Emptiness and Me: Moving into The Umbrella

September 30, 2015 by Jess

-written by Artist-in-Residence, Sarah Fagan

I pride myself in packing light, but with an odd brand of efficiency that reveals my priorities. Six years ago I moved from Quincy, Massachusetts to Portland, Oregon with only what fit in the car. This involved leaving quite a bit of furniture and a tennis racquet on the side of the road, but included such necessities as a basket to hold fruit and a ponytail of my own hair in a ziplock bag I had been meaning to send to "Locks of Love" for donation. (Yes, it got sent.) This summer, I moved back to Massachusetts on a more succinct route courtesy of United Airlines, armed with what fit in two suitcases. I was returning, this time to Concord, to be the 2015 - 2016 Artist-in-Residence at The Umbrella Community Arts Center. 

As resident artist, I have been given the gift of time and space to create art for a year and integrate myself into the community. Housing and a wonderful high-ceilinged, red-floored studio greeted me. The space! The potential! I watched Miranda -- artist and studio arts coordinator -- and her team assemble a tiny house on the front lawn of the Umbrella for the year-long project "BIG Art; Tiny House" while wondering happily how my own one-bedroom cottage could seem so roomy. I mused at how little enclosed space humans need when they have few possessions and a new place to explore.

I know I will amass as the year goes on. It's one thing to pack light for a trip, but another to be able to keep that lightness in everyday life. I know I will love every square inch of my space when the temperature drops and the rains come. But this month, I am enjoying a freedom that comes from feeling unburdened -- in my world being Walden Pond and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery as much as my sparsely filled rooms. 

As a painter, I am currently exploring concepts of emptiness and its use. I paint empty bowls and jars, both beautiful and utilitarian in their un-filled state. As September comes to a close, I am curious to see how my relationship with emptiness evolves in both my art and my life as my new home becomes filled with objects and memories.


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