Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cleaning House & Moving Out

Skye Livingston
Kansas City, Missouri
November- December 2014

Cleaning House & Moving Out

Happy Thanksgiving! Oh…that was already a week ago? Right. I also woke up thinking it was Friday (the past three days in a row). And then yesterday I considered the possibility that it might be January. I’m a little out of sync these days, which can happen when you spend must of your time in your studio apartment by yourself, only occasionally venturing out into the forest. I also skipped last week’s blog post, which always throws me off. 

I’m winding down my residency at The Rensing Center, and planning to head to Kansas City for a few days on my way over to San Diego, where I'll be for about a month, for some family time and a personal residency from residencies. And come on, who doesn't want to spend the holidays in sunny San Diego?!

My work here has been really segmented. I spent the first two weeks creating drawings for the Holiday Hot Shop at the Sherry Leedy Contemporary in KC, the following week going through and organizing all of my studio supplies, and this past week revisiting some embroidery and sewn paper work. Since I’ve had this whole space to myself for the past few weeks, I’ve really been able to spread out and take over every available horizontal surface. 

I've come to really enjoy the space I've inhabited here. It took me a while to nest in it, but now that I have, I feel like I've really hit my stride so I'm sad to be leaving so soon! So thanks for everything Rensing, it's been great!

You can view more of my work on my website, and follow my adventures at other residencies on my blog

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Pickens Flea Market

Skye Livingston
Kansas City, Missouri
November- December 2014

The Pickens Flea Market

One of the things that I find so amazing and endearing about Pickens is the weekly flea market, which happens every Wednesday. Why is it on Wednesday mornings? Because it always has been. How do hoards of people manage to come every week despite school and work requirements? Who knows! Apparently they tried to change it to Saturday a while back, but no one came. Because the Pickens Flea Market is on Wednesdays. Every week. 

There's an incredible selection of things being sold. They have everything from the standard farmers' market selection of produce, bread, eggs, jams etc. to packaged foods, toiletries, otc medicine, toys, used clothes, shoes, fancy roosters and even puppies. Anyone can rent a vendor space, so a lot of people seem to use the opportunity to have a weekly garage sale of sorts, which means that there are a lot of great things to be found. Tintypes, heirloom furniture, old coins, antique knives and all kinds of unexpected ephemera have all been spotted. 

For the most part, you really can do all of your shopping at the flea market. And it's set up that way. I'm amazed at how many people I see there (except yesterday of course, when I took these pictures, because no one told me that on cold days, everyone comes later in the day) and the assortment of goods I see them purchasing. People really seem to establish relationships with the vendors and come back every week, not only to do their shopping, but to hang out, eat tacos (there's a taco stand) and talk to the really nice guy who sells baby lettuce sprigs while his old beagle sits on the flatbed behind him and watches. 

It's a great experience, and I love going there weekly to gather my groceries, do a bit of people watching and soak in the atmosphere. 

-Skye Livingston

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Resident, New Work

Skye Livingston
Kansas City, Missouri
November- December 2014

New Resident, New Work

This is my introductory blog post for the Rensing Center and I'm delighted to share my studio practice and some of my current work in progress. I arrived about a week and a half ago and so far, it's been a whirlwind. Amidst the overlapping arrival and departure of residents, acclimating to the area, getting settled in studio and celebrating a birthday, it's been an eventful ten days, to say the least.

This is my studio space, just after I moved in and just before the fruitful production these past few days.

And here it is in its current state of production. I have a deadline to finish quite a few drawings for a gallery in Kansas City, so it was nice to have a direction upon arrival so that I could jump into creating. I'm currently residency hopping, so I came straight from a residency in Nebraska where I had started working on these in their current state, but I have been able to really develop them here. I'm excited about the direction of this work and can't wait to see how it grows at The Rensing Center.

You can read more about my work and residency lifestyle on my personal blog at, and see all of my work on my website at

-Skye Livingston

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Message from the evening muse

Apart from one torrential downpour, the days here, mostly sunny and beautiful, have passed much too quickly.  It has been truly lovely watching the landscape overhead change from dropping scuppernogs to acorns and large crunchy leaves.  The trail through the woods has been a wonderful nourishing place with changing mosiac skies, mysterious paw prints in the sand and little fish darting in the tiny pools collecting at a bend in the falls.
A multi-media, sacred artist/social activist, singer-song writer, stage and voice over actor, wife and (until recently) mostly stay-at-home~schooling mom, who's found it impossible to choose one or be all, I find myself at a bend in my own road: continually asking the question: "what am I supposed to be doing again?"
The answers come... Sometimes whispering in the night, through poetry and pictures and sacred texts that open up to just the right place, right time and space.  I am using my time here to rest and press the " reset" button, to qualify and quantify myself;
sometimes running hither and yon'
To help a friend transition, to co-craft a song
Or a voice over gig, that comes when I leave home
Through grant writing and research that says I'm not alone...
(thank you Christine for your patient camera crewing through many botched takes,
Ellen, for lending your awesome home space, and Xiaoren for your listening and supportive ear.)
Finally, Who I Am is coming clear and I think I can claim a new career!:
a therapeutic artist that came here to heal
And a writer who speaks from the heart of what's real...

