Postcards: Pia Larsen at the Women’s Studio Workshop
I arrived at New York’s Newark Airport on 15 October feeling energised by New York City and relieved that the flight from Australia was over! I caught a bus into ‘the city’ to catch the 8pm Adirondack Trailways coach Up State, to the small town of Rosendale in the Hudson Valley’s foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains. This beautiful part of New York State is where the Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) was established in 1974. The aim of the founding artists, Ann Kalmbach, Tatana Kellner, Anita Wetzel and Barbara Leoff-Burge, to support women artists by providing studio space, technical support and accommodation. I would work in the Intaglio and Papermaking studios and had accepted an invitation to teach a class in intaglio in their Art In Education Program.
My first impressions were of a picture-perfect autumn environment with leaves, ranging in colour between brown, yellow, green, pink and red, fluttering in the breeze. I settled into my shared attic accommodation and started working on two images in intaglio. Each day a ‘potluck’ lunch brought together the artists, interns and staff providing an opportunity to get to know what people were doing and a sense of the bigger picture that I was part of at the WSW. Early on it was evident that the WSW is structured around trust, respect and independence. I had a generous work area looking out to trees and fields where I spent most days and some evenings. Leslie Nichols, my fellow artist in residence, was exploring Typography for a series of portraits of women and we established a great camaraderie and had many discussions about the art world, the US and Australia.
By the end of the second week I had printed the soft ground images Hindsight and Divide and was ready to turn my mind to papermaking. I learnt how to beat, pull and dry paper in a range of individually mixed ‘autumn’ pigment colours under the expert tuition of Chris Petrone, the Studio Manager. She was a great support for anything I wanted to do or try across printmedia, papermaking and printing digitally onto my handmade, pigmented paper. I became enthralled with the different states of paper pulp and explored this through two bodies of work. For the Welcome series each paper sheet had to be perfectly flat for digital printing before being folded into an American sized milk carton shape. This project would not have been possible without Scott Denman who handled the digital printing in Kingston. The other body of work titled Autumn Cocktails explored paper pulp in its freshly pulled state applied directly to a variety of glass bottles which were then burnished to a smooth finish or left raw.
The residency provided a wonderful environment for focused work and getting to know like-minded people from around the US. The trees were now bare, the leaves covering the ground and the glorious colours of mid-October now faded into shades of brown.
I would spend the next three weeks travelling through NYC, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
Work from the residency will be part of the exhibition Two Generations: Larsen & Lewers, Pia Larsen and Tor Larsen, Spot 81, April 2016.
Pia Larsen works with drawing, text, printmedia, paper and metal to explore human agency within social and political contexts. Over time her work has expanded to incorporate sculptural elements in small-scale pieces and large-scale installation environments. She has exhibited widely over the past twenty years in solo and group shows, commercial galleries and ARI’s and was represented by the Damien Minton Gallery from 2008 to 2012.