Dream by Kerri McGill

Your dream is bold and clear. The path is obvious. Maybe it includes a timeline. As you proceed forward with determination and optimism, unforeseen aspects of life make the path less straightforward. Other realities come to light and the goal is far less attainable than when first conceived. In fact, you have to put your dream away for a small while and attend to other matters. It will only be a short while…

Time slips by. A break turns into a hiatus. When there is finally an opportunity to return to the dream, you are not the same person, your life is a different place and even the dream looks different.  Will you rework it or leave it behind?

Dream (painting)
This painting is in response to a dream that came true. Painted as an anchor piece for a body of work to be created in a Buenos Aires art residency. It explores ideas of anticipation, imagination and reality. This piece will endure the physical tribulations that often occur philosophically to a dream.

The painting came about so quickly it felt reactionary. I didn’t think twice about size or color. It was clear and bold. It was like making something that I had memorized plans to… I guess it wasn’t supposed to fit through a door.

I pack the piece up and travel through Patagonia. In Buenos Aires,  I plan to use the blemishes of travel and rework “reality” into this “Dream”. The residency vetoes my project. This hefty beast I’d been lugging through South America is now a mute thing. It stays packed up. I create a very different project.

It remains packed away tight for two more years. The creases and folds have a life of their own.  I don’t have the proper stretcher bars and the damn thing wouldn’t fit out the door if I did anyway.

I miss it though. And here is the day I pull it off the shelf, fuss with wrinkles, folds and crush marks, put it back on the wall and reexamine this Dream.

Maps, Landscapes, and your Bossy Brain by Kerri McGill

The Map became a key player in my life last year. I traveled to the opposite side of the world and back and even at home, my jobs and living spaces changed frequently. The image I spend most of my time examining is not a masterpiece with a complex and subtle brush strokes..It is a simple graph overlaid with flat color and unwavering line quality.

I've never experienced such colossal space as in Patagonia. Any sense of space, scale or time is usurped by a landscape that reinvents itself at every turn. Mountains, glaciers, cliffs, tundras, waterfalls, forests appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly like ghosts...

In Buenos Aires, I cling to maps. On the bus I watch for landmarks, memorize street names and count the jogs in the grid which deviate into webs of confusion.

They say memory is an emotional process...
In my fear of traveling without grasp of language, the map became life guidance, the one sure thing to guide me through the confusion of the city and navigate my personal turmoil. The grid holds strong.

A year of constant motion and map gazing begs the question –

How do I convey space, time and the effects our environment has on us? 
How has my past affected how I view the new environments I find myself in?

One of the fundamental functions of our brain is mapping our location: where we came from, where we are, and how many ways there are to get to the next place. Another key action, our brains continually search for familiar patterns, even in the middle of the unknown.  Actually, our brains are not great at taking in new information. They much prefer to imprint expectations based on past knowledge.  The brain tries very hard to transform new things into what is familiar.

Maybe this lends to the magic in Patagonia..
I had nothing to compare it to. I was in continual awe. 

My life in New England created an internal map that is my basis for organizing and understanding any other Space I inhabit...even if it is completely different. 

I am in search of a visual vocabulary. These new works use the map as a starting point and play with the idea of how we use past knowledge to organize what lies before us.

Work from Buenos Aires Art Residency by Kerri McGill

LPEP Art Residency

Buenos Aires is a powerful and passionate city. The layers of history weave a fabric of paradox as each generation past speaks as loudly as the bands playing the street corner today. European architecture and statues loom by contemporary street art. Tango and intricate sign painting are unique to the city. Music from protest chants to carnival drums fills all corners. I live by the tattered scraps of map in my pocket.

How will I make a sincere body of work about such a massive and complex place in only a few weeks? 

I pull materials from the street to talk about those very streets: plaster, cardboard, paint, billboard advertisements...

I lay down an image, cover it with plaster and a second image.  I break through the first.. It’s a physically literal extension of the potent layers of BA

Each piece is a humble response to the different realities in the evolving landscape of the labyrinth that is BA.I sample protest chanting, drumming, Carnival bands, and the president’s address.  This becomes the soundscape for the show.

Because of size and mixed media such as plaster, many works staid behind. The piece exhibited here was sliced into pieces for traveling.  The disjointed pieces lend a sense of distress and disjointedness appropriate for the theme.

There is a heartbreak in leaving my artwork behind. The loss becomes a conceptual layer…As it comes from the city streets to speak about the city, so too may it return to the streets.

As I held on so tightly to a little ripped gray map with one hand,
I had to let go of my own artwork with the other.

