 7ish till 6ish. There’s not much to do in Beatty, so some days went longer. I took along a little speaker and some tunes. For me, music is a critical element to my daily routine and productivity. Starbucks VIA was also an essential.
I had worked on some sketches and ideas in advance so I had a bit of a plan for starters. After a few days of working through those things began to flow nicely and I produced a nice body of work – mostly small prints – that felt worthwhile. I worked in one theme – Ravens and Robots – for a large portion of the work but also explored other subjects as well as other intaglio processes.
Now if you’ve never been in Death Valley, or the desert for that matter, when a storm blows through all you can do is run and hide. It HOWLED. So loud that you couldn’t hear yourself think. I’ll never forget it. After a solid day of that I decided a run to Las Vegas for some art supplies and groceries was in order. Despite my loathing for Vegas, it was a nice way to escape and spend the day around people.
By now this was better than half way through my time there and I was honestly lonely. The ghost town of Rhyolite had a caretaker, Riley. I visited him a number of times and eventually asked if I could take his portrait. While I was there I made a small etching based on this pic.
Don't Miss Zabriskie
Zabriskie Point is an one-of-a-kind spot in California and I ventured there to catch sunrise (again). Then I used those photos as more reference in my work at the Goldwell.
And back to work… By this time I had done almost everything I had planned an began to explore new/old printmaking processes and was rewarded.
So it was nearing the end of my stay there and I wanted to put one last piece together so I started working on a concept for a Raven-run circus complete with three-rings and a carnival/side show barker. This was my largest print ever, but still smaller than a normal sheet of paper. After hours of work I pulled the first and second artists proofs and wasn’t entirely satisfied but out of time. He even has a monocle! And the guy in the middle was the first owl character I discovered in my own work.
Well, it was time to pack my stuff and make the long drive home.
Thanks for reading! To see pics of the final prints (and a mix of other original art) just click here.