Talking about Artist-in-Residence programs with Julie Kesti

Archie Bray Brick Pile, Helena, MT

Landscape near Ernabella, Australia

Here are a few excerpts from a recent interview I did with blogger, artist, and body worker Julie Kesti. We talked about the many ways you can benefit from artist-in-residence programs. I have spent the last year residency hopping between China, Denmark, Australia, and the U.S. The experience has been invaluable and I enjoyed talking to Julie about what I gained from my travels. Click here to read the full interview.

Tell us a couple of your favorite residency moments:

During my residency at Anderson Ranch in the winter of 2007 I had the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of residents. I was discussing my work one night with a resident whose work I admired. After a pause in the conversation she told me very directly that the way I talked about my work didn’t match the aesthetic of the objects I was making. She said this with great politeness, without malice. It was shocking at first but after a few days I decided she was right.

This was a major turning point in my work. Her honest assessment of my work helped me change my aesthetic completely. I changed firing temperatures, materials and consequently left behind most of the artistic crutches that I had been leaning on for many years. The fact that she was my peer and not a formal teacher made me more open to her criticism.

This type of interaction is why I love residencies. You never know who you will meet and how they will affect your life. I have made life-long friendships during residencies.

Any fun or interesting mishaps in your residency application/travel/completion journeys?

This past fall I was a resident at ICRC Guldagergaard in Skaelskor, DE. Shortly after arriving I set out to go shopping at the local grocery store. As the shopkeeper rang up my groceries I pulled out my wallet. For some reason I could not figure out Danish money. I tried for at least three minutes before I sheepishly handed her all my money. She looked at me with a smile and handed back the change. Small embarrassments like this happen all the time so it is helpful to travel with a good sense of humor.

Do you have any final thoughts or words of advice to artists who might be thinking about a residency?

Don’t be afraid to think big. Commit to a residency that might be a little higher than you perceive your skills to be. Residencies are a great way to stretch the boundaries of what you think you can do. Plan a big project and then do everything in your power to complete it.

Julie and I met in Shanghai after a mutual friend put us into contact. Along with her husband Sean, she has been living in Shanghai practicing her art while studying Chinese Medicine. You can view her art work and read her blog at juliekesti.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @juliekesti, on Tumblr at http://juliekesti-art-by-mail.tumblr.com, or on Instagram @juliekesti.

A statement from Julie about her recent work.
Often my work is an exploration of the puzzles and challenges, textures and qualities of our physical and spiritual / psychological boundaries. My work in recent yeas includes body parts, shadow tracings, and abstract mixed-media drawings evoking ideas of safety, possession, permission/freedom, and impermanence. Or--sometimes--I just start layering colors, and layer and re-layer them and see where it takes me.

Since moving to Shanghai, I have been experimenting with zine formats, beginning to think about visual narratives in booklet or letter form. I’ve also been keeping a blog, which has been a productive place of exploration, experimentation, and focus. Part of this is an artist interview series, about their creative habits and process, conducted through the mail and made into both zines and a blog series.

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