Attending Skowhegan truly changed my perspective as a Chinese graduate student in the US. There were lots of first time experiences in Skowhegan: being with 65 artists on a daily basis, sharing meals and bedrooms, learning fresco painting and making an outdoor site specific installation, eating lobster at the last dinner and marshmallows around campfire, the costume party and talent show.
My biggest challenge was making my first outdoor installation using nontraditional materials. I went on a “dumpster trip” with a group of artists and found an old children’s school desk. I let it sit in my studio for a while because I did not know what to do with it. One day while walking, I saw fallen branches in the woods and discovered a green lawn behind Bernarda Shahn’s studio. I was inspired by their beauty and shared my idea of creating an outdoor installation with resident faculty Nari Ward during a studio visit. He encouraged me to pursue creating the installation even though I had never done one before. I spent one month collecting the fallen branches from the forest and using a little wagon to transport them back to the lawn behind Bernarda’s studio. A week before the residency ended, I invited my peers and faculty to see the finished work and welcomed their comments, including Bernarda who came near the end of the residency.
Skowhegan residency provided me with a time and space to think and work outside my comfort zone and challenged me to take risks and grew as a professional artist.