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July 7, 2014

Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency 2014

Written by  Hilary Sloane
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Zoe Childerley photographing an abandoned car on a property recently acquired by the Mojave Land Trust Zoe Childerley photographing an abandoned car on a property recently acquired by the Mojave Land Trust Hilary Sloane

The Joshua Tree Artist Residency program (JTHAR), started by Frederick Fulmer and his partner James Berg, draws diverse talent from all over the world to the Desert for six weeks in the summer.

The program, in it’s eighth year, invites emerging and mid-career artists from different disciplines to spend concentrated time in Joshua Tree and surrounding areas. The artists: writers, painters, performance artists, photographers and musicians work on their own specific projects, meet local residents, explore the area and exhibit their work at Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG) at the end of the residency. The final show will be held on Friday, July 11th & Saturday, July 12th.

This year’s artists are Shea Hembrey, Jed Ochmanek, Andrew Malan Milward and Zoe Childerley.

Hembrey makes art focused on a singular, defined conceptual project where the idea directs his methods and media. He is known for staging an international art show with work from 100 different artists – all of whom he invented himself. He was showcased on Ted Talks in March 2011.   http://www.ted.com/talks/shea_hembrey_how_i_became_100_artists

This year, Hembrey is contemplating the Universe. No small feat as he works to complete close to 20 pieces, some 6 to 8 feet tall and several - his ‘models of the Universe’ are made up of many individual pieces. This body of work will be shown in October at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York City.

“I want work that is timeless,” Hembrey says. “If you ask big questions it becomes timeless.” His work contemplates all of life. “No reason to play small,” he adds. “Play big.”

When asked how he has been influenced by the other residents, Hembrey says he loves Milward’s writing. “It’s hard not to be a groupie. His (Milward’s) work is about essence and they (the short stories in ‘The Agriculture Hall of Fame’) are polished stones. They are really wise.”

Andrew Malan Milward is a Lawrence, Kansas native currently living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. For Milward the mystery of the desert, and the openness of the sky allows for the kind of solitude that feeds his work as a writer. Milward is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction has appeared in Zoetrope, The Southern Review, Columbia, Conjunctions, and Best New American Voices. His first book, ‘The Agriculture Hall of Fame’, was awarded the Juniper Prize in Fiction and issued by the University of Massachusetts Press, 2012. He has served as the McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and has received fellowships and awards from the Lannan Foundation, the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Norman Mailer Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Corporation of Yaddo. During this current residency he is editing a second collection of short stories - ‘I Was A Revolutionary’ which will be released next year by Harper Collins. He is writing a third non-fiction book on Basketball, which is dear to his heart.

“Six weeks of sustained time... is a gift,” Milward said.

Ochmanek, a graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design, now living in Los Angeles, works in sculpture, painting and video. He is currently experimenting with a painting technique that involves pouring multiple layers of very thin, oil-based enamel onto slim plates of industrial metal, such as mirror-polished steel. During the process, the pigments separate from their binder, drying in unique and unrepeatable patterns, which he amplifies by letting dust from the environment settle on the surface. The delicate, yet expressive surface and their flushness to the wall make them what Ochmanek calls, “Architectural Interventions.”

For Zoe Childerley, a British artist / photographer, documentary film-maker, and community worker, the richly diverse high desert community has provided a bridge between personal stories and the ecology of the land.

“People shape the landscape and the landscape shape them,” said Childerley, who has spent much of her time traveling and documenting her journey through the Joshua Tree National Park, The Mojave Preserve, The San Bernardino National Forest and local communities including Johnson Valley, Pioneer Town, Joshua Tree, Twenty-Nine Palms and Wonder Valley. Her research-rich work is a conceptual documentary, which includes portraits, landscape, still-life photographs and mapping-like drawings. A portion of this work-in-progress will be shown at the JTAG show.

Fulmer, an artist and teacher, and Berg, a writer, started the residency in 2007 as a ‘Pop & Pop” operation. As the success of the program grew they were joined by Steve and Ruth Rieman, Steve Bardwell and Sarah Kennington who now make-up the Board of Directors, and also provide additional housing for the artists. JTHAR is an officially approved non-profit and in addition to a place to live and work, the program has recently introduced scholarships to help pay out of pocket expenses for the recipients. This years scholarships were made possible by support from Ed Ruscha, and a grant from Betty Smiley and the Estate of Mike Smiley, and a generous donation from Dann & Karen Florek.

The Riemans said the program has been rewarding and inspiring. “We have made great friends with them all (the artists),” said Ruth Rieman.

Kennington said, “We have hosted three years of artists in residency. The experiences have been terrific. Each very different. Their (the artists) response to the high desert setting and the opportunity to focus on their work during the residency is a great reward for us.”

For the artists, the time spent in Joshua Tree has already been expansive and substantial. The quiet, the space to work uninterrupted, the community which has so gracefully welcomed them, and even the heat which hastens drying times has been valuable to each individual artist in unique ways.

JTHAR has hosted over thirty-five domestic and international artists since inception. Works of art have been created, life-long friendship have been made, experiences have been rich and mutually beneficial and not least, an additional outcome of the JTHAR program, is a band of artist-ambassadors that complete their residency with a deeper understanding of the high desert.

The JTHAR show reception will be held at JTAG, 61607 29 Palms Highway, on July 11th from 6-8PM in Joshua Tree.

To learn more about the current artists-in-resident check out their websites.

Zoe Childerley: www.zoechilderley.co.uk

Shea Hembrey: www.sheahembrey.com

Jed Ochmanek: www.jedochmanek.com

youngartgallery.com/index.php?/artists/jed-ochmanek/2/

To follow Andrew Malan Milward check out his books on Amazon.

To learn more about JTHAR and to support the artist residency, check out the website. http://jthar.com.

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