The Rauschenberg Residency came about via Photolucida’s Critical Mass at an important juncture in my life and work. For the past 14 years I have worked as an independent photographer, doing my best to support a family with the roller coaster schedule and income of a freelance photographer. My only prior residency experience was at Light Work, a photo-centric residency in Syracuse, NY in 2013. The Light Work residency allowed me to step away from the stresses of daily life and focus on preparing a solo exhibition and creating a maquette for an ongoing body of work.
In late 2017, I was teaching as an adjunct professor and received word that I had been selected for the Rauschenberg Residency. With more than a year to prepare, I eagerly anticipated my time in Florida, but tried not to overprescribe what I would do with the residency.
Shortly before the residency, I accepted my first full-time teaching appointment. This marks a major shift in my professional life moving forward, as I add a new responsibility to juggle in addition to family, personal projects, commissions, publications and exhibitions. The timing of the residency was perfect, as it allowed me to intently focus on creating and disseminating as much work as possible in the months leading up to the fall semester.
Of course, as life goes, the year started slowly work-wise, and two commercial jobs came into play during the time of the residency. I turned down one, but had to take the other. In mid-June, I packed my studio into my Honda CRV and drove it to Saint Petersburg, Florida before hopping a flight to DC and jumping in a car with an assistant to drive to West Virginia. We worked 12+ hour days for a week, before I flew back to Florida, gathered my studio and finished the drive to Captiva Island. I arrived one week late into the 5-week residency, so my fellow artists-in-residence were already settled and acquainted with one another. I quickly set up my studio space in the Opal Studio in the Main Studio building and got to work.
For my residence, I was situated in the Beach House with artists Derrick Adams and Felipe Castelblanco as my housemates. Stunning views at sunset are the norm from the back porch, if you are willing to battle the mosquitos. We settled into a nightly routine of hanging out and talking about the intersection of life and art. The Beach House became a gathering point for other artists, so we regularly had visitors.
In the Main Studio, I allowed my ADD to run wild, alternating between working on editing and sequencing photo projects, painting, reading poetry, and playing the beautiful grand piano. This sort of creative cycle felt very natural to me, instead of forcing myself to focus on the “one thing” I was trying to accomplish to the exclusion of other creative impulses.
During the course of the residency I finished editing, proofing and ordering a zine Seasonal Blues, V2. I worked on the edit and sequence of two books: The Invisible Yoke, Volume III: The Seven Cities and
Say Hello to Everybody, OK?
I used the digital lab to experiment with printing on different types of media, including silk and transparency. I also collaborated with the other artists-in-residence by photographing them. A lot of these photographs will appear in my forthcoming zine, Seasonal Blues, V3. I printed two rogue installations on Water Resistant Adhesive Polypropylene, which I installed in two impromptu locations in Columbus, Georgia as I drove back home from Florida to Virginia.
All of the artists spoke of feeling Rauschenberg’s presence on the property, and permeating their interactions and creative output while there. I took a lot from the handwritten notes and letters that were framed and placed in various buildings on the property. One in the basement of the Beach House read, “Work should be recognized as indulgence or folly. A game between people. The picture doesn’t change and intellectualizing leaves the painting free to convince another mind of another fact.”
The four weeks spent in Captiva will doubtless continue to influence and shape my creative trajectory in the years to come. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to become more familiar with Rauschenberg’s practice and legacy through this incredible program. – Matt Eich