During the summer of 2012 I went upstate to Lake George as part of an artist residency. This would be my first experience as part of a residency and it’s true. I was nervous. I’m not a nature girl and since my medium is photography I had no idea what kind of “new work” I would feel inclined to create. Certainly it wasn’t going to consist of flowers and trees.
The residency was sponsored by the artist collective Openings. To give a brief background – Openings believes that the connections between creativity and transcendence foster critical conversations that have the potential to unite individuals across cultural divides.
The director of Openings is an artist by the name of Fr. Frank Sabatte. Yes. He’s a priest who’s part of the Paulist Fathers. The Paulist Fathers was founded by Fr. Isaac Hecker who was friends with Henry Thoreau and was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson. A thinker and seeker. The Church of St Paul the Apostle in NYC, which is the mother church of the Paulist Fathers, has had one main goal since its inception – to combine the artistic ideals of the past with the American genius of the present day.
I mention all this as a preface for the images you are about to see. To put it into some kind of context the property on which the residency occurs is called St Mary’s on the Lake. St Mary’s is owned by the Paulist Fathers though I must emphasize the residency itself is in no way religious and/or geared towards those of faith. It really is an open space for artists to come, make new work, and to talk about their medium and ideas.
The building which houses the artists is three stories though the rooms the artists occupy are on the first and second floors only. As I was soon to discover the third floor is for storage. The day after my arrival everyone, after breakfast, broke and went their separate ways to explore and create. I was left semi panicked and, with sweaty palms, I wondered “how am I going to fill the hours between now and lunch?”. One of the artists (who had been on this residency before) had recommended I explore the third floor of my abode. At first feeling reluctant and then having the feeling of having no other option – I relented.
I cautiously walked up the stairs with fear of being discovered. I knew permission had been granted but, in my mind, there’s something about exploring an abandoned space that leaves one feeling like the action is forbidden. Like the space itself feels intruded upon and the visit an imposition. Truth be told the more I wandered the more enthralled I became. I lost myself up there. Between the dust, sunlight, oddly colored rooms, cracked paint, abandoned belongings and displaced items I was in wonderland. The images are more aesthetic than intellectual but (and maybe just for that reason) I love them just the same. I can’t help but be curious still. How did these things end up here? Who do they belong do? Why were they left? Why are there only lamps in one room and only chairs in another? What’s the psychology behind this? Is it supposed to make sense? To an intruder it raises more questions than answers …
All images (c) 2012 Keena Gonzalez. All rights reserved.