Dorland Update


Today I began the last week of my residency here at Dorland. My time here has not been what I expected. I faced two significant losses over the last month, but I do feel I’ve worked to make the best of it.

I’ve debated sharing what happened to change my residency. But it feels like an unfinished story since I begin with writing every day, very vulnerably, about my time here. So instead of leaving the ending totally blank, I'll share one of my losses, but know that the second was much more difficult and will remain private.

The day after my previous post, I got a call from the photo lab… five weeks worth of film — everything from my residency and cross-country trip — came out blank. Around 12 images survived over many rolls of film. My camera is broken, they told me; it has an advancing issue.

I was devastated. Five weeks worth of film, that I would never even get to see. I felt like the first two weeks of my residency were a waste. My cross-country trip, lost. I was nauseous. I cried even. But after a day of being mopey, I picked myself up. I made a beautiful drawing. I also grabbed my digital camera the next morning determined to make the best of my remaining time here.

But two days later, I suffered a much greater loss. A loss that spiraled me far away from my residency. It was extraordinarily difficult to remain present and impossible to work. I lost thirteen days to recovery.

Dealing with these losses in complete solitude has been hard. But I’ve received great advice from so many of my mentors, who for the most part encouraged me to use my time at my residency to grieve. They said that even though my residency looked different now, I would still get so much from my time here on this high desert mountain.

And that’s proven to be true.

I’m utterly mesmerized by the desert. The animals and plants are remarkable in their resilience and tenacity, which seems so relevant to me right now. It’s 107F today and the heat radiates off objects. The light plays tricks on you and changes color throughout the day. For such a harsh environment, it’s also notably delicate. And not to mention just an incredible place to do some reflecting and healing.

So yes, I’ve been grieving. And for some reason I’ve been embarrassed by that and thus embarrassed to write about it. Embarrassed that I couldn’t be a robot and turn off the flow of emotions to "make the best of it" by forgetting it. But I think I have made the best of my residency by not doing that. I’ve still been “making,” as one of my mentors suggested. And by that I mean doing simple things to keep my creative mind thinking and moving each day. I’ve been getting outside and walking this high desert landscape. I’ve been watching the wildlife around my cabin. I may not be “producing” a lot of work right now, but I feel like a sponge, soaking up this place. I plan to take as much of it as I can home with me for when I'm ready to really work again.

I’m leaving Dorland on Friday and I’m going to be so sad to go. I feel like I have unfinished business here and hope to return at some point. I have a few days left here that I plan to really push to create some drawings, but even so, I feel like my time has been enlightening and I’m thankful that I stayed despite wanting to leave.

So to finish, I wanted to share some of the images that “survived” the broken camera ordeal. The one at the top is my only great shot on film from Dorland. There are a few below along with some beautiful shots from Los Angeles. Enjoy.

Before I go, I want to quickly acknowledge my friends and family that have been remarkably supportive through all of this. You all are my backbone and I literally don’t know where I’d be without you.


KATHLEEN

SAUNDERS