When Artists Collaborate

About a year ago, Sukanya and I began the long process to reach out to artists in Ireland in hopes of collaboration. We knew we were taking a risk, and we knew that funding organizations would not understand our mission. We wanted to talk to artists and writers and storytellers. We wanted to build relationships that might lead to collaboration and exhibits around a theme of strong women, mythical women, modern women, ancient women, women whose stories are not written in books, but told from grandmother to granddaughter, aunt to niece.

Four women and one man made the commitment to organize meetings with people they knew. They didn’t know us. We didn’t know them. We trusted that it would work. If it didn’t? We’ll learn about that, too.

It did work. Each of the five brought along another 30 along. Thirty new collaborators. Thirty artists and writers and storytellers and musicians who want to connect to other artists to create and learn and share.

We listened. And the end of one week of meetings, hikes, stories, art sharing, we are overwhelmed with the communion of artists and generosity of their time and spirit. We have more than an overwhelming amount of source material, we have relationships upon which we will make art.

We can never repay the generosity and kindness of our hosts. I can’t mention everyone, each who chose to meet with us or collaborate added immeasurably to our remarkable experience.

Miriam arranged for a group to meet us in Mullingar, in Jancita’s studio near her home. Seven women brought art to share, fiber to contribute to the group weaving, and stories aplenty.

On to Athlone, where Rosemarie organized a night in a yurt on the Hill of Uisneach, and a private tour with Ruth, a university lecturer and historian. Ruth led us on a three hour hike, up and down the hills of the royal land of kings that once lit the Beltane fires, signaling to all other communities that the festival could begin. She led us to Goddess Eiru’s burial site under the massive Cat Stone, and thousands of other details we could never remember, but will be familiar when we next come across them. It was windy and cold and damp. We didn’t care.

Patsy, the artistic director of the Fire Festival at the Hill of Uisneach, fed us and pampered us as she shared traditions of the land, helped us understand the role of the faeries. She shared her remarkable sculptures, and the inspiration behind them.

Rosemarie wasn’t done. She introduced us to adults with disabilities, who added their art to our projects, treated us to art exhibits, a night out at Sean’s pub (est. 900CE), and introduced us to music (thank you Aine), and wise women aplenty.

Sheila, at ArtFarm near Galway, sustained several personal losses and was forced to cancel. We hold her in our hearts and look forward to the time we can meet.

John led us to Susan’s pottery studio in Midleton near Cork, we we met with nine women and two men who had writings, poems, stories, and art to share. The state of the world interfered a bit and world politics crept into our conversations with reminders that artists and writers have the distinct privilege to address injustice and inequities on our work.

We know this is just the beginning. Individually we will make work that reflects our new relationships and new understandings. Together, we hope to create and exhibit work that brings our discoveries to new venues and new audiences, who are then inspired to join the collaboration with their work.

Our first task is to absorb what we have learned.

Then we make the work.


Anatomy of an Artist Residency, Part III

Anatomy of An Artist Resident, Part IAnatomy of An Artist Resident, Part II

Jeane and Sukanya leave in for Ireland portion of the Symbols and Stories project in fewer than six days. It’s a busy week. Holidays for Jeane, family preparation for Sukanya. Packing for both.

Each woman is a seasoned traveler. We can back a family for a week’s vacation in a day. Just us? A few hours. That’s for clothes and necessities. Each is taking art supplies, and that takes more careful selections.

The dates, late September, were chosen to fit enough time before major holidays for each. This week concludes the Days of Awe, the Jewish High Holy Days for Jeane. Yom Kippur is Wednesday. No packing or planning will happen from Sunday night through Thursday as Jeane prepares the house for the holiday, shops for the Break the Fast (Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast from food, water, and just about everything except prayer and reflection),  and observes the holiday.

In early October is Navratri, the Hindu celebration of Mother Goddess Durga, and lasts nine days.

A small sampling of yarn before making choices. Jeane wants all of them!

The window was narrow.

Actually, immediately after Yom Kippur, about the time we land in Dublin, begins Jeane’s favorite holiday Sukkot, eight days of dwelling in a rickety booth and reflecting on ideas of charity, shelter, sustenance, and study, among other things. She hates to miss it but will find time to observe it somehow.

Yarn that made the cut. about 8 grams of each.

Part of this residency for Jeane is tapestry. Three looms were chosen, two of which are for Jeane’s work, one for community work. It is hoped that pieces will be added to the communal weaving from anyone who wants to participate.

A natural fiber, a blade of grass, special fabric, yarn — anything with means and a story is welcome to be added to the story and final work.

Looms aren’t enough, though. There has to be yarn to weave. Tapestry yarn is different from knitting yarn. For this project, single strand Faro was chosen. But there are 80 of so cakes from which choose?

Obviously, selections are made. It’s easier to decide whether to take that extra black pair of pants!

Please follow our travels & project at www.symbols-and-stories.com






Anatomy of an Artist Residency, Part II

Read Anatomy of an Artist Residency, Part I

In 20 days, Jeane & Sukanya board an Air Canada jet to Dublin to begin the art residency they have talked about for more than two years.

Sukanya is a painter and paper cut artist. Jeane works in photography, mixed media, and tapestry.

Sukanya is searching for stories of women, everyday and ancient, goddess and maiden and mother and crone. Jeane is searching for ancient symbols and practices and weave together women’s experiences through the millennia.

