I am heavy-handed with guacamole on a chip, cream cheese on a bagel, frosting on a cupcake, and apparently also when applying paper pulp to a sculpture. While I wait for it to dry, I finally find myself with time to write a reflection of my experience thus far in Spain.
Currently on my second VAWAA, I am planted on another mountaintop in a tiny town, this time in Galicia, a region in the northwest corner of Spain, learning contemporary papier-mâché techniques from Iria. Papier-mâché is a form of sculpting that you may remember from elementary school: dipping newspaper in a flour and water mixture to make a hardened sculpture. Iria's papier-mâché process is more complex, which lends itself to making more durable, lasting, and complex works of art. From Mexican Cartonería to Japanese Ryūkyū Hariko, papier-mâché has been and continues to be an affordable art form used across many continents and cultures.
Like Esther and Massimo on their hilltop in Italy, Iria and her creative clan live a lifestyle far different from any we encounter in Illinois. Starting with her stone home, passed down through her close-knit family for generations and moodily decorated with her surreal sculptures, paintings, and drawings, it is equal parts cozy and creepy; 100% her. Far from the visual conformity I normally see on HGTV, there is something refreshing about being in a space that leans into themselves wholeheartedly. It is in this magical space that I am working alongside Iria, who is preparing a series of drawings for her upcoming exhibit in Romania, Hadrianna, a documentary filmmaker interviewing local elderly women for a film, Frauka, a photographer, surfer, and online instructional designer, and Diego, a professional chef who has been preparing the best meals we have eaten on this trip. As is traditional for their culture, the six of us have been gathering at the kitchen table for 2pm lunches and 10pm dinners (and once at midnight!), connecting over delicious food and rich discussions.
On a midday break earlier this week, we escaped to the coast. As I dove into the ocean waves and floated on the uneven surface, everything felt turbulent and uncertain. Yet every time I stood back up happily unscathed and alive, each time with a little more awe and excitement. Waving back to my husband on the shore - the waters too frigid for his tastes - I confirmed with myself that everything was okay. Much like the sculpting process, there are many uncertain moments between the genesis of an idea and the finished product.
Riding the waves, reassuring oneself, and basking in moments of pride and excitement,
- Occasional Writer.
Blog: 2023 Sculpture Fellowship in Italy
Blog: 2023 Qatar - Middle Eastern Studies
Blog: 2019 NEA Global Learning Fellowship in South Africa
Blog: 2018 eTextiles Fellowship in Berlin
Blog: 2011 Animation Fellowship at Parsons
by Lindsay A. Johnson
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