Joya: AiR / Long Gao / Canada

‘In 2014 I graduated from OCAD University. I Majored in Industrial Design and double minored in both Sculpture & Installation and Goldsmithing/Jewellery Design. After graduation, I worked for two years in the technology industry as a Design Technologist and then a User Experience Designer. As a designer, I had a great job that provided me with a steady income, but I was completely miserable. In July, I left my career in
design and have begun to dedicate myself fully to developing my practice as an artist. Since then, I have never felt more fulfilled and passionate.

During my time at Joya: AiR, I  created a series of installations and sculptures that examine the nature of human perception. My installations  incorporated sensory elements such as sound, smell, one’s relationship with space, and the experience of time. Through my project, I  created shared emotional experiences between myself and the various members of the residency community.

Having a background in design and craft, my goal was to integrate the principals of both processes in my practice. Empathy and continual iterations are essential elements of the Design Thinking process which I will focus on. I will closely examine the relationship that is formed between my work and those who experience it.

I believe that the process of creating a piece is integral to my understanding of the subject matter of my work. My time at Joya: AiR has resulted in a comprehensive body of work that will serve as a jumping off point for further pieces to come’.

Joya: AiR / Marie Skeie / Norway

‘Coming from a snowstorm in the north of Norway to the dry and varm landscape around Joya: arte + ecología was a big contrast. The residency at Joya: became my home for one week. Long walks to get to know the area, learning a lot of new things from fellow residents, great dinners following interesting discussions and listening to presentations, filled the days at the residency. Simon and Donna are very present and give a good and open vibe to the residency. It’s a place to feel comfortable and at ease.

The residency gave me time to think and to develop projects. I loved having time to experiment with different ideas and research the area. I ended up making a proposal for a long-term project about the birds in the area in historical and present perspective.

Though the environment around the area is tough, being very dry,  Joya gives hope by acting through sustainable practice and research’.


Marie Skeie

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Peggy Markel / USA

JOYA : arte + ecología / AiR / writers residency


‘Blossoms were barely evident on the gnarly trees as we dropped down the hill into Cortijada Los Gázquez. Springtime was upon us in late February, quite normal for southern Spain, but it hadn’t quite fluffed out the trees at this altitude of the Sierra Maria. This is almond growing territory, an adaptable crop for the dry limestone soil.

14 k of clay packed road through national forest brought us up to a whitewashed Cortijada, 5 houses in one, with a roofline of traditional half-moon terracotta pipe tiles piled one over the other. Smoke billowed from the chimney. I knew it would be warm inside, but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like living totally off the grid. A wind turbine became a familiar whooshing sound and the photovoltaic solar panels moved like a sunflower with the sun. I have lived without electricity before, using candlelight and lanterns, but this would be the first time living in a place that generates its own juice. Cortijada Los Gázquez sits calmly in the open on 50 acres, commanding the surrounding wilderness with quiet renown. After four months of dreaming about it, I had at last arrived at Joya: arte + ecología, an ecological retreat for artists in the wilds of Andalucía.

I settled into my room with warm radiant heat under my feet and opened my window to get a scent and a sense of my view. I can see the movement of the landscape and how it undulates with feminine earth curves the colour of fair skin. Lines of almond trees edge the fields and hillside terraces giving it friendly definition. I look forward to waking up each morning to watch for the almost inevitable slow motion explosion of frilly pink blossoms on the branches. I can’t imagine a more perfect place for writing.

I crafted a business in 1992 called Culinary Adventures, which began in Tuscany cooking with local chefs and food artisans. I loved it; the travel suited me so I stretched it to other regions in Italy, Sicily, Spain, Morocco and India.  After 25 years of handholding every trip, I was dripping with images and wanted to start writing about the extraordinary people that I have met along the way, especially the hidden artisans. I write my own website and newsletter content and the occasional magazine article, but I hadn’t stopped long enough to go deeper. Every time I tried to write a proper proposal, it lacked depth. A cookbook would only skim the cream off the top. I wanted to go as deep as possible. Memoir, I realized, would require a full stop and a deeper dive. I needed time to contemplate and digest my memories. I began writing short stories about the characters I have met and needed time to develop them and to refine my voice. I applied to Joya and was accepted to my first residency for writers.


