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Rauschenberg Residency artists share their experience

By Staff | Jun 1, 2016

?Performance and mixed media artist Pat Oleszko stands with her water level 2050 photo booth. PHOTO PROVIDED

Artists, designers, activists and scientists gathered at the Rauschenberg Residency from April 25 to May 26 creating pieces of artwork that focused on climate change through “Rising Waters II.”

With Captiva being one of the low-lying landmasses, it presented both a laboratory and platform for individuals of different disciplines with the opportunity to address the “first wave of rising waters worldwide and is the first to be affected by global weather disturbances.”

The five-week residency include accomplishments with a climate change event proposal for the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge for Southeast Florida; broadside posters about rising sea level including free download and distribution worldwide; the March of the Climate Change Provocateurs on the beach of Captiva Island and multiple new artworks regarding sea-level rise.

Glenn Weiss, an artist and activist from Delray Beach, Florida, said he was among the personnel that chose the group that gathered for the second year of “Rising Waters II.” He said they were chosen through recommendations and searches on the internet.

All the residents, Weiss said showed their way of contemplating the world through their work.

A collection of Marina Zurkow’s projects she worked on during the Rauschenberg Residency. PHOTO PROVIDED

San Francisco resident Amy Balkin, who worked on three things during her residency, said she spent time finding her sense of place during her first week. She said she found her groundings while working with Kristie Anders, education director at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

“She has a rich ability to translate sense of place and life in a place in terms of its biology, in terms of its geography, Balkin said.

One thing she tackled is an ongoing project that she brought with her to Captiva. “People’s Archive of Sinking & Melting” has been a collection of things that already are, or may disappear from the impacts of climate change. Balkin said it deals with the political economy of climate change, which includes the outcome of adaptation. She said she is working through finding materials from Florida.

“When the sea level rises, perhaps the place where the thing is won’t be there anymore because it will be washed away. It can be anything from the place and does not have to originate from the place,” Balkin said.

The second project deals with collecting materials from Captiva. She was given the Lee County All Hazards Guide, which she is distributing. She also made collages combining materials from the All Hazards Guide, guides from shelling and real estate commercial materials.

Amy Balkin created informational sand bags residents can use during her stay on Captiva. PHOTO PROVIDED

The college represents a question for Balkin that deals with properties, shells and their lives, as well as the representation of place and how to survive in a place.

“There is a question of migration and property. A political question of when to migrate, when to move and what is the meaning of loss,” she said. “What do these impacts mean and how are they complicated?”

Balkin said she likes using existing text in her pieces.

The third project, informational sand bags, she made earlier last week. Information of how to build a sandbag dike, along with a picture; emergency checklist for help; general information about predictive sea level rise and how to cope with trauma are all printed on the bag. She said she is making it available to people.

Balkin, who used to come to Sanibel as a child with her grandmother, really enjoyed her residency time.

Pat Oleszko, a visual and performance artist from New York City spent five weeks working on numerous projects that all revolved around the topic “Rising Waters II.”

The first project, “The March of the Rising Waters Provocateurs” was taken to the beaches of Captiva Saturday, May 21. The performance was complete with hats made from local finds and discards, blue tights with the 36 inch water rise and suit coats and hats.

Oleszko said they wore suits because it meant business.

In addition, she said Row vs. Wade made it to the beach walking with a luggage spilling ocean. A water level 2015 photo booth, which Oleszko made was also apart of the festivities.

Other projects she worked on were the “Helen Highwater,” a tier of tires used as a response for the oncoming tidal waves, a coral, asphalt and plastic chess set made from plastic bottles left behind by visitors and Float/Sam and Reject Sam made from natural items.

The two characters, which were placed in the front veranda of the property, were mounted on two paddle boards in the bay. Unfortunately mother nature had a different plan taking them further out than expected.

“It was fabulous in every way,” Oleszko said of her residency. “Being down here is paradise.”

Throughout her stay, she said the projects came to her gradually as she gathered stuff and brought it into the studio to create something interesting.

Marina Zurkow, a visual and media artist from New York City spent time thinking of new ways to connect people with materials during her stay.

A project that she has been working on for more than a year, “MORE&MORE,” continued during the Rauschenberg Residency. The multi-modal art, which is also an art and research project, focuses on the complex interplay between global trade, shipping, import/export, legal and illegal exchange of goods and people, the deep sea, deep time and the weather.

The poetic contemplation, she said, explores tankers and container ships, which uses the worse possible fuel – fossil fuel. The multi-modal art was done with silk screening during her stay. She said it was phenomenal to be working in the shadows of Bob Rauschenberg.

She also worked on cardboard packaging using whimsical silk screening with a four number code that is used to hide the practice.

Another project, “Making the Best of it: Dandelion” was also worked on because its “anatomical response to different environmental conditions makes it an interesting guide for exploring the complexity of climate instability.”

Zurkow said it was thrilling to have a media lab at her finger tips allowing her to print on silks during her residency.

“It’s been very productive,” she said of her stay.

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation launched the Rauschenberg Residency in 2012 on the 20-acre Captiva Island Estate. Now there are seven one-month residences every year that serves 70 artists.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.