At approximately 8:30pm on the last night of the residency, I inserted the last remaining letter from a stack of emails that had arrived in the afternoon. By sheer coincidence, this left exactly 2 pouches out of 500 unopened. It then dawned on me that I had not yet written a letter and so I did so to fill the 499th pouch. The very last pouch remains untouched so as to remind us that the act of providing guidance for the future is not a fixed exercise, but an ongoing and ever-unfinished process.
Regarding the painting that I created as part of the stipulations of the residency:
At approximately 1:30am, I rinsed my brushes out and stepped away. As I opened the doors to the elevator, I thought, "I washed out too much of the green--that should be darkened" and "I'm not sure if the flags are working--perhaps the original idea of using a fence would be better" and "I liked the idea of putting barbed wire up and showing a figure wrapping fabric around it, but that would take another month to paint" and "Should the island stay or go? Agh!" and "Should the women be in full color/detail like they once were or should I keep them in layers of transparency to indicate that this is, of course, not real?" and "I would love to put more detail into the bundles and to soften the edges near the top, but I have to get back to Rochester" and "If I only had a couple more days to work on this, I could mature the edges and put more shadows into the clothing" and "there should be faces on the women" and "I never got to add shadows and straps to the bundles..."
This uncertainty, in great part, comes from the parameters of the residency--to work in a busy, public space over the course of five days in between important coversations with interesting people. One of the great strengths of this format is that viewers have the rare opportunity to trace non-linear paths of visual decision making. One of the dangers is that it could propogate the notion that art can be made on the spot within a given time frame, without need for reflection or stillness. This residency fell somewhere in the middle, both accepting and expecting both. This makes sense, as an authentic laboratory situation would be too tedious to endure; the viewers would have to watch me work for 6 hours straight, then watch a Yankees game, then pay bills before returning to look at the painting for 3 minutes (without doing anything to it at all), then wait until five days later when I realize what it was missing, then watch as I screw that up royally, then wait until I try again several weeks later, only to be distracted by email and snacks, then watch me start three other projects while stopping to send out proposals, then watch me turn it backwards against the wall.
In the end, I decided to keep the production process as authentic as possible. Rather than stick to my original idea of pre-painting everything in neutral tones and then adding only color on site, I started with a completely blank canvas (40 x 80"). The whole time, though, I knew that the Cornell Economics Department would be keeping the final painting and that meant that I was performing an experiment that had to work.
I'm not sure that it did when I compare it to the last painting that I made (one that took me over 500 hours), but perhaps it worked with the context. And, perhaps I'll just take a little more time on it when I go back to de-install the pouches--just to "darken the green here" and "add some more detail here"...