These last 10 days have been merciful. I had just arrived from the bustle of India and this was the perfect antidote. Dropping into the warm, forgiving, atmosphere has been a balm. It takes time for the world to stop spinning and when it does, there is a noticeable lightness of being, as if someone has opened a door and let the long lost light and fresh air circulate. Even breathing is easier. I found the time that I needed to edit working stories and slowly, I started to recognise my own voice. We have to get really quiet to hear it, as if it doesn’t really want to talk. Some experiences are hard to articulate, because they do not exist in the realm of words. This was the most surprising discovery. The voice that I have been listening for is practically inaudible. I found it. It’s there, awake, intelligent and knowing, but so far it prefers to be silent. I accept this like a secret offering. I will have to get quieter to get to know her. She may be saying, “find a way to interpret my language”. This is what the trees said to the Navajos.

When I first arrived there were a handful of other artists here. I was overwhelmed at first at how fortunate I felt to be in the company of young people who have chosen to delve into the practice of fine art. I climbed the nearby sunrise mountain with three artists from three different countries; Norway, Canada and the UK. Long Gao had collected found objects like glass shards and wanted to make an installation on the top of the mountain in the shape of a griffin vulture shadow. It was intriguing enough to get me all the way up to the top, stretching my body and physical boundaries more that I thought I could, but I did it. I considered it a metaphor for what I wanted to do with my writing. Go beyond self-imposed boundaries.

Along the way, we had lessons in natural navigation from the primo expert in the world, Tristan Gooley, who was here to contemplate his next moves.

Marie Skeie shared her big view of the relationship between ecology and politics.

I was exhilarated. Filmmaker Hanley Zheng tutored me in film editing. My perspective blew open and for the first time in a long time, I could see out of my box.

It was like there was a certain yeast in the air, to use a food analogy. Bakers build up a yeasty environment that bread responds to.  Cured meats, cheeses, wine, anything that’s fermented needs the air to be thick as thieves with supportive enzymes. This is what Joya felt like to me, an environment rich in invisible creative muses.

Evenings were delightful with owners, Simon and Donna. They have built this place as a labour of love. Both are brilliant artists themselves with a down to earth mix of wit and English sensibility. We didn’t lack for anything and feasted practically every night on Donna’s delicious food and stimulating conversations. Presentations of artists work were given nightly. Simon kept things lively at the table and gave spot on feedback of constructive support.

The table has a way of bringing everyone together. It’s a platform. All you have to do is show up to be fed in so many ways. You get to know each other, which relaxes any creative process. Warmth in every way loosens the grip of rigidity. We had become a community in just a few short days. I’m convinced it had to do with being held so beautifully in this intentional, off the grid container called Joya. I came to the well and I took a deep drink. Yet, I’m thirsty for more. The muse is in the AIR’.

Peggy Markel

Joya: AiR / Ankica Mitrovska / Macedonia

‘My recent move to my home country of Macedonia has kept me so occupied with a collaborative project I was working on that didn’t allowed me the time to spend on developing ideas for a new body of work. That is when I realized I needed an artist residency to attend. Not just any artist residency, but a residency that offered a creative environment while focusing on sustainable living, a direct connection with the surrounding nature and environmental understanding. That was what Joya: arte + ecologia was all about. The location and isolation of the residency allowed time to reflect, time to create, time to engage with other artists and time to be with self.

I summarize the two weeks at the Joya residency with:  the long walks and the white wet clay stuck to the shoes, the smell of the wild rosemary bushes, the wild boar tracks and the wild goat poop reminding of their existence, the crumbly stones and rocks under the feet, the collecting and eating almonds from the surrounding almond trees, the taste of the dried back olives from the olive trees, the finger licking tasty dinners prepared by Simon and Donna and the after dinner conversations, the presentations, the moments of creating in my studio, the short daily walks of Fufu and Uuu, the night sky and billions stars, the bird singing conversations with the contrasting sound of the silence, the sound of the harmonica played on top of the surrounding hills and all that toped with mesmerizing views’.


