Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Monhegan Island Portraits

Thirteen years ago I did the Carina House Residency on Monhegan Island. All artists that applied were asked to submit slides and an essay. I think that I called my essay Sending Out An SOS, a la The Police. Or something like that. It definitely had an SOS in the title because at that time I was up to my ass in alligators. There have been long stretches of time in my life when I have not been able to do my art, either because of my own fear and avoidance, or extenuating circumstances. With five kids, finding time for my art was difficult enough, but when my daughter Lisbeth got sick in 1988, it became really tough.

In the late winter of 1995, this dream led me to apply for the Carina House Residency:

I dreamt that I was standing beside a large white house by the ocean with a suitcase in my hand. A young man greeted me out on the wide green lawn. I realized that I was going to be a guest in this house for the entire summer and I was filled with that exhilarating last day of school feeling.

A few days after having this dream, the Carina House application arrived in the mail. When I had received it in seasons past, I quickly crumbled it up and tossed it out, certain that I could never take five weeks away from my family. When I saw the application lying among the bills that year, I remembered my dream. So I picked it up and read it, then carefully folded and tucked it in my pocket. Lying in bed one morning soon afterwards, I told my husband about my dream, and the application. He listened quietly, then said, "Why don't you apply? We can make it happen."
So, I did.
And in April when I received the phone call telling me that I'd been selected, I was so elated that I had to run outside to yell and skip around deliriously waving my arms in the air for several minutes, like Woody Allen in his film Oedipus Wrecks, when he finds out that he doesn't have a brain tumor. Then I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, "Shit! I really have to do this now!"
But with the help and support of my husband, children and friends, I did the residency that June. My five weeks on Monhegan was a resuscitation. An excerpt from my journal that I kept while out there describes it:

It is amazing to me that I am spending whole days making art, looking at art, thinking about art and talking about art. And in between, I walk this magnificent island, this place of power and tenderness, breathing in woods and ocean and beach roses. I feel embraced in the arms of something warm and fierce as I return to climb the stairs to my little nest, tired as a child. Mornings bring music, low voices, laughter and the smell of coffee from the store below. I feel safe and supported here. Here I am learning to revalue my art.

While on Monhegan I drew several self-portraits and a series of portraits of the local artists and residents. Daily, people climbed the stairs to my little studio and sat for me. Those five weeks felt like a rehearsal for a future chapter in my life when art would be my primary focus. (Now!)
At the end of my five weeks, I had a small exhibit of my drawings with a reception in my studio. Posted here are the only documents I have of those portraits. Sadly, I did not photograph them, and all but two self-portraits were destroyed by the barn fire that took my studio in 2002.


Rob S. said...

What an amazing experience in an amazing place. I've only painted on Monhegan once, and it was extremely gratifying. I would love to return. The light there is like no place else.

I did a residency on an island, but it was a rather different experience; a good experience, but not quite as "pure" as Carina House. That may not make sense, but you'll see what I mean in a near-future blogpost.

martha miller said...


Have you thought about doing the Monhegan Residency? There may still be time to apply! Yes, what you said makes sense. Monhegan is a magical place.

Rob S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob S. said...

Ah, but it IS tto late. The postmark date was the 28th of March. It's okay, anyway. This would not have been the year for that, honestly. I'm working toward a particular goal regarding my work and studio. This should manifest itself in early summer. You will certainly be informed of all that happens!

*edit* I removed the earlier post because I tried to edit typos. You can't do that on Blogger, apparently.

Rob S. said...

And yet, there is STILL a typo remaining! Oh, Blogger, you are unkind to the wayward typist!

Anonymous said...

maybe you can try next year, then! not to worry about typos - i'm a dyslexic typist...