Posted by: jeanne | May 29, 2008


i’ve applied for an art residency in ireland. it wouldn’t be my first trip to ireland. i used to live there back before there was a european union, and ireland was a poor country where everybody shared the little they had and pints of guinness were a pound and fivepence. there was coal smoke in the air in the winter, and the irises started budding in february. it was great.

and because i loved the place so much, when my sister graduated from chiropractic school i lured her over there. simply so i’d have a place to stay whenever i wanted to come back to visit.

a couple of years ago i thought i was going to die, so i sold my things and went on a year and a half of art residencies, getting everything i had to say out. i wrote a book, i painted a bunch of pictures, i did a lot of thinking. but then, when i discovered that i probably wasn’t going to die, i started again from scratch, and have built up a pretty good life for myself, with an artist husband, and an art studio downstairs. the morning comute consists of an hour in bed drinking coffee and talking, a dog walk, breakfast, and a staircase.

so why do i need to go on an art residency? i certainly can’t get more done than i already do here. it would mean leaving my husband and my dog for a month, the expense of a plane ticket, and loads of supplies. and let’s not forget the pint of guinness or two at the local back down the mountain every couple of days. why leave home to do what i do already?

because of the very land itself.

20 years ago, after deciding to go face things at home, i made the grand tour  of ireland with my friend francis, and passed thru ballinskelligs, down at the toenails of the ring of kerry.

we took a detour to this amazing abandoned village, a famine village, right on the side of this mountain – you would roll right down to the bottom of the field and over the cliff if you tumbled on the way home in the dark after a few too many.

i took pictures, we wandered around. its beauty was the starkness of the ruined cottages against the crisp blueness of the sky and the sea, and the living, shifting folds of the mountains of kerry beyond.

words can’t describe it. i thought about that landscape for years, and painted a picture, and always wanted to go back there, with an almost visceral tug.

i’ve been back to ireland a bunch.

usually to dublin, and mostly staying with my sister.

over the years i’ve looked for information on the place i knew only as bolus head. but one day earlier this year i was ringing francis for his birthday wishes and we talked about it. and he told me that a mover and shaker from when i was living there, a name i remembered from the society pages, had bought the whole village, and rehabilitated it, and was now running it as an artist residency.

well, my reaction was immediate. but loads of searches turned up nary a place where you could apply online. i looked for bolus head art residence, i looked for campbell sharpe residency, i looked for cill rialaig application. it drove me nuts. but i finally got to somewhere, and found out how to apply.

and since then i’ve been zooming in on the satellite map on google maps, dreaming about painting the changing light and clouds and sea and mountains, and about the experimental fabric work i’ve been doing and how i would transport it and wondering how being there would change what i was doing, and dreaming about walking around on the mountain and down to the village for milk and a pint, and i’ve been wondering how i could get my husband to leave the dogs and the studio and come over to get me when it’s time to go home and spend a few days sharing it with me.

so, should i be granted a residency at the cill rialaig project, this will become my travelog, a series of missives like the mass emailings i did when i went on my year and a half of residencies, back in 2003-4.

so i figured i’d document it in the early stages, just in case.

not to jinx it, i must admit that i’ve been very tired lately, and that recent bouts of travel have worn me out, and i’m not a million percent sure i want to leave my home, husband and doggie to set up a studio several thousand miles away from my nightly backrubs and morning cups of coffee.

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