Ankica Mitrovska

Joya: AiR / Melanie Moczarski / New York, USA

‘I came here to be IN what inspires my work. Living and working in Brooklyn, NY,  I make things that connect me to what I would call the tendencies of natural places and their elements. For me, this has a lot to do with nature’s gestures and movements, a signature to all things natural that translates regardless of form.

I didn’t bring materials knowing I wanted to be impressed with the place and know myself through that impression, deciding later what form my work at Joya: AiR would take.

There had been heavy snow a week or so before I arrived, followed by warmer weather which softened the land into clay. Two experiments with clay took shape in the studio, both of them involving multiples to create larger compositions. Both of them meditative and intuitive in process. Both of them coming about organically and revealing meaning as I made them.

The experience of shaping (with only my hands and a little water) the ground I’ve lived on for two weeks has been intimate and immersive. I’ve been loaned a red bucket and a shovel. When I run out of clay I walk down the hill until my feet feel soft ground, I fill the bucket, and take it back to the studio. The seamlessness of making something in this way has allowed me a degree of focus and freedom that has blended the process into something entirely fluid. It’s quiet, there is no interference, no middleman between self and materials, no speed bump (so to speak).

The home has also been a very important element of staying and working here. Everything is beautiful and kind to the senses. The Beckmanns are welcoming, generous, warm, and utterly respectful and encouraging of their guest’s process and needs. I would describe it all as mindful luxury. Here we are mindful of water, mindful of sounds, mindful of the electricity we use, and this makes for a very present experience that is coherent with the human appreciation of nature.

I took long walks up hills and down barrancos without running into a single person and saw colours, shapes and textures that very much delivered what I was looking for in coming here.

This time at Joya has been extremely meaningful and has given me the space to clearly assert why I make art and how I want to make art. I am grateful to Simon and Donna for this opportunity which I hope to repeat in the near future’.

Melanie J Moczarski

Joya: AiR / Wei Tan / Malaysia

‘We were isolated on a hill yet there was no sense of loneliness. We would venture into our backyard of wilderness and return to the warmth and intimacy of our little house. I was surprised at how much I felt at home here. Being at my first artist residency, I expected a quiet, solemn retreat with most of my time spent in solitude with nature. Joya turned out to be a lively communal experience. There was no time to be alone except in sleep. It reminded me of the joys of family and community that I’ve missed, growing up in cities. We explored our surroundings like children, chased the goats, picked almonds, joked at the dinner table, gazed at stars. Even while walking “alone”, trees, bushes, mud rocks and mountains surrounded and enveloped you. With the constant company of human, animal and nature, old troubles and worries became irrelevant and dull. I came here as an abstract painter and sound artist but I’ve collected more than just images and sounds – I’ve collected new seeds of wonder and optimism for the future as both an artist and a human being’.

Wei Tan

Wei Tan is a mixed-media abstract artist and environmental sound artist currently based in Malaysia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music (King’s College London) and a Master’s degree in Music Technology (New York University). In 2015 she started practicing abstract painting and has since exhibited her art in New York, London, Rome, Barcelona and Berlin.

Joya: AiR / Tristan Gooley / UK

‘We hack through thickets of doubt and disquiet in search of a land of satisfying work. If we are lucky enough to find this place, then we settle. But soon some new nemesis rises opposite: sameness, a monster with three ugly heads – boredom, apathy and restlessness. Joya is the castle that contains the potion that slays the monster.

It has been a thrill to explore the rich, dry landscapes that surround Joya. And a privilege to do it with such talented and inspirational people. Thank you Simon and Donna for creating a unique place in sympathy with this wild environment. The building is an an artwork, the drawing together of diverse souls with like minds, a treasure.

In the end, the monster was finished off with a thousand cuts, each one a small step up a steep mountainside with new friends. And it was laid to rest under almond blossoms. Flowers that pointed south, to the sun’.

Tristan Gooley

Tristan Gooley is an author and natural navigator. Joya: arte + ecología has been a follower of his work and research for several years so we were particularly pleased to receive his research proposal.

Tristan set up his natural navigation school in 2008 and is the author of the award-winning and bestselling books, The Natural Navigator, The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs and How to Read Water, three of the world’s only books covering natural navigation.

