August 27-28, 2016, Saturday-Sunday | Waxing Gibbous | Aptos, CA
Hosted by Kendra AM, Artist-in-Residence in Motherhood 2016-2017
Art is breathtaking, backbreaking, heart-bleeding work. And, more often then not, we artists tend to prioritize our art, our people, and our daily commitments over self care. My hope for the weekend is for the artists to produce art, but also have the opportunity to unplug from the business of our lives, connect with nature, and take a moment to refresh, restart, renew, or simply remember ourselves. That is why I invited Eutimia to Camp Takibi to offer wellness treatments on day one and then to teach us how to remember our medicine on day two. I hope this portion of Camp will be soothing, surprising, and powerful.
What was Camp Takibi all about?
When I became an an Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood in Aptos, California for 2016-2017, I became focused on the reinterpretation of motherhood and the home as a site for artistic exploration and production. I also set goals for myself to make art out of motherhood rather than about it, and to share that work publicly.
When I set out to plan for my residency it was with a belief that engaging in community and dialogue with other artists would be essential to my residency’s success. However, as a full-time caregiver to a nursing toddler, my adult interaction is currently limited to only those associated with my children’s survival and entertainment. In my daily life, my primary contact with each of the artists for whom I have so much admiration and from whom I have historically derived so much stimulation, inspiration, and hope, happened primarily via social media. While comforting and safe, the experience is obviously limited, consisting mostly of “likes” and “loves”, the occasional quick comment, and the interrupted-by-baby superficial chat attempt.
Once I allowed myself to simply see my home from a different perspective and to embrace an openness to the space as potential for artistic production, the initial ideas for CAMP TAKIBI came together easily. It began as a plan to take a selection of artist-friends out of my social media feed and place them together here in my home. (A concept that thrilled me as an artist and terrified me as an introvert.) The list of invitees consisted of artists I missed — missed their openings, their shows, their conversation, their physical presence. The purpose of the retreat was to provide the artists with a space away from their daily lives where they may unplug, convene, and make art. I asked them to bring with them their current projects, creative blocks and questions, and a willingness to be together (with ample opportunities for solo time as well). I invited Trinidad Escobar to give the keynote as we enjoyed dinner prepared by Chef Jay-Ar Pugao of No Worries Vegan Cuisine (who also happens to be Trinidad’s partner). I asked Eutimia Cruz Montoya of Muse in Medicine to teach us a workshop titled “Remembering Your Medicine” and to provide wellness treatments at a sliding scale. I also invited the artists to present their work at an open mic/gallery/screening event during the first evening. And, while my artistic focus during the creative hours would be on the exploration of motherhood and the home, the camp itself was not.
What surprised me most about CAMP TAKIBI was that news of it spread via word-of-mouth like wild fire and 40% of the registered attendees were artists with whom I had no social media connections and would meet for the first time on the first day of camp.
How is CAMP TAKIBI different from other artist’s retreats and workshops?
Artist retreats and workshops are usually designed as a way for artists to get away from their daily lives, pursue their art, and enjoy the company of other artists. Most retreats/workshops are not family-friendly nor are they focused on the artist and wellness in addition to honing craft or producing work. CAMP TAKIBI was different. It subverted ideas of escape as essential to retreat and the private nature of American residential life, and challenged issues around the presence of partners and children. The camp asked artists to acknowledge the stress of their daily struggle and meet it head on by remembering their medicine. It also welcomed families. It opened up my family’s domestic space for communal use. It also asked artists to arrive with a mind open to connecting to our ancestors, the earth, and the purpose of self care so that we might return to our daily lives with conviction around our artistic purpose and practice.
By allowing myself to reimagine the home as a site for artistic production, I was able to see my surroundings in a different light. I noticed how nothing but a fence line separates my home from the campgrounds of New Brighton State Beach Park. I could smell the campfire smoke in the air. I could hear laughter in the distance.
I have always been drawn to the idea of camping as ritual; the endowment of a patch of land as “camp”, the pitching of the tent, the coming and going to collect wood, the cooking and eating in the open air, the community of glowing faces around the campfire, the talkstory that begins with flashes of scattered chatter and builds into raging laughter before settling down into dark story embers, the sharing of secrets, and drifters to sleep. Camping has always given me a sense of warmth and togetherness, community and dialogue. I would be doing dishes or nursing the littlest one or vacuuming and see visions of my artist-friends all sitting around a campfire and it was during those kinds of daily moments that the idea for the retreat began to take shape.
What does “Takibi” mean?
“Takibi” is Japanese for “bonfire.” I liked the sound of it and the idea of the community that is shared around a bonfire, its collaborative nature, and the idea of “sparking” new material and artist connections. Also, I am Japanese American and have always be drawn to the combination of Japanese and English words in my projects so to reflect that part of my identity.
I don’t know how you do it all… How do you do it all?
A lot of people have asked me how I manage to “do it all” and assume I’m somehow using my time more efficiently than other moms. The truth is, I don’t. To make Camp Takibi happen, I initially had big expectations for myself. I imagined finding childcare for two hours a day, five days a week or for three hours a day, three days a week. I browsed some caregiver hiring sites and examined my local community, but none of the options felt comfortable. I didn’t like the idea of hiring someone with whom I did not have an intimate relationship. I also didn’t feel comfortable asking my husband’s local family members to travel to our house to help since they all have busy lives of their own. I also wasn’t ready to be away from my daughter for that many hours each day given that she’s still young and nursing. But, I was also feeling very frustrated and unfulfilled as an artist and adult human. I knew I needed to free up time for myself to do things like take a shower, go to the bathroom, and work. I knew that if I wasn’t going to hire childcare then I would have to readjust my schedule in order to make the time to work. I’m not a morning person but I am a night owl. I’m also not someone who can operate on just a few hours of sleep. So instead of getting up earlier to work, I decided to stay up from midnight-3am for 3-4 days per week to work alone in my studio within earshot of all bedrooms while my family slept. To make up for the sleep deprivation, I would nap with my daughter every afternoon instead of doing things around the house or running errands. I was tired but so much happier because I was getting work done.
The week leading up to Camp Takibi, my husband and stepson did a lot to help with preparing the land, stringing lights, running errands, and taking my daughter on long walks so I could finish preparations. My husband even changed the toilets out for ones that were more efficient since we’d have so many people coming through (and reimagining the home as potential art space in the future beyond Camp Takibi). In the end, it was a family effort that had to be meticulously organized and minute-by-minute calendared and it was exhausting, but it was also completely fulfilling and bonding and transformative. There was a lot we had to let go while we worked on Camp Takibi and I certainly did not (and still don’t) “do it all”. But we did pull off a beautiful weekend and I achieved the completion of my first project on residence.
Do you feel isolated again now that the camp is over?
After everyone left I was more than happy to have the house back to ourselves so we could process and clean and return to our daily lives. And my heart remained full. And I’ve continued to ride the momentum late night in my studio. (I even completed a fellowship application — the first in five years.) And my relationships with select artists has sustained the return to long-distance as we chat more often and interact online in more meaningful ways. Doing this project also opened up my family and I to think more creatively in other parts of our lives. We ate outdoors multiple times since camp. We light more fires. We do more art as a family.