(October 1st, 2015 – Me on my first day.)
Over the past 6 months, I have been living and working in Navasota, Texas. I have learned a lot about small town living, Texas, America, and myself. For my final blog post I wanted to answer some of the questions people have been asking me.
“Did you like it here?”
Yes. I found the people of the City of Navasota to be friendly and welcoming. There was definitely culture shock with moving from a big city to a small town in the country, and also from the North to the South. However I found once I sort of relaxed and made more proactive attempts to engage the community, the people of this city were enthusiastic, authentic, intelligent, helpful, and very curious about what I was working on.
“What would you have done differently during your time in Navasota?”
I would not have waited so long to ask for help. Almost to the day, when I asked Lupe at the gym and Dom in my garage why I was having such a difficult time connecting, they both gave me candid and smart answers that helped me change the way I approached the City. I made a way more conscious effort to engage and put myself out there, and it worked.
“How has your work changed?”
- Interacting with the floor. Because of the required hanging system in the Horlock House, I looked for different ways to use the neon units I had. My project “Candy On The Dancefloor” is the first attempt I have made to use neon on the ground. That project was spotted on Instagram by a curator in Puerto Rico, and she reached out to me. A few weeks later two of the units were in an exhibit at the Galeria Casa Jefferson in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
- Working in the windows. As a new and still developing program, there is not a lot of foot traffic in the Horlock House Art Galleries. In an attempt to more directly reach the people of Navasota I began to regularly install and rotate neon and other lights in the windows. I was so happy to hear that people noticed, and seemed pretty happy to watch the show! I had forgotten the often joyful power of the “spectacle”. And it was just fun to do.
- Social media! I was pretty active on Instagram before I got here, but I really upped my game with social media on Instagram (@scottygorham), Facebook, a new Facebook artist page (Scotty Gorham), LinkedIn, and my website (www.scottygorham.com). I consider these social media outlets to be part of my art, and vital to understanding the work that I do.
- Traditional media. It really helped that people like Connie Clements, Jon Cooley, and Nicole Wilcox are the City’s “traditional media” because they are all awesome people. Giving interviews and working with them really helped me grow as an artist, and learn how to talk about my work more concisely. If my TV interview with Ian Smith from KAGS taught me anything, it’s that if you say funny things like “people kinda think I’m a space alien. But then they’re like ‘Oh, ok.’”, they will DEFINITELY put it on TV! 😉 Again, I consider the way my art and I reach the public to be part of the what the work is about.
- More conceptual grounding in history and the sociopolitical climate of a place. My work has always had a strong base in research and history, but this is first time I really tried to layer the more abstract issues of space with the more concrete issues of a place. I am happy with the combination, and look forward to developing this in my work.
“What does this project (“Neon Railroad”) mean to you?”
“Neon Railroad” is directly inspired by my time in Texas. I wanted to do a project about Navasota, so for me that was trains. Trains are such a large part of Navasota’s identity, as well as of our American heritage. This installation is about the railroad’s ability to both separate and connect, and the possibilities it offers. I am interested in the cultural history of “the wrong side of the tracks”, especially in a community that is so actively pursuing positive change. From my time observing the City Council meetings and working with so many employees of the City, I am sure this is a place that is continuing to move in a positive direction because of the people who run it. That gives me a lot of hope for this country.
“Do you sell your artwork?”
Yes. Yes yes yes. My general model is that I do large commissions or create large pieces that are “rented” by galleries or venues. However I have successfully created many smaller site specific installations in people’s homes. I usually sell the neon object and then work together with the owner to determine the most exciting place to install the object in their home. These typically run a few hundred dollars. My number is 312.731.1550.
“Aren’t people here friendly?”
VERY. I am leaving here with very real friends, and having known and worked with some really good people.
“What was your favorite thing about the Residency?”
Navasota Citizen’s University. Hands down the best thing ever. Shelby Green runs the program. Each week is a new unit where the students get to see behind the scenes a different aspect of how the City is run. My fellow students were such a diverse group of awesome people, and I looked forward to going each week. Everyone should do it.
And my roommate Andrea once asked me, “What would you consider “winning” this residency to be?”
The first week I was here I saw the 111 Railroad Street building and knew I wanted to do a large installation there. Mission accomplished. It wouldn’t have been possible without Donnie Roberts, Corey Johnson, Rachel Stack, Sarah Korpita, Dom, John, & especially Pat! Really so many people helped make the exhibition happen and that was such a fun and rewarding way to create something amazing! I’m pretty stoked with the result and definitely #winning.
“So, what’s next?”
Right now I am staying in College Station for another week so I can keep the exhibition at 111 Railroad Street open through Thursday. Stop by! Then I am moving to Dallas. Almost immediately I leave for San Jose to do a 2 week visiting artist/consulting job at San Jose State University. Then in June I have a 1 month artist residency at Likewise in Portland, Oregon. It is a unique bartender-in-residence program, that operates as a creative space and a bar. I am also looking for new opportunities and constantly applying to things! I would love to run an exhibition space in Dallas, so if anyone knows anyone with an old empty building…hit me up! 😉
Thanks again everyone who made this such a great experience, and I hope to see you again! Navasota, you rock!
(Me towards the end.)