Tristan has led expeditions in five continents, climbed mountains in Europe, Africa and Asia, sailed small boats across oceans and piloted small aircraft to Africa and the Arctic. He has walked with and studied the methods of the Tuareg, Bedouin and Dayak in some of the remotest regions on Earth.

He is the only living person to have both flown solo and sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic and is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Royal Geographical Society.

Joya: AiR / Anne Gough / USA



How to walk an inquiry? How to walk an inquiry into, through and with a new landscape? These were the questions that propelled me during a magical week residency at Joya: AiR. I was seeking to build a disciplined artistic research practice with time divided between writing and walking and generating questions, materials and representations.

Everyday, after a morning of writing, my partner and I set out into the terraced valley or up the hillsides surrounding Joya. Simon gave us ideas and directions and we set out to explore a landscape steeped in agricultural history and characterised by almonds and Aleppo pine trees. The human relationship with the environment surrounds us.

We played with Donna Landry’s position that “walking means aligning oneself to some extent with a rebellious reclaiming of common rights”. We took roads and designated paths, but also scrambled up and down ramblas, fire breaks, terraces, and the edges of fields between pines, oaks, almonds and aromatic bushes of rosemary and juniper. Sometimes we followed animal tracks, searching for signs of their habitation and paths.

As we talked with how to represent our walks, we experimented with perspective.

From the soil

Some experiments were more successful than others, and I am grateful for the opportunity to fail with some of them. Unable to reach photographs that combine aesthetics and significance. To see what did not work, with the aim of moving towards what Donna Harawy has termed the “embodied nature of all vision… to reclaim the sensory system that has been used to signify a leap out of the marked body and into the conquering gaze from nowhere”. But the gaze from nowhere is abundant in contemporary life and so time and discipline are required to reclaim the sensory system to perceive our nature-culture context.

The daily walking fed my writing project. I came with an ongoing project on visual culture of the environment and emancipatory movements and struggles, with the work of Thomas Sankara, leader of Burkina Faso in the 1980s as the foundation. It is a project with a deadline as it must be a readable book chapter soon. I found the walking and thinking while in motion helped to focus my energies when it came to write. I saw lines of connections in the materials and visual arguments I am working with that I would not have seen without the walking practice.

I came to Joya: hungry for inspiration to build a practice and I found it. It is difficult to write or work or produce work without such creative sustenance. Some of this can be found in the details of the experience. The beauty of the home and the care taken with design and colours. The wonderful dinners and conversations at the table with Simon, Donna and other resident artists. Often our talk invariably turned to the imploding political situation in the United States, my home country. How ironic is it that pine trees native to Syria travel throughout the rolling hills of Europe while the people of Syria are formally refused refuge in the country famous for offering refuge? While working on my writing project I came across this reflection from the curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, “Instead of dwelling in a state of paralysis and dumbfounded déja vécu, we could rather reminisce on Sankara’s words to help us understand the status quo and equip us to pose questions that might pave a way out or solve the current conundrum.”


Joya: AiR / Marie-France Bourbeau / Quebec, Canada

“The first night I passed at Joya: AiR was filled with strange noises coming from the wood burning stove next to the wall of my bedroom. It felt like rocks hitting metal panels. I learned the next morning there was a bird caught into the chimney trying to get out. In fact, two birds were trapped in the house: one in the kitchen and one near my bedroom. As I came here for residency having in mind sculpting birds, I felt it like a sign. The next day, Simon (director and co-founder of Joya: arte + ecología) opened the door of the stove and a window nearby. By chance, I happened to be standing in the other room, just as the bird took his opportunity and I saw it fly away through the open window.

I can say that by that moment, I found my point of reference both externally and internally. I understood why I had these images of birds trying to emerge from my subconscious: they were a metaphorical image of our human condition. Trapped in our lives, we may sometimes need somebody – or something – to open up our inside door.

As the days passed, I have been walking a lot throughout the land and the only other living creatures I have crossed  were.. birds. As they were the subject of the project I now had in mind, I felt a deep connexion with the environment.

