01/22/2018 In New York: Looking for the Center

In the RU studio. Tessa Mars, New York 2017.

I arrived in New York nervous but also very hopeful that these three months of residency would be a unique opportunity for the development of my career as an artist. I really had no idea of what to expect, because although I had done my research and read very thoroughly the many documents that were made available to me, I could not grasp the scale of the city that I was about to discover nor that of the RU program. Arriving in NY on a Friday, I had the whole weekend to do what I do best and follow the plan I set for myself, settle in, explore the neighborhood, fulfill my very immediate needs: food, transportation and communication. I got the opportunity to participate in the West Indian Labor Day parade a couple days in and that was a real treat; a blast of familiar sounds, smells and tastes in an otherwise foreign world.

Meeting the RU team, I realized immediately that I was dealing with a level of professionalism and efficiency that I’ve seldom had the opportunity to work with in the art world. These are people who care immensely about the various artists they work with and about making sure that each and every one of us gets a residency tailored to our particular needs. Through the curated weekly studio visits I got the opportunity to meet and have exchanges with curators and professionals who were both interested in my work in particular and could give me new perspectives on the directions I might want to take it in. I was also given access to shared studio space on the Lower East Side where I could experiment and research all the new ideas coming up. From that first meeting with the team I was told that the only goals to meet were those I set for myself and I was actively encouraged to explore new mediums.  From that meeting I knew that the work I had planned to make was going to change in unexpected ways.

I settled pretty quickly in the dense studio visits schedule and started establishing links with my fellow residents immediately, but knowing where to go and when are the easiest part of it all. I found that the hardest challenge during my stay was trying to assimilate and process all the new information coming my way on a daily basis. Coming from Port-au-Prince and being in New York for the first time, I was on a mission to visit as many museums and galleries as I could. See as many film projections, dance shows, concerts and talks as I could. But every new event I participated in and every new person I met were as many new ideas I had to take into consideration and pretty quickly I found I had to slow down considerably in order to let myself process all that I was experiencing. The first couple months were in this way quite intense and at certain points I felt that I was losing my focus and getting lost in the possibilities offered by the city.

One of the most exciting research project started during my stay in New York “Looking for the Center” is a series that began in answer to this loss of focus. I wanted to translate through drawing, paper cut-outs and stop motion animation my discombobulated state of mind and the disconnectedness I felt with my body. This series is yet in its infancy but it is also a very welcomed evolution in my practice that I am looking forward to develop further in the year to come. I have produced different types of work during my three months stay with RU, from paintings and collages to paper dolls, but none as true to my experience of New York then this research. I often forget these uncomfortable moments during residencies where you are not sure where you are going, but these moments are certainly key for me to challenge and push myself outside my comfort zone.

The Davidoff Art Initiative/RU residency has been for me a time of many firsts, first time giving talks in settings such as The Museo del Barrio and The Montclair State University. First time showing “Invite a dictator to tea” 2014 with the SVA Curatorial practice program. First time setting foot at the Harlem Studio Museum, The MOMA and seeing in person the works of so many great artists from all over the world.
These three months of residency have been very rewarding both on an artistic and personal level. I got new perspectives on what I do and a better understanding of the different tendencies in the contemporary art scene now. The Davidoff Art Initiative team, and the RU team were both welcoming and ready to help me make the best of my first time in the city. I came back home full of new ideas, a budding professional network and the sense that this was the best introduction to the New York art scene I could have wished for. I’m glad to report that I made it to New York and then I made it back.

 

Titled unknown, 2017. A collage from the series started in residency at ResidencY Unlimited.

Titled unknown, 2017. A collage from the series started in residency at ResidencY Unlimited.

Dress Rehearsal, 2017. Oil on paper.

Dress Rehearsal, 2017. Oil on paper.

Papa, 2017.

Papa, 2017.

Titled unknown, 2017. A collage from the series started in residency at ResidencY Unlimited.

Titled unknown, 2017. A collage from the series started in residency at ResidencY Unlimited.

Grann, 2017.

Grann, 2017.