Art residency, Buenos Aires- The Madres by Kerri McGill

The thundering storms make mornings good research time.  I pour over books and websites and bus schedules to piece my days together. One tour guide touts SanTelmo's "faded grandeur".  Another the bright colors of Boca... A poverty stricken barrio that became the most colorful after using boatyard leftovers to paint the homes. The tour books make it very clear it is still a poor area and whatever you do do not leave the tourist area. Tourists books are a little strange.

They celebrate Chinese New Year here--perfect!  My second day in the art residency at Buenos Aires and celebration of a new start! There is a large Chinese population here with a run on small food markets. The announcer explains the story of the dragon dance.  At one point he says: "The next time you buy your groceries, know this is what all those ppl working in fruit markets believe is true..." Apperntly this celebration is also an introduction to the holiday.

I dutifully visit the list of museums and openings Frank gives me. It seems like standard homework that leads me to a touristy area and the Museo Nacional de Bello Artes. A beautiful collection of European art. Sadly the second  floor w/regional artists is under construction. I traipse to the top floor for work from a contemporary photographer. Black and white portraits, extremely close, extremely large.  The walls are filled with faces of old woman. There are two photos of each woman: one with the fluffy hairdos of woman of that age. The other, with a white kerchief around, tying their hair back.  Without the fluffiness of hair, the shape of the face Is different.  I can't help but meditate on the cause behind ages' deep wrinkles .With and without a white scarf hair. There is no longer a visual balance to the deep austere lines of age of many if the faces. I don't understand much of the text. Not sure if the scarf is a social comment or traditional symbol but I like the idea of alter egos. Like a super hero cape.

That evening as I do my homework, I catch a few pages about history. The Madres. Their loss at the hands of the government, children disappeared-Their march-Their strength and persistence. Many of them still march every Thursday.  I read these word and mark it on the map for tomorrow, Thursday. 

They march in the Plaza del Mayo, in front of Casa Rosada (the pink equivalent to the White House).  A crowd cheers as they climb out from a minivan.  They walk with a banner chanting nd singing. At the end, a speach.  Her voice is powerful, maybe a voice and a strength you wouldn't expect.  I am moved to tears even though I don't understand her words. 

It is plain that Spanish lessons are a necessity. As someone who enjoys conversation, the inability to understand others is upsetting in the most painful sense of the word.  How can I know a city if I can't understand anyone? 

On the way home, another thunderous storm appears. My Chinatown umbrella doesn't stand a chance and is blown into oblivion. I run to the corner pizzeria. The house is only a few blocks away, but the rain says; "Stay. Have an empanada and a beer."  The server speaks no English but he is kind and patient as I hack up his language.  We wait out the rain and watch the local fúrbol match. With the help of my dictionary, I find out the teams, His team, and the schedule for the wknd games.  Maybe there's hope for me after all... 

Art Residency: Buenos Aires by Kerri McGill

I've made a monstrous miscalculation, an enormous error in judgement...

As dreams are clean streamlined versions of reality, my dream of travel in Arg leaves a hefty something out. That something is the city, itself.

After years of working in city spaces, the idea of traveling the Goliath space of Patagonia followed by making art seemed complete. Buenos Aires, the spot to contemplate ideas of time and space in cities vs natural setting: sitting in a quiet cafe reading and sketching, working in a studio, trading ideas w/other artists... A satisfying plan.

As the plane circles BA to land, my heart sinks a little. The city reaches as far as the eye can see without break or deviation. The city is All. My plan does not take into account the shear power charisma and magnitude of this city, this city, unknown to me. Of course I mean to explore this city. I just had no idea how much city there is!

The taxi driver grimaces when I tell him the address. It's a good drive away from the city center. Paternal is a working class neighborhood. The Main Street is lined w/kiosks(bodegas) fruit stands, and the type if stores you'd find on the edge of Chinatown. The sidewalks are broken. There is construction everywhere. Construction looks like holes in the dirt. 

The residency is a homey apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 cats and a studio space. There is a roof deck and a small apartment where's he organizer,  Frank, lives. 

When I speak about my project idea. The reaction: it would be good if you make work about Buenos Aires.

Of course. This makes sense. But my Lord I just got here! Have you seen the size if this city? How do I approach an unexpected unknown subject and make honest work? Even if I use Patagonia as a point if departure, I fear coming off as the typical tourist. How can I know this city well enough to make a sincere comment?

Things become more complex...
The rain storms of the first two weeks hold me captive. This is not weather, this is a beast that shakes the walls and infiltrates the house. All of the cracked sidewalks and dirt-hole construction turn walkways into mud.  Storms own the mornings and often appear from nowhere in the afternoon. When I say there are sheets of rain, I refer more to sheets of plywood and less to sheets of Egyptian cotton. The weather fluctuates from cold rains to debilitating heat and humidity, and the rain in the evening is dealer's choice. This is not conducive to exploring.