Words of wisdom from the evening muse:
To anyone who gives a dern
Or thinks they can't cuz they got chi'rn
I say god dang it, make the time
To put yo'self somewhere sublime
And re-member your Self Divine
Let folks who"need" you stand in line
Until you get some peace o' mind
Now I ain't sayin it's always easy
To cool your toes an sniff the breezy
But I'm grateful that I carved it out
Before I did I had some doubt
But time is fleeting, that's for true!
So better take some time for you.
It starts at first by givin LOVE
that you too are deserving of

- Micaila-Ayorinde

Friday, October 17, 2014

Alder Creek projects it's own movie

I've come to the Rensing Center from the high desert of West Texas longing to be near water, rain and the forest. The lush landscape that surrounds me has provided many surprises. Walking down to Alder Creek I found the sunlight reflecting off the water onto a tree limb. I paused to watch and listen.

-Christine Olejniczak

Sunday, October 5, 2014


I have good company with Bob who is my only roommate, floating around the Rensing and not having a tail...

artsy Bob

Bob snoring

Bob stretching

Bob walking

Bob sleeping

 Bob is playing volleyball!!!

- Xiaoren Liu

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rensing Center: Sounds, Sights, Accoustics, Lights

It has been an amazing first few days.  I arrived late on Monday, around 5:30,
having just missed Ellen evidently, who'd just gone into town
for a cool conversation 'bout trash conservation.

I awoke early on Tuesday, stretching in the dark, doing a salutation to bring up the sun.
Dew glistening on the grassy hill, I lamented having forgotten my rubber boots.
As morning came more brilliantly into its fullness, I imagined myself like my Native ancestors,
stepping as silently as possible onto the foot path to the waterfall.
One squirrel, with nut-filled cheeks, warned another of my presence
and together they sounded the alarm to the flock of turkeys
who obediently flew from sight.
The sentries were conspicuously absent however, upon my return,
enabling me to watch, undetected, a little red fox
who came, unsuspectingly, skipping along quite close before before spying me,
immediately redirecting his course to more human-less ground.

Today again, after awakening  in the dark,
I sat on the porch, the cat and I admiring the star-filled sky.
Later, Xiaoren and I took in the local sights,
went to the flea market, the grocery store and tried, in vain, to find the groovy natural market.
Evelyn has promised to be my tour guide for future outings.
The day would not have been complete without my trying the Accoustics in the newly emptied room behind the potters studio. I recorded myself playing the Native American flute.  Such ambient chamber music!

Used to feeding my own kids at this time, I trotted down to the lower garden,
picked some tiny red tomatoes, swung to the setting sun and fed the bleeding baby goats.
All in all a truly awesome time... And we've only just begun.


Friday, September 26, 2014

take a breath

The three week I have been Rensing Center has made some difference in my attitude towards life. I remember, one morning in the first week, driving on the way to recycling station, I told Ellen that I am trying to push myself to start painting as soon as possible. However, she told me she wanted me to slow down, to see and to walk around. And she suggested me to throw out my previous idea and concept, and hoped I could get something new from Rensing. I was amazed by her idea. And then I was thinking that maybe it is time to be quiet and relax, and not intend to plan something. That is a totally different experience to my previous life which is always intense and competitive. I went forward unceasingly, but forgot to breathe. This time, I would like to taste, smell and touch what was ignored but probably is precious to myself…On that way, Ellen introduced the plants beside the road, recycle system in Pickens, and geographical features here…etc, and promised to explore the forest of Rensing with me, which I had been so expected since I knew Rensing. 

So this week, I went to the forest with Ellen and Katherine. Such a beautiful trip! We got sculptural mushrooms, and really tasted them at dinner that night.

- Xiaoren Liu

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." - Winnie The Pooh

I'm leaving tomorrow, after seven weeks here at the Rensing Center. Although that sounds long, inevitably the end has snuck up on me before I am ready. I've been having so much fun with the work I've started in the last week that I wish I could stay longer!

