Contributed by Catherine Haggarty / I arrived at LAX on an early flight from Newark on Saturday, August 6. I knew I would be staying with Andrew Cortes and his girlfriend Anne Marie Taylor in Glassell Park, LA for a week. I was there to make art and new friends, and to learn about Andrew and his work.
A year ago, while scrolling through Instagram I stumbled upon Andrew’s work. I liked it on first glance so I shared it in my feed. I think sharing other artists’ work is important, whether or not I know them personally. Instagram and social media sort of act as visual diaries, as showcases, and even as galleries on some occasions.
Some argue that social media is a distraction from our work, and I don’t disagree. I do advocate for moderation in use of technology – particularly while in the studio (and while driving). But this is a story about how sharing a photo on Instagram precipitated a cross-country friendship. A connection that began over the phone ultimately lead to a flight to LA, a drive through the desert to Joshua Tree, and a residency with artists I’d never met.
Andrew and I had been talking on the phone, emailing, and texting for months. I was certain he was a good, generous, interesting guy. I wasn’t certain I knew what to expect from the trip, but whatever ideas I did have were far exceeded.
Andrew and Anne have created a pretty beautiful life in Glassell Park, a quiet working-class neighborhood outside the intense LA Strip. They met in California and then lived together in Gowanus before heading west in search of new networks and a different pace. Anne is the director of Evergreene Studio, a gallery Nicole Timonier founded in Geneva in 2002. Though it has since moved to LA, the gallery still operates as a roving art platform that specializes in organizing exhibitions of artists both nationally and internationally.
Over the course of the week, they welcomed me into their lives in an organic and wonderful way. A comfortable and simple bedroom was prepared, and they encouraged me to use their kitchen and living space. They offered rides, advice about exploring LA, and Andrew set up an outdoor studio, complete with a tapestry awning to provide shade while I worked.
The mornings were simple and easy. We savored coffee, played with their two cats as we talked about the art world and teaching. At the beginning of the week, we threw out ideas for day trips and local events to attend.
I reached out to Ryan Schneider, an artist originally from Brooklyn and now living in Joshua Tree to see if we could make a studio visit. Ryan was preparing for a solo show that opens in October at Taymour Grahne, so Andrew and I jumped in his weathered gold Subaru and drove through the desert listening to music, talking about life, art, love, and family.
Ryan was sweet and generous to let us visit. The desert wind shook the doors as we talked about the drive to Joshua Tree and Ryan’s new work. His paintings are beautiful, and they seemed to have slowed down since I’d seen them the previous year. Calm and confident, they have an assertive yet sensitive use of color and form that makes me think living in the desert has been good for Ryan’s art.
Andrew and I took a ton of photos in the desert. On the way back, we stopped in Palm Springs for a swim and a drink. We left the desert feeling excited about our visit and our new friendship.
We stopped again at his parents’ for quesadillas made by his sweet mom, and his dad gave me a bag of cacti that now live in my studio – a friendly reminder of the desert, his beautiful garden, and the connections built that day.
Andrew planned a dinner party for me mid-week. We shared food, stories, and wine, and I met many of his artist friends. We made a toast to taking chances and new relationships. Everyone seemed excited to meet me and learn more about Andrew and Anne’s new residency project at Arvia Street. I am one of the first guests, and we talked about the evolution of the project.
Andrew and Anne want their informal-yet-selective residency to be organic and authentic. They’ll select a few artists every year and invite them to Arvia Street – no fee or formal application necessary. Invited artists will be introduced to their friends and networks. It’s a generous offer by any standard.
A week at Arvia Street will become a way to collaborate without institutional interference, and a way to extend community. This approach seems fresh – and much-needed. I am proud and humbled to have been invited.
As I ran alone up the mountain by Andrew’s house my heart felt full. My heart felt full on the plane ride back with my bag of cacti stuffed under my seat. My heart felt full – and excited and grateful – when I was meeting his friends and driving through the desert to Joshua Tree. My heart felt fullest, though, as I quietly painted in Andrew’s backyard while he worked nearby, playing music and checking in occasionally.
A social media app connected us a year ago, and my week at Arvia Street made our exchange real. The quiet hum of the jazz as we worked, the heat of the L.A. sun, and the comfort of making paintings together (yet alone) was worth flying 3000 miles. My week at Arvia Street taught me that connection is the reward of sacrifice, of hours spent alone – for art.
Artists can’t make great work in total isolation. I have never wanted my life to be about that kind of solitude. This trip – a total leap of faith – is a good example of how the internet can be used to connect. If artists are brave and remain open to possibility, so many new communities are waiting to welcome us.
About the author: Catherine Haggarty is an artist, curator and writer. She is a member of Ortega y Gasset in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and a contributing writer & curator for The Curator. Her 2011 M.F.A is from Mason Gross, Rutgers University.
Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.
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