In packing, I have only hiking boots or sandals. My sandals rub the skin off my feet, give me blisters and disintegrate in the mud bathed walks within a week. A hunt for shoes takes up more time than I'd like. It's hard to find something between a $10Flipflops and $180 Nikes. I get lost easily. My, first day I trek  along Warnes Ave- an unending avenue full of auto body shops with unending piles of motors and parts. I cannot explain what it is that makes this greasy street enchanting in some way.

A window in the rain allows me, bandaged feet an all, to get to a few of the museums, artisan markets and cafés.  I spend so much time avoiding sidewalk hazards, I often miss the details of architecture that fill the city with magic.  But the street art stands out at every corner.

In my favor I came armed w/George's Luis Borges Ficciones. When I had enough of fighting the city storms, I hide in a cafe and read. I had enough for thought to know his work is full of possibilities, a connection factor. His stories are full of labyrinths, double realities, twisted time space. He might as well be a quantum physicist. 

Time moves quickly. There is still much to see.  Between thoughts of Patagonia, the depths of BA, and the cpmplexity of Borges.. I am overflowing w/thought. How to pear down and focus... I still need shoes.


My Art Residency asked for a project.  I didn't really have a solid thought when I applied.  As I went through older paintings, one image stood out...and I ran with it.  It's a great image and a universal concept:
The line between the imagined and reality

On a large piece of muslin I paint the imagined South America with colors and shapes made out of dreams. The 10x9' muslin will be folded tight to the size of a small pillow 9x10", folded like a map and crushed into my backpack. It will stay with me as I travel through Argentina. It will be used as a pillow for the physical element of sleep and dreams. The painting becomes an art object, a map, a dream catcher of sorts. It will be altered, maybe damaged, as dreams will change shape, maybe loose color, paint may chip or stick. Maybe it gets torn, left behind or stolen!

I arrive in January, meet with Andres in Satiago, friend's will remember Andres' Story .  Santiago is home to Pablo Neruda, a huge influence of mine.  We will travel to Padagonia from there.  As we travel, I will sketch the real Arg, real colors shapes experiences...Will it be bold and dramatic like my imagined landscape, or will they resemble my familiar sketches of NY's subways and Boston's cafés?

In Feb I arrive at LPEP for a month as artist in residence. I will pull out the large drop, check it for physical damage....Has the dream staid intact? I will compare the sketches and the dream piece ..

Installation- large drop (imagined) vs small sketches (reality)

My First Science Paper: by Kerri McGill

Artist as Society’s Catalyst for Intellectual Evolution

(A lot of people got a kick out of my first science paper ever. I'm still taking suggestions - D'Lynne I know you're out there. This is my submission to a neuroaesthetics conference in Denmark..

The first homosapien to transition to higher consciousness may have been the artist. 40% of our brain’s neurons are dedicated to the visual brain. It is a particular individual that is predisposed to physically reinterpret the effects of visual qualia into an original product. This product, visual art, nurtures the growth of complex ideas through neural connections. Society’s visual citizen provides the community with a necessity, the neural catalyst.

As others create schedules based on daily needs, the artist stops and fixates on visual stimuli not connected with immediate survival needs and actions. This qualia observation connects with memory, emotion, or hypothetical ideas and induces focused reentry. This contemplation breaks the individual from the “remembered present” through active intellectual investigation.

The artist translates the perceptual memory and related ideas into visual metaphors to be reinterpreted by an audience. Many layers of visual content create ambiguity that calls on all parts of the viewer’s brain to interpret meaning. Art does not cater to just the mid-brain (emotional brain) as traditionally believed, or even to specific areas of the brain. Viewing art caters to the process of reentry. It strikes the cerebellum with an emotional jolt. It calls on the cerebral cortex to assess novelty and reassess expectations. The reentry connects new visual info to the viewer’s personal intellectual history. A concentrated gaze allows for contemplation of constant stimuli. This constant puts saccades and the brain’s need to constantly construct time/space to rest and allow other areas of the brain more activity. The viewer instills a personal timeline, unlike the spoken/written language which structures the release of information in grammar and controlled time sequence.

Since it marked a turning point in evolution and intelligence in early homosapiens, art has never faded as a sign of humanity and communication. The more we study the workings of the brain, the more we know that our thoughts are emotion and metaphor based. The more we learn about our physical realities, the more we may find that the written word may not be enough. We may need a visual aid that touches all parts of the brain at once. Preparation through surrogate experiences, reassessing expectations, and the quieting effect of the visual constant are all ways visual art readjusts neuro-pathways and the individual’s thought process. Visual contemplation of artwork is the catalyst for complexity of ideas and with it strengthens society with innovation.