Not only did I have the luxury of six entire months to devote to research and creation, to ramble around that beautiful building, to let my mind wander, to make anything I wanted, but I got to make it here, in my home community, to make something inspired by the community, and to give that work back to the community.
I liken my artistic process to the experience of feeling around in a dark room, searching for a door or a light switch for longer than seems necessary or reasonable.
More often than not, this kind of blind, groping process is incredibly rich and surprising and mysterious. I really didn't notice how at odds my research methods are with the real world until I started working in the museum context.
In general, it makes sense--the way an artist draws on images and ideas is quite different from the way a historian or archivist or curator might--but with this project that difference really struck me as funny, because suddenly I became a lurker. I lurked and I lurked.
And the Museum's collections manager, curator and director were watching me quizzically the whole time (they confessed at the end of the residency that were wondering: Who is this weird anglophone, and what is she doing pacing up and down the front walk for 3 solid hours, muttering to herself?)
And as it went on, this difference between my approach to interpreting history and the museum's approach to interpreting that same history essentially became the key to the work I ended up creating.
From my very first visit to the museum, and throughout the residency I was constantly struck by the powerful feeling generated just by walking up to the building--it sits back from the road, it's up on a little bit of a hill, this lovely, low log structure, unassuming but also quite magnetic and very welcoming. Somewhere between the walk up to the front doors, and entering the chapel, I felt utterly transported. Every single time.
I wanted to magnify this experience--to share it with other artists through collaboration and conversation, to connect it to the community, and to highlight the building's incredibly moving history, from its beginnings as a Grey Nuns convent to the museum it is today, and its constant presence here amidst the changing city landscape.