Finding a lot of branches quite expressive and being inspired by them, I started to work on a series of sculptures mixing human torsos with bird heads in the objective to assemble them together. The wood here has gained a rich density of organic forms due to the harsh living conditions of growing in constant search for water. With the clay taken from the surroundings, I have sculpted figurines halfway between birds and humans. The clay, being full of little rocks and impurities, has given to my sculptures a primitive quality but more complex, expressing a link to this untamed territory.

Joya: AiR is a jewel in the middle of this wild nature, allowed me to plunge into the roots of the landscape – both physically and emotionally – and allowed me to recenter myself and focus on the fundamental elements: water, air, fire, clay, all these being at first necessary but often forgotten as essential to life. Being restricted by the remoteness of the place and having to work with new materials,  gave me the chance to experiment with new materials and new ways of sculpting and therefore stretch my wings”.


Marie-France Bourbeau 2017

Joya: AiR / Karen Miranda Abel / Toronto, Canada

Joya: a living artwork by Karen Miranda Abel

‘Situated in the driest region of Europe within southern Spain’s Almería province, Joya: arte + ecología lies in the Sierra de María-Los Vélez Natural Park. Characterized by moon-like plains and rocky summits, the scenic nature reserve is northeast of the Tabernas Desert, a stark geological landscape of wild badlands made famous as the filming location of classic Western films.

Restored from an abandoned farmhouse complex with exquisite vision and attention-to-detail, Joya: arte + ecología thrives in a challenging yet compelling alpine desert microclimate in the rain shadow of the Sierra Larga. After 14 days as artist-in-residence at Joya: arte + ecología in October 2016, I came to understand the arts-led field research centre as a living artwork, a monumental life’s work created and nurtured daily by the Beckmann family: Simon and Donna, and their two teenage children, Sesamé and Solomon.

Over more than a decade, the Beckmann family has evolved Joya: arte + ecología into a site-responsive residence that demonstrates a finely-tuned spatial aesthetic with inspiring sensitivity towards the natural and cultural heritage of the site. Their creation is a warmly minimalist off-grid home that sustainably functions as a habitable work of contemporary sculpture in natural congruence with the enveloping landscape and climatic conditions. Sun and wind provide electricity throughout the house, rainwater is collected from the roof, and waste is recycled through a grey water system.

True to its name, Joya – Spanish for “jewel” – radiates a tremendous sense of integrity and legacy, like a gemstone revealed in the landscape by the wind and rain.

Desert Pool (If every desert was once a sea)

During my residency at Joya: arte + ecología, I undertook a daily fieldwork practice which culminated in the site-specific installationDesert Pool (If every desert was once a sea). The project references the primeval sea that would have occupied the area millions of years prior to the current desert ecology, due to its proximity to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea within the La Hoya de Carrascal basin. Even the region’s mountains and ridges may have once rested beneath prehistoric waters as part of a primitive sea floor. Evidence of this ancient water body is readily exhibited across the desert landscape in an abundance of fossilized marine life specimens preserved in the terrain’s eroding sedimentary layers.

Following Vernal Pool (2014) and Riffle Pool Riffle (2014), Desert Pool (If every desert was once a sea) is the third in a series of elemental works that reflect on water bodies as liminal spaces. Far from a stagnant form, a pool is a dynamic landscape that has retained its mystery. In each ‘pool’ I see a mythic potential, a kind of portal channeling visionary histories across millennia at the threshold of a timeless sense of equilibrium. Through this thematic concept of a ‘reflecting pool,’ immersive, site-sensitive understandings of place and time are sought.

Desert Pool (If every desert was once a sea) is a light-reflective installation created in the artist studio and gallery at Joya: arte + ecología. The space features an expansive wall-sized window with a magnificent view of the landscape framed against the Aleppo pine-forested ridge of the Sierra Larga. Informed by the topography, geology, and ecology of the area, this work was executed with particular observation of the light that travels through the studio’s large architectural opening with each sunrise. The reflective aqueous surface of the wall-to-wall installation represents a kind of material recollection of an ancient long vanished sea. Referencing formative events such as the Zanclean flood – an epic breach of the Strait of Gibraltar theorized to have refilled the Mediterranean basin five million years ago – Desert Pool’s symbolic waters signal a consolidation or reckoning with the prehistoric origins of the area.

