Imagine a rambling old Spanish farmhouse at the foot of Montserrat. Exit the house, there are fig, plum, peach trees. There's a path up the mountain. El Bruc is the nearest town; families have lived here for generations. Barcelona is a 45-minute bus ride away. There's so much to do, there's no way not to create.
In September 2015, I applied for a Spring 2016 residency at Can Serrat. This was my attempt to escape the desert.
Can Serrat's director, Sophie Blais, contacted me, saying I was accepted, was I interested in not waiting, but coming in a month—in October 2015. I packed my suitcase that night.
in early 2017, While i was still living in dubai, but packing up to move to who knew where, Sophie invited me to return in Oct 2017 to be the artists' coordinator for the month.
my goal was to help the Oct '17 artists have as much fun as we did in Oct '15, and encourage them build as much of a community as we did. from what the artists said, I did it; the month was a great success.
It was my first experience at an artist residency. Coincidently, the other 7 artists—all visual artists—were also first-timers. All new, we had no expectations or comparisons.
No one was from the same country. Between the 8 of us, there were 8 languages—9, if you want to count the differences between American & British English. (Debate the differences: swede vs rutabaga. Go.)
We all got along great. There were late night discussions about art, muses, school, and influences. There was wine and cheese. There was a fire in the kitchen. We all fed and looked after the semi-feral cats: a grandmother, mother & her four kittens. We went to Barcelona, climbed the mountain, explored El Bruc together.
In my project proposal, I outlined a schedule to work on my Portrait & Landscape poems. Instead, I went to art museums and tapas restaurants in Barcelona, climbed Montserrat at least 3-4 times a week, and wrote a postcard poem a day—which became the core of my Dear Z series.
We gave our open-house presentations at the end of the month. I read poetry. The artistic coordinator, Daniel, translated one piece into Catalan, and he read that. A few people said they didn't like poetry before, but now they wanted to hear more. The highest compliment.
I took over an empty bedroom, made it look like the writer of the Dear Z postcards was sleeping, working, living in that room. I made postcards, wrote the Dear Z poems on them, placed the stack under a rock. During the open-house, the question was—will anyone move the rock to read the postcards. With some prompting, someone did.
It's odd to watch someone read someone else's mail. See pictures below, so you can see someone read someone else's mail, as seen by someone else.
Kamilla Mathisen, from Norway, surprised me on our last day by hanging a mobile in the hallway across from my room. She'd made each letter of each word with thin sticks and glue, then strung the letters together. The words created a short line from one of my poems. She also attached stick-letters to the wall along the hallway of two more of my lines.
Later, Dani, with his fancy sound equipment, recorded me reading some poems.
Much later, as in back in Dubai, I collaged images for the front of the postcards, then scanned them, and digitally cut up the images again. These became the first of my poetry comics. Two were published in Ink Brick.
Much much later, I attended a residency at Stiwdiomaelor in Corris, Wales, where I continued creating poetry comics.
Much much much later, as in the day after my husband, two cats and I moved to Madrid, we were on a train to Málaga to see the opening of Kamilla's show there.
All 8 of us at this residency in Oct 2015 follow, like, comment on each other's social posts, and visit when traveling to each other's city.
Dear Z Project