Still from a video - potential source material... for something.
I spent the first month of my residency primarily making an animation for a show in Chicago, where I had to go for a week to install and attend the opening, and after getting back here I had just 10 days to spend on new work. I decided not to put too much pressure on myself, and allow myself time to read and relax, and experiment with ideas rather than trying to create a finished piece. I mentioned in a previous post that I'm interested in Appalachian murder ballads, which I have continued to listen to throughout my stay. I've been slowly forming a more concrete approach to the subject - the animation/installation project will be an exploration of my conflicted feelings towards the romanticizing of violence against women (in the case of most murder ballads, inflicted by a male lover). I am considering how poetry and lyricism can distort our understanding of cruelty. Reading Christina Hastie's thesis "This Murder Done": Misogyny, Femicide,and Modernity in 19th-Century Appalachian Murder Ballads ( has given me a more specific direction to follow and provided a context in which to unpack the ballads. Talking to fellow resident poet Anna Lena about old-time songs and ballad structures has also given me a lot to work with in formal terms (I’m also indebted to Anna Lena for her generous feedback on my writing for the previous animation project). But rather than follow a strictly narrative path, simply illustrating a story, I want to create more open-ended imagery that invokes the kind of romantic fear and lyrical violence encapsulated by those songs. A parallel study is the affective character of the natural landscape – for example how lush growth can breed feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia. I started doing some experiments with animating paper cutouts in the woods, which I am really excited about and will continue to pursue in future environments. I'm grateful for the reflective time at Rensing that inspired new ideas and processes, planting seeds for artwork that will bloom in the coming months.

One of my animation experiments in the woods. Apologies for poor quality - don't go fullscreen.

I’m really going to miss this place. The time and space alone to think and create has been incredibly valuable, as have the connections with the Rensing Center family and with fellow residents, from whom I learned a great deal (and shared some lovely walks and swims, and the all-important grocery store trips, since I was car-less). I certainly hope to be back one day!

Fellow residents at a nearby swimming hole. 
- Ali Aschman

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Peaches (and peach-colored things)

from the Pickens flea market:



sedum (blue spruce),

and a teapot.

—Anna Lena Phillips

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Highlights from the past week

Ellen's son Shelby put up a rope swing under the big tree next to the pasture!

Shelby also cut down a dead tree and the goats love playing on the log. It is a joy to watch them.


Dessert and fireworks at the neighboring Delgado residence:

And today, fellow resident Laura and I went hiking on Raven Rock Trail at Keowee-Toxaway State Park, and saw this lovely sight:

I can't believe I am almost halfway through my residency here. It's been a very productive and reflective time so far, and I feel so grateful to have this time to focus on my work while being immersed in these beautiful surroundings.

- Ali Aschman

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Fertility comes from letting go"

During my stay at Rensing Center I was fortunate to have many conversations with founder Ellen Kochansky.  A number of discussions occurred while doing a variety of small chores.  Artists contribute a few hours a week based on their skills and interests, and I found it added just the right bit of structure to balance my otherwise unstructured creative time in residence.  Whether working alone or with others, the work contribution made me feel like I was an important part of this community, and it made me feel at home. 

One of the most memorable discussions I had with Ellen was on the topic of reuse and dispersal, during which she reminded me that “Fertility comes from letting go.”  She was talking about recycling and composting as you might expect at an environmentally conscious residency.  But she also encouraged me to let go of preconceived notions of what the experience should be, as well as my (perhaps extreme) preference for order and control in my environment, in favor of going with the flow and living in the moment.

Both Ellen and my husband reminded me to have FUN, and persuaded me to be less driven towards the end result and more playful along the way.  Essentially, I needed to adjust my New Englander pace to the more thoughtful, leisurely pace of Pickens.  That advice marked a turning point in my residency.  As I focused less on schedule, numbers and deadlines, I became more open to observation, concept and experimentation.  So I did, indeed, have fun.  But more importantly, ‘fun’ was productive.  As a result, I successfully experimented with a variety of printmaking and collage techniques I had not previously considered to be useful or relevant to my work.

As an applicant I correctly sensed I would be comfortable in the art and environment ‘tribe’ at Rensing Center.  Fanciful representations of invasive plants and pests commonly make their way into my artwork, so I was very interested to learn about the challenges farmers and gardeners experience from invasives in South Carolina.  Jon Fritz was a generous resource to identify plants previously unknown to me.   One I love in particular (brace yourself) is kudzu.  Apparently I was the first artist-in-residence to request that Jon help me find some for my studio for closer observation.  A bouquet of sorts, I refreshed it every few days.  At first it was hard for me to identify in the lush green landscape, but eventually I had no problem finding it.  In fact, I pilfered it quite liberally along roadways in Pickens, convinced nobody would miss it.  However, one of my biggest challenges was to see this and other invasives as locals see them, and not simply as botanical specimens or design elements.  This was hard to do because some are actually quite beautiful.  But of course, that’s the problem with a lot of invasives, we love them until we don’t, which is as soon as they don’t do what we want them to do.  Although I discovered several new ‘favorite’ plants while at Rensing Center, throughout my residency, kudzu was king.

As I return home I’m still processing the experience, what I’ve learned, how my art has changed, and how I’ve changed.  All were a gift, and I thank you Rensing Center.


- Colette Lucas