I invested the first seven days of the artist residency in a daily fieldwork practice to expose the metal material selected for the installation to the desert landscape. Metal foil was chosen for its rugged yet malleable elemental properties, with the golden colour of the pure brass radiating the auric quality of the desert sunlight. The shifting autumn atmosphere consisted of cool, still mornings and hot afternoons when the wind whipped across the fields, activating the small wind turbine that provides electricity for the house, which was often the only sound heard upon commencing my solo hike each day. Three 92-metre (100-foot) lengths of heavy brass foil, 30 centimetres (12 inches) in width, were carried across the landscape from the Joya residence and repeatedly dragged down the ‘barranco’ (dry ravine) as a method of etching the material with the terrestrial textures.

The barrancos of the alpine desert are deep erosional gullies in the soft mountain foothills carved by rare rainstorms. A gradual sculpting process, the barrancos were likely formed over hundreds or thousands of years by sudden floods which have historically occurred once every few years or more. A recent increase in these rain events over the last decade is thought to be an effect of climate change. The flooding rain scours the limestone, red sandstone, and domes of white clay of the mountainous slopes with a barrage of rushing water, creating deep fluvial passages that remain bone dry for much of the year during which the wind further erodes the landscape.

The barranco unravels south for many kilometres, eventually widening into an expansive ‘rambla’ where it ultimately reaches the Mediterranean Sea. Each day I followed the meandering path that rainwater has travelled for hundreds or thousands of years, hiking down the barranco’s secluded and narrow passage through steep bluffs of parched limestone. As anticipated, the act of dragging great lengths of metal foil down the barranco produced a vibrational sound remarkably like rain. I led the metallic serpentine streams over giant boulders, around limestone outcrops, and across clay and sandstone deposits, recording and delineating the composition of the barranco while transmitting the rare sound of rainfall which echoed across the desert hills.

The three metal pieces were left ‘in situ’ for several days to acquire a natural patina. Each day I arrived in the barranco to discover the material resting in an altered posture due to the previous evening’s lively winds, which would festively lift and twist the lengths of foil. Under the heat of the intense sun, combined with direct contact with the minerals present in the ground, the metal surface developed oxidized marks and colourful marbled stains indicative of the surroundings. A rare light rainfall seasoned the metal surface with a raindrop pattern. Pine needles that fell from low-hanging branches were similarly recorded on to the material with tarnished markings.

While waiting for the process of natural patination to produce results, I created some ephemeral works in the barranco by temporarily gilding rock surfaces with gold leaf. Evidence of fossilized marine life is increasingly exposed in the barranco as the elements excavate the sedimentary layers of the ancient sea floor. A deep limestone impression of a large fossilized ammonite – a prehistoric extinct mollusc – measuring more than 30 centimetres (12 inches) across was the most extraordinary specimen, located about 40 minutes deep into the barranco. The impression was gilded by placing small torn pieces of gold leaf on to the stone surface moistened with natural spring water from the local village of Vélez-Blanco. Over a few days, the delicate gold leaf fragments were carried away by the wind, a process intended to reference the present-day impermanence of the sedimentary marine record. The water and wind that revealed the ancient ammonite imprint will also wash it away, and in time the remnants may be deposited back into the sea.

Once dragged  out of the barranco, back up to the residence and into the studio space, the metal foil pieces were cut and assembled as parallel latitudes across the floor similar to a large topographic relief map. Sunlight from the window illuminated and animated the installation, travelling across the room and reflecting light around the space. The light created a sensation of waves on the luminous, undulating surface, evoking imagery of a warm sea laid before the arid landscape framed in the studio window. Visible in the foreground of the large picture window is Joya’s water tank, a 6-metre-deep stone and cement cistern which must be regularly replenished with trucked-in water as no constant natural water source exists on site.

