Traditionally, an artist specializes in only one medium. Chautauqua Visual Arts artists-in-residence, however, are going outside of the boundaries and constraints of mediums, showing that an artist doesn’t have to stay in one lane.
“I think sometimes, as an artist, you need to use all the mediums because no medium ever tells the whole story,” said multi-disciplinary artist Xayvier Haughton, who is one of 41 resident artists at the CVA School of Art this summer.
The residency takes place every summer at Chautauqua Institution, giving rising artists the opportunity to come to the grounds to immerse themselves in artistic programming and to hone their skills, while being surrounded by other creatives. The program is intergenerational and inclusive; artists-in-residence are of all ages and come from all different backgrounds. The program encourages artists to experiment with materials and to think outside the box.
The residency is funded through a combination of both internal and external donations and partnerships. Betsy Vance, director of the Friends of CVA, said, however, that internal funding has become increasingly vital in recent years.
“The past couple years have been really tough because some of the outside funding has just not been available to us anymore,” Vance said. “The program has become more reliant on Friends of CVA raising money. That’s why fundraising is super important, especially this year.”
Every year, Friends of CVA hosts the annual Stroll Through Arts Gala to help support the residency program. This year’s gala will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday on Wythe, between the Strohl and Fowler-Kellogg Art Centers. Tickets for the event can be purchased online or at the galleries.
The gala includes a live auction, where attendees can bid on excursion experiences and donated works from artists previously featured in the galleries; proceeds help provide scholarships for artists-in-residence.
“Our goal is to fully fund all the art residents who come to study at Chautauqua,” Vance said. “By being able to offer full scholarships, we can get a much more diverse and talented group that can bring so much more to the Chautauqua experience.”
Some resident artists will attend the gala with Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel CVA Artistic Director Sharon Louden to speak about their time at Chautauqua.
“It’s such a blessing to be here today,” said art resident and Brooklyn, New York native, Colleen Coleman. “With everything this residency has given me, I just feel really blessed.”
In 2011, Coleman graduated with her Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago. She described her career path since then as “untraditional.”
“I don’t have a BFA and I didn’t get my MFA until I was 48, but I’ve been a practicing artist my whole entire life,” she said.
Coleman originally started her career as painter, but her current work, which is inspired by multi-disciplinary artist Joseph Cornell, combines different visual mediums, juxtaposing aspects of drawing with collaging.
“As a painter, I was always interested in using a variety of different ways of presentation,” Coleman said. “I’ve always, always been a collector of things. … Much of the work that I do today are collage pieces — the ephemera you pick up from day-to-day. And it all comes together in this constellation.”
In her current body of work, “The Story of the Seven Sisters,” seven alien sisters time travel across different eras, communicating through constellations. The sisters come into contact with different historical figures — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Arturo Schomburg of the Harlem Renaissance and Harriet Tubman. They plan on eventually making a stop here at Chautauqua, Coleman said, a place which she described as having “powerful energy.”
Three of Coleman’s pieces from her “The Harriet Tubman Series,” were recently on display in “Connections I: CVA School of Art Residents Exhibition” in Fowler-Kellogg. The concept for the series came from the fact that Tubman used the stars and their constellations to navigate between the North and the South. Coleman said using the North Star has always been a part of storytelling, and said she views herself as one of those storytellers.
One of the lessons that Coleman has learned this summer is that there is more to being an artist than simply creating art.
“CVA has been both wonderful and challenging for me,” she said. “Being one of the more mature artists, I need all the information about how to make the business of being an artist work. In order to make this a success, I need to balance both (business and art-making). … This program gives you the opportunity to look at yourself holistically as an artist.”
Another art resident, Forrest Lawson, expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s been really wonderful,” Lawson said. “The biggest thing with this experience is that we’ve been able to build a community with all of us here, and we are helping each other navigate the careers we are all going into at the same time.”
Lawson is from Florida and recently graduated with his Master of Fine Arts in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Georgia. His work primarily draws inspiration from queer and feminist theories.
In grade school, he said that he would draw explicit portraits of women to appear straight, sending one clear message to his peers at the time: “Please don’t hit me.”
What started out as an cloak to shield his sexuality has become a tool to embrace his queerness.
“The whole reason I started this work I am doing now was because I was going through intensive C-PTSD recovery,” Lawson said. “I was trying to untangle my own childhood abuse, physical and emotional abuse, with homophobia being the center of the house.”
With a bachelor’s in sculpture, a lot of Lawson’s work is sculptural. His wax house sculpture, titled “Johnson,” was featured in “Connections I” and calls into question the difference between a house and a home. The house he grew up in acted as a cage that held his sexuality, shame, and abuse inside. To Lawson, it was not a home.
Lawson’s current work combines multiple visual mediums.
“With sculpture, I was working with a lot of materials that didn’t last and had some sort of impermanence to them,” Lawson said. “With my current work, I like the idea of playing with both print and sculpture. … I think we grow up thinking we have to be the perfect gay, and to not stand out. This is my way of not relying on that perfectionist outlook.”
Haughton is also experimenting with multiple mediums. Haughton is from Jamaica and is currently attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
In his work, he explores African culture and spirituality that was brought to the Caribbean through the Middle Passage, leading to a melting pot of cultures known as creolization. He reflects the mix of cultures in the Caribbean through his use of multiple visual mediums. His sculpture “Rolling Calf” is currently on display in “Connections II” in Fowler-Kellogg. The sculpture combines various mediums — beading, draping, collaging, painting and sculpting — into a single piece.
Haughton believes that it is important to have spaces like Chautauqua, where an artist can have creative freedom and time to experiment.
“Time to think and space to breathe for an artist is treasured time,” Haughton said.
Coleman is particularly appreciative for the range of ages in the residency program.
“This is a great experience to connect with other artists,” she said. “I think the intergenerational aspect of it is great because I’m able to share my experiences with others.”
Haughton, Coleman and Lawson are only three of the 41 resident artists. Every artist in the residency has a unique vision to offer Chautauqua, and the world.
“The artists are all so interesting,” Vance said. “They each bring such different perspectives and make you see things in ways that you wouldn’t normally see things. The art is more than just something you hang on a wall.”