It was a little bittersweet as I drive out to Standard Projects this week, as the summer -- or at least that summer feeling -- is gradually coming to a close, and so is the residency season at this out of the way spot in north-central Wisconsin. Of course, it's not quite over yet, but things are beginning to both slow down and speed up in different ways. Artist Lydia Enriquez, visiting from New York, is the last of the short-term residents this season (never fear -- there's still one more post to go!), and when I met her, I was sitting in the kitchen at a table covered in random tools, supplies, snacks, and trinkets--a sure sign of a project in progress. Owner Claire, Lydia, and long-term resident artist Shannon had been busy over the past week installing a brand new, draft-free window in the kitchen, refinishing the countertop, plotting when to do the backsplash of white subway tile, and discussing redoing all of the cabinetry. Obviously the sort of project one tackles when the busy summertime period comes to a close! It all wonderfully epitomized the general feeling of this place every single time I spot by.
Once we had sipped on a beer or two, Lydia led me to the upstairs workshop where a large table sits in the middle of an open room, lined with sewing machines, crates of materials, artwork propped up along the walls, and just about anything anyone could ever need to paint, stitch, sculpt, or otherwise assemble. A few of Claire's and Shannon's projects were scattered about, such as little watercolors and paper sculptures, but it was Lydia's work that had taken particular precedence on the giant work table.
The most unusual of her current projects was a collaborative work she was doing with a New York artist and fashion designer who creates one-off avant-garde pieces that Lydia described to me as sort of Lady Gaga-esque. She had been given several pieces vinyl-like material which had been partially stitched to form already. Lydia was painting in a favorite palette of greens directly onto the material, which she would then give back to the designer to assemble into completed apparel pieces, a jacket and a pair of shorts. Although her painting style is typically representative with highly detailed, small-scale paintings of foliage and woods, she was enjoying the more abstract woodgrain and floral flourishes for this piece.
At the same time, in a similar shade of green and black, she had begun a small series of gouache paintings using a marble egg as reference, and down at the other end of the table, she had gathered some gorgeous crystals, stones, metals, and even pony hair together to create various pieces of jewelry.
There always seems to be an endless amount of making going on here, and what I loved about seeing all of Lydia's works in progress laid out on the table this way was that it showed how seamlessly one can bounce between various creative pursuits: collaborative art making to jewelry making, refinishing countertops to painting gouache pictures. Personally, I've never seen any higher virtue in sticking to one thing, being "purely" a painter, or a sculptor, or a filmmaker. For Lydia, and in the wider context of Standard Projects, an artist is purely a creator.
And it's also fascinating how experience and tastes come together in this place. Lydia and Claire both produce fine decorative painting work for a company called Fresco in New York, which prides itself on high quality and sometimes elaborate interior finishes. It's fantastic to observe the organic way in which they both work, interested in the material quality of the surfaces they encounter, whether a piece of paper, a canvas, or a kitchen countertop in an old police station.
Hortonville, a village with a population shy of 3,000 people, is a far cry from New York, where numerous options for food delivery, or 24hr pizza joints, and at the very least a large selection of coffee shops is the norm. For Lydia, her couple of weeks here were a combination of relaxation and concentration on her work as well as a reflection on how much she loves living in the city. This is one major plus for a rurally situated residency: taking a few days to get out of the regular routine, take in some new surroundings, and then return to home and the studio refreshed.