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As I write this, it is my first night back in Ballycastle,
County Mayo, where I came last year for the first time for a fellowship at
Ballinglen Arts Foundation. I have the
same cottage as last year, and have spent the evening settling in, making some
food, having a glass of wine by the peat fire (that I’ve remembered how to coax
into life!)A sweet, sad flute melody is
playing in the background--there is no internet in the cottage, or phone, or TV.
Only the radio, a program tonight of traditional Irish instrumental music.
In unpacking and making the space mine again for the next
five weeks, I was amused to recognize a fossil rock on the bathroom windowsill
as one I put there last year (in spite of the plea in the orientation packet
not to leave fossils and rocks in the cottage, lots of the artists seem to do
it!) In the cupboard, I discovered a mostly empty packet of popcorn that I
bought last year at a fruit and veg stand—pleased then to find a snack I love
at home but which is not part of typical Irish fare.It seems a few other artists have enjoyed its
contents in the interval since I left it there in November, 2013. These small,
quirky signs of my former presence make me smile.
And so I am back in a place that is a kind of home for
me.Tomorrow I’ll set up my studio, take
a walk on the beach if it isn’t pouring.Or, in between the times when it will be pouring, which is to be
For months I’ve thought about being back here, sometimes as
a brief flash, other times with outright yearning.I’ve been conjuring up memories and sensory
impressions all year in my paintings and works on paper—of walking on the bog
and along the coast, the rough textures of rock and lichen, the traces of
ancient people on the landscape, the wild surf.As well, I have revisited memories of life here, the peace of days
focused on my work, the friendliness of the people in the village, the
simplicity of having no outside demands, the walks home in the dark evening,
stopping at the little grocery for dinner food, the occasional night at the pub
with others from Ballinglen.
On this, my first night of this year’s stay, I’m feeling impatient
to dive into these experiences again and eager for whatever will be new.But I’m also remembering that this is a place
that unfolds in subtle ways, and fully coming back will take a little time. My deep feelings for this part of Mayo evolved
over the whole six weeks I spent here in 2013--as one experience led to
another, my work found direction, insights re-enforced one another, and the
people I met became better known to me.Even the landscape and seascape, as dramatic as they are, did not fully
impact me all at once—instead, each time I went out walking I took in more.
Tonight as I listen to the Irish flute, sip my wine and watch
the fire, I'm thinking I want to take things slow and easy.It’s challenging to shift out of the intense
pace of life at home, where I work constantly and have many responsibilities of
home and family. Here, I can simply sit and do nothing but experience the
moment...rediscover the quiet inside in
which my experiences here will fully resonate.
You paint a beautiful picture of it over there.I've recently discovered the cold wax technique and you and was upset to miss being able to learn from you this year. Will you be returning to Balleycastle next year? Can I start saving??
I eagerly await the work this latest retreat to Mayo inspires. You amaze me every time I see your work. I can't put my finger on why, but your work always ends up with a very powerful presence. It has a genuine quality that echoes the nature that inspires it.I have followed it for years now and each change has been marvelous to watch.