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  • Rachel Trusty

Arts, Numbers, & Letters Artists-in-Residence Program

I’m wrapping up my two weeks at the Arts, Letters, and Numbers Artist (ALN) Residency in Averill Park, NY and it has been a wonderful time. ALN accepts visual artists, musicians and composers, performance artists and writers. Residents can choose to stay one week to up-to several months. You pay for your housing by the week and can choose a private or shared room. ALN also house several long-term artist fellows who work with/for the organization in a more work/study compacity.

The "House on the Hill" where the Artist Residents stay.

One of the two common rooms in the "House on the Hill"

The residency is located in the small town of Averill Park, NY, which is 20 minutes from Albany, NY. Averill Park has a vibrant arts community and the locals support and highly attend the artist programs here. The administration of ALN collaborate with colleges and other local arts programing like the community theater to bring in guest educators. They also host music and theater events on their property.

ALN has a main house where the artists-in-residence stay (Shown ab. It is also the location of one of the two pianos for musicians to use. Currently, the studios are located on the second floor of an old mill building. This area contains many former textile mill buildings. The organization also owns another mill, which is currently being renovated. It will serve as further studios and a performance space when it is done. A refurbished barn holds a stage area where theater and musical performances are hosted.

ALN has studios in the second floor of this old mill building.

Large Gallery/Event space in the Mill.

Artist-in-Residence Kyle Giacomo's work and studio space.

My studio work space.

I have never attended an Artist Residency before and I wanted to try it out. I have been working on mixed-media paintings this year and I knew I wanted to somehow blend that subject matter with fibers. I have been making fiber and embroidery work since my MFA program and missed the textural aspects that it offered. I had an amazing meeting with the Culture Shock Arkansas group the day before I left and they gave me great ideas on where to go with it. The Culture Shock members wanted more context and narrative for the photographs. They also wanted a more careful use of color. I had already painted this set of photos before I came, so I could not do much about their inked colors – BUT I did reconsider my plans for the embroidery. I was only going to use embroidery for embellishment or decoration, but after our meeting I pushed myself to be more experimental with it and also to add text. I think some of the pieces turned out amazing and some of them I will redo when I get home.

Original photo (Top), Photo with Ink and Embroidery (Below).

This piece has more decorative ink and embroidery. The stitches and coloring embellish the image and bring the old scene back-to-life.

Original Photo (Top), Photo with embroider and ink (Below).

This piece was one of my more experimental works. I used the embroidery to obscure one of the figure, physically X'ing her out. Text "Am I the only one who Remembers?" adds a narrative context. This piece reflects relationships that are ignored, overlooked, or prohibited by families.

Overall I see the embroidery as a women's hand reworking/re-remembering the moment. The stitches revive, obscure, or mark out the memories. Text is added to narrate, commemorate, or question.

You can see all my new work HERE in a new gallery that I have set up.

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Image of me working in the Studio by Jarrod Staples. Jarrod and I attended the same MFA program at Lesley College. He lives in Boston and drove out to ALN to visit while I was in the area.

Image by Jarrod Staples.

The residency has been amazing. The staff and fellows here are very helpful and supportive. There is no set structure for studio time, so the residents and fellows work on their own artworks on their own schedules. During the summers, ALN sometimes hosts month-long intensive artist workshops. These are more structured and collaborative in nature than the ongoing artist-in-residence programs and the workshops conclude with a large, final group show.

The residency has been very open to providing exhibition opportunities to the residents and fellows here. They hosted ACE, an organization from New York state which supports the arts. This evening event allows artists and fellows to present their work to visitors from all over New York State in an open-studio type environment. ALN hosts “Third Thursdays” each month where they open up the studio spaces and the house for the community to visit with the artists here.

In the studio by works in progress during the ACE event.

Stacy Seiler and Ariana Martinez, two other residents and I will not be here during Third Thursday so ALN graciously planned an Artist-in-Residence show for us while we were here. Several community members visited and saw our both finished and in-progress work. It was an excellent opportunity to show my new experimental work and get some solid feedback.

Diane looks at my work during the Artists-in-Residence Show at ALN.

Kelly looks at my work during the Artists-in-Residence Show at ALN.

Diane and I discuss my work during the Artists-in-Residence show at ALN.

Artists-in-Residence Show at ALN reception.

Stacy Seiler's work at the Artists-in-Residence show at ALN. Stacy was in residence here the second week of my stay. She is from New York City and creates work about the old textile mill production and economy in this area.

Work by Ariana Martinez at the Artists-in-Residence show at ALN. Ariana was here most of the same time that I was. She is from Brooklyn and made both audio/video work and drawings while at ALN.


Peace sign out of flowers in the Chelsea neighborhood in NYC.

While I was here, I took the train into New York City. It is only a 2.5 hour train ride and it was well worth it. Several exhibitions honoring the 50th year anniversary of Stonewall are up right now and I know that I’ll be writing a paper this summer for a directed readings course. I went to shows at the New York Public library, Matthew Marks Gallery, Leslie-Lohman Museum, Grey Art Gallery, and Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibitions really changed my concepts of materiality in the original Gay Rights Movement. I expected to see several sculptural pieces with kitsch or campy materials. In the six exhibitions that I visited, I only saw a handful of sculptures. A majority of the work was photographs, self-published newsletters and journals, pins and other ephemera, and some paintings. The shows really made me reconsider how I have been thinking about materials in terms of LGBT history. While none of the shows extensively talked about drag culture or the ballroom scene, I know that those costumes and performances were very material-rich. I was thinking that gay and lesbian artists were also pulling those materials into their work. Extended Sensibilities (1982) at the New Museum really shaped my concepts of how materials had been used. The exhibition catalogue contains many mixed-media works both 2D and more sculptural. Harmony Hammond’s Lesbian Art in America also includes some sculptural work - maybe because Hammond herself was a sculptor.

Ron Nagle Solo Show at the Matthew Marks Gallery.

Harmony Hammond at the Leslie-Lohman Museum as part of the "After Stonewall: 1969-1989" exhibit. The Leslie-Lohman held the 1969-1979 work while the Grey Art Gallery held the 1979-1989 work of this split-space exhibition.

LJ Roberts at the Brooklyn Museum as part of the "Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: 50 Years After Stonewall" exhibit.

Entrance to the "Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50" Exhibit at the New York Public Library.

I guess my concluding question is – there are traces that sculptural and material-heavy works were being created in the 1970s and 80s by LGBT+ Artists in these past catalogues, but why were those left out of these retrospective exhibitions? Were they just not collected by those museums? Did the ephemeral natural of the work (many pieces were made from non-archival materials) prevent them from surviving or being in good enough condition to be shown?

The trip to New York was very important to me on how I’m thinking about work. Most of the material-based work I was pulling from is actually from the 1990’s but in my mind I was pushing the techniques back further in time. I look forward to seeing Queer Abstraction this summer at the Des Moines Arts Center. It is a 70-year retrospective of abstract work made by LGBT+ artists. I’m sure it will give further clues on material usage.

Me installing my work for the Artists-in-Residence exhibit at ALN. Work by resident Stacy Seiler is to the right.

I 100% recommend the ALN artist residency! It has been an amazing time. I plan to come back another summer. It has been the perfect place to work amongst other creative people and really focus in on my new body of work.

If you are interested in ALN and have questions, feel free to contact me.

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