Ireland is a treasure trove of ancient and myth and mysticism and stories. It’s easy enough to travel from one goddess site to another and gather what we needed. Tourists can do that.

We wanted more. We wanted collaboration. That’s a little trickier. Apparently, there is no central registry for artists to book a collaborator, like booking an AirBnB or renting a car. Too bad. We could use one of those.

Instead, we reached out to artists we found on Facebook, through Irish art groups, through professional art associations, though word of mouth. It’s a risk to reach out to others. It’s a risk to respond. We persevered. There HAVE to be artists who want to collaborate.

Initially, more than 15 artists responded that they were interested in our project, six finally committed. Without hesitation and with tremendous generosity, six Irish artists in various parts of the country offered ideas, places to stay, places to work, people to meet. Please read about them in Our Collaborators section above. You will be hearing a lot about them in the next month.

Creating a residency from scratch is a challenge. It’s not a common model, and it’s an experiment. We are very grateful to the artists who already have taken a risk to work with us. It’s a privilege to meet this way.

There is no art in a vacuum. Jeane and Sukanya invite you to add your voices, ideas, suggestions, comments, and art to the project.

Read Anatomy of an Artist Residency, Part II

Anatomy of an Artist Residency, Part I

I know it sounds like a glorified vacation –sometimes PAID vacation. But an artist seeks a residency for one reason: to advance the work.

Artists are misunderstood. Many people think we sit down at a table and just create! From our brains! It just comes out! Sometimes the great ones have angst. The bad ones have doubts. But we just create.

Well, sure. Sometimes it works like that. Rarely. Maybe once. I heard someone say.

No one creates in a vacuum. Creativity demands inspiration.  A muse. A trigger that triggers something else that triggers the idea that triggers the work.

No one’s muse is the same. Time alone, away from other obligations. Travel. New people. New places. New ideas. Whatever an artist’s idea of inspiration is, a residency allows time and energy for the muse to find a home.

If the artist is attentive and ready to pursue the work, a residency can encourage the art to explode in content and excellence. It’s a solitary partnership of place and time and effort. It’s labor. It’s not a vacation.

About 2 years ago, Sukanya and Jeane started whispering about a residency together, collaborative. Not India, Sukanya said. Jeane would have been thrilled to go back to India with someone who knew the country, but that wasn’t fair for a residency. IndiaTriple Spiral symbol -- three filled double Archimedean spirals (triskelion) gave Sukanya her soul, but it was too familiar.

We wanted to study goddesses, revered women. When a culture honors divine women, it’s possible to honor women of flesh. We both find that concept missing in our current land.

We chose Ireland for several reasons. Jeane’s paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland but she knew NOTHING about the culture. She spent a few delightful days in a fishing village an hour north of Dublin in 2012, but didn’t explore the countryside. She longed for a stone circle!

Ireland captured our attention because it is one of the few places that continues to honor pagan goddesses, even in a modern form. In the goddess realm, Ireland has the allure of being “other-worldly.” There, people write of “thin places” in the land where worlds speak to each other. Mythology is strong and vibrant; it has a place in many peoples’ everyday lives.

We want to study that. Sukanya will bring her knowledge of Hindu goddesses to the Celtic land. Jeane will bring her study of Mesolithic and Neolithic symbols that appear with mysterious commonality in different cultures around the world and have similar meanings. Together, the symbols and stories will create the base for new work. Together and separate. Muses merging.

With the basis of a plan — in other words, where we wanted to be and basically what we want to do– we set upon creating the residency for ourselves.

To be continued….  Anatomy of an Artist Residency, Part II

Symbols & Stories: In Search of Lost Women

We are Jeane Vogel & Sukanya Mani, two artists who are creating artwork focusing on alternate views of history that focus on women’s stories and women’s symbols, dating to pre-history.

Our journey begins in Ireland in September 2018, where we will collaborate with artists to exchange stories and explore the symbolism of female myth, lore, and stories that are deeply embedded in our respective cultures. 

Our plan is to create new art, collaborate with Irish artists, organize workshops and story-telling sessions, dive deeply into the myths and lore of women that have been hidden or discounted over time. Jeane and Sukanya will each will use their own art media, artistic expression, and cultural interpretations to gather information, create a body of work, and showcase it. Together with our Irish artist collaborators, we will find venues for the work. We will collect and include a reaction piece from the community as part of the exhibit.

Artist Jeane Vogel will use photography to document the process and get a sense of the space. She will also use mixed media and weft-faced tapestry to explore ancient stories. Jeane is interested in exploring the symbols and signs that foremothers left us to tell their stories, and how those stories have been translated and transformed into today’s cultural touchpoints. Ireland is especially rich in woman symbolism, and its culture has allowed ancient stories to be retold in modern religious practice and mythology. Jeane plans to incorporate her study of ancient Native American symbolism with Irish and “modern Western” symbolism of women in her work.

Artist Sukanya Mani is interested in contemporary stories told through ancient art forms. Sukanya has been exploring retelling the ancient stories and finding connections to the contemporary lifestyles of women today. She wants to study why certain artistic decisions were made in storytelling of the female in the past and bring it into a modern context. She uses tyvek paper, acrylic paints and delicate papercut techniques to retell these stories.

Our works intersect where the ancient and the modern meet. We hope to create new work building on new connections with better understanding of where the common themes lie among these cultures.

Thank you for coming along.


Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


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