Marla Botterill & Conan Masterson’s Residency: Week 1 Report

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Fresh things are starting to happen already.  We arrived on May 1, a little groggy after travelling all night without sleep.  But the warm welcome we received from Blue Curry who met us at the airport and Fresh Milk’s dynamic duo of Annalee & Katherine certainly gave us energy.  The people are not the only warm thing about this place, the heat envelops you and we welcome that after the frigid winter and chilly spring we left behind in Canada.

The first few days were spent in a whirlwind of meeting some members of the art community here in Barbados, including past resident Mark King, Ewan Atkinson & Allison Thompson (who proved an excellent and knowledgeable tour-guide).  We enjoyed the generous hospitality and tours of impressive art collections of Leandro Soto, Mervyn Awon & the historical Colleton House as well as studio visits to Winston Kellman & Ras Ishi.  It’s been a bi-coastal extravaganza!  We find the lively scene here in Barbados invigorating and encouraging.  We are delighted to be included among the artists in ‘A Performative Moment’ happening next week with the Northern Kentucky University visitors to Fresh Milk and we enjoyed meeting the local artists who will be presenting their work at a group meeting.  We also got to attend BCC’s graduation exhibition of both the Fine Art and Foundation students.  On Monday, playwright Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell began his residency at Fresh Milk and we look forward to a continued and on-going dialogue with him.

Since our arrival we’ve been on sensory-overload.  The sound-scape here in Barbados is very unlike anything we have at home and it took some time to adjust to the singing frogs, alarm-sounding crickets, mahogany tree bombs and new bird calls as well as the farm sounds of the cows and roosters!  Even when inside, the surrounding landscape is ever-present, there is very little separation between outdoor and indoor space, the windows all open wide allowing nature to be seen, heard, smelled and sometimes even entering your space. The grounds surrounding Fresh Milk are a sensory feast.  We are drawn to the repetition of long narrow tendrils and laying in the landscape.  Our work began in earnest last week.  We are using Fresh Milk as a platform to experiment with new ways of working.  Though we have known each other for many years, this is our first journey into working collaboratively.  It is not without challenges.  As individual artists we are used to processing and working though our ideas independently and privately, we are still adjusting to this new way of working.  The first couple of days we set up at opposite ends of the studio, but have gradually begun shifting our things together and working jointly on some initial puppet pieces.  There are obvious references forming in the work to the vegetation, insect, bird and animal life that surrounds us.

Annalee’s dogs have appointed themselves our chaperones, though we think they are just using us for the chickens they hunt after assuring we are safely home.  We spend most evenings at Prendoma, reading through items borrowed from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.  Our walks home are filled with the seductive smell of ylang-ylang blossoms.

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