My year-long sculpture fellowship in France (part 1)
I’m writing eight months into a year’s fellowship in southern France, after receiving the Prix de Henry Clews from the La Napoule Art Foundation, just west of Cannes. I’ve put together a narrative on my time and some of my projects here – heavy on pictures and light on words. I’ll follow up towards the end of this summer with some updates and photos of the final exhibition. But for now, here’s ‘Part 1,’ a glimpse inside my process and aims for the year.
The Prix de Henry Clews is a prize given to a sculptor once every two years, and named after the American artist who bought a run-down château on France’s Côte d’Azur after the First World War and who, with his wife Marie, renovated it and turned it into his studio. Marie then turned it into an arts foundation after Henry’s death.
The Château de la Napoule, home of the La Napoule Art Foundation
I arrived at the end of August, and spent the first three months developing ideas, outfitting my two studio spaces, and exploring the château, its gardens, the coastline, and the ochre-red hills nearby. I spent lots of time in these spaces, taking photographs, making sketches, and writing down impressions at all times of the day and in all weather, while considering what type of sculpture I want to be creating at this point in my life.
Early in my time here I was offered an exhibition at the Château this coming summer and I decided to say yes. It felt risky, as it would mean creating a set of exhibition-ready works during a time of experimentation which often brings with it failure. And I have had failures! But also successes. And with each I’ve learned a lot, gotten better at things I’ve done in the past, and started some new directions. So an exhibition opening June 24th is what I’m now preparing for.
One of my studio spaces in its full, glorious, messy state, and in its presentation-ready mode
Inside and outside of my other studio, which is for the dirtier parts of my work
In parallel to considering the sites that I might use for projects, I was reflecting on balance and equilibrium, which have been a major part of my work for years. I’ve mostly explored the physical manifestation of balance up till now, but I’m increasingly interested in its more internal aspects – emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and even systemic equilibrium and how these can be expressed in sculpture. When I look at the world around me — whether individuals, groups, ecosystems, or nature itself — equilibrium is rarely present. Rather, it’s a constant swinging from one side of equilibrium to the other, with an internal tension the only thing keeping that oscillation from being out of control and losing all relation to that central point of stillness. I’ve realized that this is part of what I want to explore in my work in the coming phase of my life.
Another project that I started early on, but that will not reach its culmination this year, began with a single form that I made for an exhibit six or seven years ago:
Reaching Up and Out, 2014
A Sense of Place
As I’ve lived and worked within the chateau and gardens, I’ve seen countless small, transitory moments around me that have come to define the place for me: a group of seabirds swooping off a tree, wind churning leaves up and over a stone bridge. These moments were fleeting, but also defining of the place for me. A primary insight I had was that a sculpture, one highly site-specific, can capture the essence of these ephemeral moments specific to a place, and by doing so preserve them forward in time, allowing me to share something essential in my experience of a place with others, indefinitely forward in time.
An early sketch of an early idea — a sculpture cantilevered off the side of a large cypress tree
A higher-tech way to sketch a concept, with a pencil sketch laid over a LIDAR scan
With a nearly-completed work, in front of my ‘tomb tower’ studio
I’ll send out an invite to the show in the coming days, and then a set of installation images sometime this summer. In the meantime, be in touch!