The energy of collaborating with another artist is incredible.
– Suzi Davidoff
I did plan, at some point, to write about the value of collaborations and residencies. This post covers both and includes two artists whose work I have known for many years. They both live in my hometown of El Paso, Texas.
Metalsmith Rachelle Thiewes and painter Suzi Davidoff’s current collaborative project, titled Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape, began solidifying in Fiskars Village, an artist colony in Finland. Seeded years ago, it was nurtured in a number of 2-person exhibitions. Like their individual styles, their partnered work expresses in exciting variety. It includes site specific installations, photography (printed on aluminum), video, sound, and a hardcover book.
Let me set the stage …
Rachelle Thiewes is an artist who creates jewelry that is designed to engage and challenge the wearer, making them an active participant, an initiator of sounds and body rhythms.
Light, movement, sound, order and chaos are integral elements of her work.
Heat, bracelet, steel, auto paints
Rachelle is also a professor in the art department of the University of Texas at El Paso. She was my teacher throughout my college years. Her influence still affects the manner in which I come into the studio, and the care I bring to most everything I make.
Suzi Davidoff creates drawings, paintings, and prints. A series of walks or hikes is often the genesis for much of her work. In addition to charcoal, oil, gold leaf and ink, she uses found organic materials.
Suzi and I were classmates in both our undergrad and graduate studies. She attended the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University. I witnessed a turning point in her sensibility before she left NMSU, that still carries in her work today.
They both speak about the influence of the Chihuahuan desert, where they live and work.
Rachelle comments on the light that can be … shriek and sharp and sometimes soft and sensual. Suzi discusses … organic forms that serve as a basis for her work…and found materials that are rubbed into the surface of the paper.
They’ve evolved in their collaborative process. Suzi refers to Beauty. Chaos, their first exhibit in 1999 … Rachelle and I were having a 2 person show at Adair Margo Gallery. We both felt that our works had a lot of commonalities — even though they were obviously different in medium and scale.
Installation shots of Beaty.Chaos at Adair Margo, 1999
Our second collaboration, Air Patterns, grew from the idea of a book into a site-specific installation. It consisted of steel drawings on the wall and translucent fabric panels with color and charcoal drawings. We both worked on everything together.
Air Patterns, collaborative, installation at El Paso Museum of Art, 2004
Suzi continues ... We really wanted to work on another collaborative project, and applied for and received a Fiskars Artist’s Residency in Finland. This gave us the chance to work without distraction for 2 months.
Rachelle clarifies what the residency allowed them … time, time, time, hours of unplanned time waiting for us to fill…
About their current collaboration
When we begin talking about this, I have questions.
…Is this your two bodies of work, coming together? Do you influence each other? Do you connect via an idea or theme? Did you literally work on each piece together?
Rachelle answers first…Common Language is the name of our current project, she explains … we worked 100% together – came up with the sites/ideas, built the pieces and photographed. There are no individual ideas present in this project.
Suzi adds…We share much of the same interests in the natural world, in structure, pattern, historical use of the land, lots of stuff, and also we both bring completely different disciplines in terms of drawing/metalsmithing to the collaboration. I think we both feel that Common Language is our most realized collaboration to date, because it is a totally grounded in our ideas/concepts, but the resulting work is unique and different than either of our individual works.
I recognize both artists sensibilities present in the new work. Suzi is correct because result and maybe process for that matter, are completely different from what they do separately.
The images below are some of the large-scale photographs (printed on aluminum). Two are from the Fiskars residency where the collaboration begins. And two are from the West Texas and New Mexico desert, where their collaboration continues and is eventually completed.
Above Location: White Sands Missile range in New Mexico.
The above installation is at Fiskars.
The image below, I am very surprised to learn, is back home, in the desert.
Photo below is in Fiskars.
About the book
The book is in dialogue format and is narrated by Dan Lambert. It’s a thoughtful and creative read. It comments on process. It includes the arrival of the artists to the residency and notes their natural uncertainty. You read about their eventual return back to their busy, multi-tasking lives. And then there is all the creative stuff in between and after.
Like I said, Rachelle and Suzy are from my home town, I know the area well. To me they’ve brought a whole new feel to that part of the Southwest desert.
The book will clarify that the title Common Language refers to the Finnish landscape and the Chihuahuan Desert. Though there are more than a few connections between the two artists that allow for this collaboration to work and present in such a sophisticated way.
The books pull is in its honesty and simplicity.
Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape
Watercourse is the title of the video. I’ve heard only a short demo. It’s layered and meditative…some moving water. The wonderful collection of sounds are by Dan Lambert and The Double Drum Trio. Instruments include ruan, percussion instruments and water drum.
Left side shot in Finland, right is the Rio Grande.
I can only give you a glimpse of the work here in this post. You can experience its full depth should you be in Albuquerque this summer.
Visit gallery and artist website for more information.
WHAT: Time Pieces: Common Language
WHO: Suzi Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes
WHERE: 516 ARTS in Albuquerque, NM
WHEN: May 26 – Aug 11, 2012
It will include photos and video, and be accompanied by the hardcover book.
Rachelle Thiewes → website
Suzi Davidoff → website