My second journey in this series takes us along the Hudson River USA.
A dear friend, Zheng Xuewu, who is the director of the Hudson Centre for Contemporary Art invited me to undertake a residency in Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River in New York State, about two hours by train North from Manhattan Island.
I finally found the physical and mental space to take up his generous offer. I suggested that perhaps two other artists may like to join us and have a reunion. The four of us had met at the Beijing International Art Camp in Beijing in 2005. Two Chinese, one Korean and one Australian. Jin Nanwu from Korea, was ill at the time and unable to travel, leaving two of us to find our way to Poughkeepsie for the month of October 2016.
I decided that if I was going all that way then I wanted to also go somewhere new. My travel agent suggested that Cathay Pacific were offering exceptional deals flying into New York via Vancouver. That was it for me; being an avid train buff I wanted to experience the rail journey across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto. After a stopover at Niagara, I then took the Amtrak Train South following alongside the Hudson River all the way to Poughkeepsie, arriving on 30th September.
Next morning Xuewu left me to wander Poughkeepsie while he went to pick up artists from New York Airport. Poughkeepsie is an amazing multi-cultural city, the range of ethnic stores and products available from many countries is mouth-watering. I was looking forward to trying some fabulous foods. In a short distance around the apartment are some great murals and from the apartment balcony, on the fifth floor I had a sweeping view of the city and autumn colours.
For the first two weeks, four artists were in residence. My friend, Sun Baijun had flown in from Shandong China with a female, Wang Yun, from Harbin and one Chinese male who had been in New York for a period of time in September.
Initially it felt like being in China again, however I soon meet many of the locals. The four of us lived in the two-bedroom apartment, one for males and one for females, but with a shared bathroom. We created a ’Kitty’ for purchasing supplies and the plan was to share the cooking and cleaning up. The lesson for me is that it doesn’t matter what country you are from there are always those who shirk having to share the load. Sun Baijun is a good cook and the other two avoided it like the plague. That left us two with the cooking and the expectation that the others would clean up. The dynamics did not work so well, and I was happy to spend my time at the studio and eat out as much as possible. After all I was there to enjoy the experience not get tangled up in domestics.
We had a terrific studio on the Main Street at Art Centro. Art Centro contains a ceramic studio, gallery, painting studio and worktables. Xuewu had an office and study where we spent time drinking tea and conversing with all and sundry who came to the centre.
Xuewu is an exceptional host, always concerned that everyone is considered for what they want. He had an itinerary of sites to visit, artists to meet and events to go to meaning the whole residency was based on the arts of New York State and Manhattan Island. WOW!!! As I had backpacked through Canada, I had no art supplies and as usual with my residencies no plan of what I would do except to let the experience guide me. My second day, when Xuewu took us for supplies I found some interesting water-soluble graphite sticks and purchased some lightweight paper to create rubbings. The general art materials were not for me and I was not ready to work yet.
In the first week we started on the itinerary going to Vassar College, an art show opening, several exhibitions and DIA at Beacon. I did some research on the History of the Hudson River, created a few rubbings from surfaces at Art Centro and met the artists going into the ceramic studio. Our time was split between outings with Xuewu driving or traveling by train to Manhattan and Studio time.
For me it was an opportunistic period to work along the Hudson River environment where I created an ephemeral work using river water. My artwork titled ‘FLOW: A Journey of time, place and preservation’ engaged with water and leaves that I used as symbols for the passing of time, creation and preservation of history. A Power Point presentation forms the documentation of the artwork.
The artwork ‘One Mile; One Boat’ engaged geographically with the length and history of trade on the Hudson River. 315 Origami paper boats symbolise both trade and mileage of the river. More reading is on the Blog – Sale Away: The Boat Project
A photographic montage of letter images from Poughkeepsie village formed the basis of the ‘Poughkeepsie’ banner.
Within the Art Centro Studios I created the series of works on paper titled ’Rain on the Hudson’. More of these works can be seen in the Gallery.
On October 21 my Solo exhibition ‘One Mile; One Boat’ was held at Art Centro in conjunction with the group exhibition ‘We are Here’.
‘Poughkeepsie’ my photographic work was displayed in this exhibition.
My thanks go to Sun Baijun for his expert photography and assistance.
I sincerely thank Zheng Xuewu for the opportunity to experience the Hudson Valley and create artworks reflecting my relationship with the area. Three years later in October 2019 Sun Baijun was diagnosed with Cancer and given three months to live. Whilst in Beijing January 2020 he was in hospital and unable to have me visit. Due to the virus I left Beijing on 29th January. On 7th March 2020 my dear friend of fifteen years passed away. I dedicate this Blog to him.