The Prompt: To develop an artist retreat/residence that evokes inspiration and solitude.
Choice of Location: Kane County, Utah
(Below is a short story following one's experience through the Proposal)
Life is to develop a sense of understanding of the underlying qualities and features of thy inner self. And to explore those artistic traits, resonating them with the society and visualizing its effect on others. I’ve developed a sense of portrayal through a photographic medium. That was my storytelling.
One late August I found myself wandering along the desert coast of Arizona/Utah, taken away by its nature, & searching for my next story. When I came upon this fortified structure. Tucked buried into the crafted mountains of Kane County, Utah. A half a mile long, elongated wall masked with a beautiful tan travertine material. I pulled over to capture the elegant yet silent quality resonating between the building and site before approaching. The air was thin. The noise was distant. I traveled through the concrete path towards a flight of stairs raised 5’ from ground to find myself encapsulated in an open foyer. Enclosed by walls.
“Good Evening.” A soft angelic voice brushed my right ear from the open volume besides me.
I slowly peak my head through the opening.
“Hello, what is this place?” I asked.
“This is the Ooze. Are you scheduled?” She asked.
“Yes for stay.”
“No.” I answered.
“Wait a minute”, she scrolls through her screen while she takes a bite of the most vibrant fig I’ve ever seen. “How long would you like to stay?” She asks.
“Stay for what? Where am I?” I questioned.
“The Ooze, is an artist retreat/villa. We book artists stay for several days to months where they are free to explore self and cultivate art work of their preference.”
“Lovely! 2 days! May I add on days if necessary.” I asked.
“One weeks it is.” She responds.
I’ve been lodged at the Ooze for several days, becoming finely acquainted with the other artists. Each day was a scheduled routine, not mandatory; however, suggested. I participated every day. Along with others. Mornings consisted of a detox of mind and elevation of soul through mental sessions including yoga & meditation, horse rides, and breakfast. A five-star natural whole food meal was presented to us 5 times throughout the day. Mainly taken from the self-maintained garden. Thereafter came cool down. Usually consisting of some time at the Spa. Around noon, we embarked on our personal agenda. Some researched in the library and gallery. Others were adding final touches to their artwork in the production zone. While everyone else either filmed, painted, designed outside or inside their personal studios. Me, I wandered.
I came across Toyin Odutola’s studio, where she never came out. She was wrapping her art pieces to place on display in the on-site gallery on the west end.
Her work was beautiful.
“What is it that you do?” She asked.
I raised my hand gesturing my camera. “Photography.” I respond. “May I take your photo before you leave?” I asked.
She set her work down and posed with poise and confidence. Each studio was designed as a loft, covered in pale tones and washed out shades of ceramic wall slabs, complimenting any artists work. With large doors opening towards the beautiful landscape of Utah; it was all any artist could ask for. Before I left, she left me in thought; “What do you think an artist is? An artist is a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, and delightful things that happen in the world. Painting is not just done to decorate apartments. No. It is an instrument of war.”
I traveled along linear paths, weaving in an out of illustrious vegetation and scenic views guiding me to several spaces both inside and out. Passing by artists using the landscape as both their background and foreground. I captured natural moments of expression, followed by healthy discourse with the other artists. Discussing the beauty of the place, their work, and the metaphorical meaning behind the name “Ooze”.
Barkley, a poet, deciphers the versatile metaphor, that applies equally well to mental health and creation. “It represents all the crud that discharges from our body constantly and the refinement we have to undergo. We’re constantly creating a universe for ourselves. Each space was made to present a side of “Oozing”.” He said.
Towards the end of the evening, I traveled north, down a long path to a silent oasis. The entrance was majestic. The walls slowly rise as you travel down the path ending underneath a colonnaded structure that opens to the sky once entered. Your eyes are pinched upon water, sand, and vegetation. A thoughtful method for tapping into ones’ mental state, coming to an ease. I found myself accompanied by another whom has been lodged at the Ooze for two months. We discussed survival of the truth and remaining an honest artist.
“The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful...and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”