In their first and second blog posts, Alchemy, 2021 Creatives in Residence, shared how their work brings artists and cooks into community settings. They examine how the making and sharing of art and food makes a difference on two fronts: in the community itself, and in the creative practices of their collaborating artists and makers. In their newest blog below, Alchemy takes you behind the scenes to meet one of their visiting artists – Barbara Brown.  Barbara spent two weeks creating a site specific piece that will be part of the public art exhibition, Field Notes, scheduled for the Culture Days Festival from September 25 – October 24.  She also spent four days in the kitchen contributing to Alchemy’s twice weekly suppers for 40 farm and vineyard workers. 

Alchemy: What was the most positive aspect of your Hillier experience this year? 

Barbara: There is something deeply restorative about being in this open landscape including the huge skies and the wide vista of the lake. I enjoyed being in the County, experiencing the deeply agrarian landscape and meeting people who have tethered themselves to the land through growing. 

Barbara Brown, sketching
Image Credit: Barbara Brown

Alchemy: How did this year’s visit build on your earlier experience collaborating with Alchemy in the County? 

Barbara: On my previous visit, I met people who were passionately engaged with farming but on a modest scale. During this visit, I got to know a grower/vintner couple who operate on a much bigger scale. While there are many similarities, the larger scale operations have much more at stake and each decision can have a large ripple effect. Growing at the level of a winery is not for the faint of heart.

Artistically, it was great to return to Hillier Hall for many days in a row. It allowed me to further develop the “longscape” work that I first began in the Hall in 2018.

Alchemy: Is there something you learned from your time in the kitchen that you can share with us?

Barbara: I can share two different observations –the first from my kitchen experience: 

Scaling up the volume of cooking and having a hard deadline for delivery certainly upped the stakes. It also shifts the timing as everything takes longer from chopping to cooking to serving. 

Barbara Brown, in the kitchen and eating lunch
Image Credit: Dan Sharp

Alchemy: And the second?  Is there something you learned as an artist that you will consider incorporating into your own practice?

Barbara: I became aware of the degree of problem solving involved in both cooking and art making. I think this foregrounds a kind of flexible thinking that is healthy and leads to a multitude of possibilities and that’s how I experience art making as well.

Barbara brown, leaf paintings
Image Credit: Barbara Brown

Alchemy: What advice or insights would you offer to incoming visiting artists as they prepare for their residency?

Barbara: Come with a plan but also be ready to shift things up depending on what you experience here. Be open to incorporating new experiences into your practice. Don’t focus on making finished work as the time is very short once you are in the County.

The experience of developing new work on a tight deadline is very challenging but it does lead to getting things done. It takes time for the experience of being in the county to become somehow transformed and incorporated into an artistic output. Sometimes it’s beneficial to have the added pressure of a short timeline but not always. 

Barbara Brown’s installation
Image Credit: Dan Sharp (1), Barbara Brown (2)

See Barbara’s upcoming work in the group exhibition Field Notes at Hinterland Winery from September 25 through to October 24. Field Notes is an exhibition of seven temporary public art installations and one public reading in Hillier Hall. The exhibitions will be on display at wineries throughout Hillier, PEC, Ontario. To see the list of artists and locations click here: https://makealchemy.com/exhibition-2021. Register here to be notified of the launch of the digital exhibition and exhibition map. 

You can check out our full list of 2021 Creatives in Residence here.


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