Experiencing the Akumal International Artist Residency

In the last couple of months I’ve have had the pleasure of attending Kim’s International Artist Residency at Akumal. So far at least two artist teams have cycled through, sharing their amazing and mostly inspiring insights on nothing less than the process of creation.

The sessions – both open salons showcasing artists work-in-progress, on Sundays and artist led workshops on Wednesdays – have been an eye and heart opening experience for me; beacons and buoys as I enter and remain on a path long sought and just recently found.

Behind the idea, putting together the residence programme, obtaining adequate facilities and launching it,  is this non-stop powerhouse of a woman, Kim Schultz. Kim has managed to have successful visiting artists from abroad as well as local and word is being passed to the local community most effectively on the Residency’s activities, including reaching out to Akumal town children.

Kim has created an exceptional space to think, feel, do and talk Art. A particularly keen eye has been lent to the process of creation itself. On the first residence cycle we spoke with invited artists on creativity. On this second cycle we took on what happens, or stops happening so we do create. How do we create? What conversations do we entertain with ourselves during the process? We also touched on the conversations we might have with ourselves once we let our work of art fly on its own. Do we really let the piece have its own life or do we continue tied to it?

Game changer

While attending I’ve been working behind the lens of my camera, without having questioned much about my very own process of creation, until Australian based artist and illustrator Naomi Gittoes‘ recent workshop. She provided me with key distinctions that made me a completely new observer of how I need to create to live – art as a way of life -. My takeaways, so precious as a string of pearls and more vital than a string of bubbles of breathing air shared at tenths of metres underwater while on a deep free dive. It was me and my cameras, me and my writing, before. It is different now and it is so thanks to Kim, Naomi and the Residence project that have finally given me a chance to find my wings and fly, and to fly for others.

Naomi Gittoes’ Art Jam Session

Naomi on Art Jam @ AIAR March 11, 2014.
Naomi on Art Jam @ AIAR
March 11, 2014.


“We will explore art, its purpose, creation process, overcoming creative resistance, finding then releasing your artistic potential and finding your true self in the expression of your choice. Bring a weapon of choice! i.e. paper, canvas, pens, pencils, paint, charcoal, clay or playdoh, an instrument, camera, video, a singing voice, well-conditioned dancing legs or anything else unmentioned that is your “thing”. We are going to jam together!
Expect everything as we explore together.”

After reading this on my inbox, I definitely attended the jam session. It was more than inviting; it was an opportunity and it just felt right to me. I knew I belonged there. Besides, I had attended the previous open salons for the first group of very creative artists after the Residence opened its 2014 programme, including a very impressive final vernissage at the Akumal Ecology Center (CEA) facilities.

As I arrived, Naomi was in the backyard patio. We met. She was very welcoming. Kim was inside checking last minute details, exactly as you would before a play start. As people arrived, a young and a young-at-heart crowd, gathered around a long table and started jamming. With just a few questions Naomi got us deep into the water, where she holds Australian free style diving records, as we reached the stillness and instant of clarity needed to enter such a rich conversation about creating, without the distracting chitter-chatter outside.

After a brief framework by Naomi, exchange happened spontaneously for all of us there, until Naomi asked of us to get our tools of the trade and just made something with them that told about our very own creation process. We were given ample time to be on our own and create.

The following is my take on why I need to create, on why writing and photography call on me and ask me to carry on, touching others, with them. It came out like this. It was literally dictated to me. I heard it loud and clear:

On Art  (an epiphany to creation)

Oh but, stop!
Quiet. Still!
For it is happening.
Like dawn’s telling of sunrise,
like the wind’s combing of lake water,
as it fills my sail out its flapping confusion,
into its journey.
As a child’s birth, witnessed.
Like the undeniable arrival,
of a presence,
that whispers to an eager ear, lent,
dazzling my sight out of blindness’ daily.
sweeping my feet, aloft,
becoming not me, but we,
possessed by the Zahir that fills it all,
commanding me to tell it as it lives me through,
blood that is not,
gushing in my veins,
echoing my very heart.
It is here, now.
Rendering me helpless to my light and darkness,
doing its will,
If only for the short breath,
that a fix, lasts.”


Drawing of the author by Naomi Gittoes March 1, 2014.
Drawing of the author by Naomi Gittoes
March 1, 2014.


Art as conversation

For Naomi, creation is a need.

I would go crazy if I did not do it” – she says to us gathered.

Creation gets materialised in an epiphany, a moment of sudden revelation or insight. She describes it like this:

I close my eyes and are guided, with my hands painting. The subject I want to talk about and how do I tell about it, are questions that are always present.”

As the work unravels, these questions get addressed and laid down and spoken for, using art – and in this case graphics expression -, as a language. A language form – that of graphics – which best enables Naomi’s expressing power compared to that written and, in which technique (learnt in art school or not) comes into play, albeit it is not as determinant as the creating and passing the message itself.

But art is also a conversation beyond the artist. Art becomes all those conversations that are sparked in the viewer when the work of art itself casts its message on them watching. In doing so, the work of art carries on the conversation that saw it born. It reaches others’ senses, triggering experiences – unknown or remembered -, that become conversations within and among them, and that as they ripple out, they come to foster co-creation and new perceived realities in everyone.

For these ripples to have meaning and convey the message with passion, it is a must to have moment of clarity, though. To be still, as water would be in a pond or a calm lake.

Kim has managed to recreate this stillness at the Akumal International Artist Residence, clearly. Naomi has mastered stillness in the very depths of that body of water, where she can remain longest as she lets her creations ascend as a thin string of air bubbles and become afloat for all of us to be enlightened.



Creative Commons License
Experiencing The Akumal International Artist Residency by juan Ayza M. text and photos licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at juan.ayza@gmail.com.


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