Like a ribbon of time, the thin brass foil symbolizes an era when the land was inhabited by an ancient sea, a period that spanned a mere sliver relative to the geological time scale of Earth. Framing the work in this way, the mythic Desert Pool floods the interior space like a mirage in momentary symbiosis with the present. The visitor’s eye sails across the artifact’s faceted surface of gentle, glistening waves, lands at the water cistern set deep in the ground before navigating over the chalky hay fields and lastly rising up to the Sierra Larga. Resting one’s gaze high along the expansive mountain ridge crested by a rocky outcrop named Peña Casanova, the visitor is reminded that if not completely submerged by the primeval waters of long ago, the summit of this commanding landform may have stood long enough to witness a time when the desert was once a sea.

Karen Miranda Abel

Toronto, Canada

Joya: AiR / Zishi Han / Beijing, China

‘Wheeling and diving like a dark cloud looming down, a flock of vultures feasted on the flesh of a dying goat. Within minutes, only bones were left. It’s hard not to be in awe of nature when you reside encircled by its raw power.

Los Gázquez (home of Joya: AiR) is such a place that cracks open my cocoon that was constructed in a hectic city life. Sunshine or mud water, they penetrate through my unconscious. I’m pushed out of my comfort zone here to explore new media, new processes and new materials. It has been an extremely productive two weeks, and the insightful conversations within the intimate group of artists have been fostering exciting ideas for me to investigate in the future.

Simon and Donna put such efforts into this extremely consuming project. They offer us the warmest hospitality and the best dinner. It’s been a delightful and stimulating experience’.

Zishi Han

Joya: AiR / Heather Ramsdale / Philadelphia USA

‘Work with less.

I came to Joya:AiR to work with less and explore the freedom one has in solitude, off the grid, in a studio filled with quiet. Leaving the shop, power tools and machines behind, my quest was toeliminate defaults, and see what happens, so I showed up with a large roll of paper. A studio window that revealed the severity of landscape in the middle of emptiness was the perfect visual dichotomy to propel ideas.

The mountains became fragile interior objects made of paper.

The fragile objects became heavy in gesture.

The heaviness imposed a curiousness about the forms.

The curiousness called for the addition of functional found things.

The addition of found functional things brought about the pulse of personas, both humorous and lonely.

Here I found the perfect balance of long productive days and great evening conversations. The food was local, fresh and beautifully prepared by Donna and Simon, and punctuated the very soul of the environment. I will leave Joya and return to my city with an awareness of how I live, what I really need both in the studio and otherwise, and with great insight as to what is most important’. 


Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Richard Sidy / Arizona USA

‘In the state of Arizona I am involved in non-profits in rural communities with the goals to enhance awareness and solutions for the challenges of local food security, sustainable communities, and environmental education. The main organization that I work with is Gardens for Humanity. This organization was founded by artists and poets who were moved to find solutions for creating and healing communities through education, art and gardens while teaching environmental stewardship.

For many years I have felt that we are not listening to Mother Earth. We usually talk about her from the viewpoints of science, religion, economy, environmentalism, politics. It has only been the artists, poets and naturalists who have given her voice vivid and compelling beauty, clarity and urgency.

Most of my time in Arizona is spent developing and supporting programs that impact the missions of the organization I work with. My writing is mostly non-fiction or essay. Writing poetry is a luxury for me. Therefore, I looked forward to my residency at Joya as an opportunity to focus on writing poetry that gives voice to the environment and projects a connection to place. I used my time to observe and write poetry that I call  as a whole, “The Earth Speaks to Us: Word Sketches -Discovering a Sense of Place.” To me it is important to listen to the stories that a place is telling us both from the viewpoint of nature and also from the viewpoint of those who live there.

Upon learning that I would be spending a two-week residency at Joya, I was inspired to start writing “The Earth Speaks to Us” to tell the story of where I live, that is rich in Native American culture, with influences of settlers and the Spanish conquistadores. Perhaps now I will continue that and join Andalusia and Arizona places that have many common elements.

A bonus for me was that in Joya, Simon and Donna have created a working sustainable artistic community that supports the arts and the art of living sustainably. So it was extra inspiring to actually see an example of these goals in action. This felt like a perfect fit to the areas of main focus of my life activities’.


Richard Sidy

Joya: AiR / Simon Kroug / Switzerland

‘Arriving at Los Gázquez by following tracks between pines and orchards of almond trees, you believe to be lost. You believe to change world or period. Silence is incredibly thick. Colours, smells and material share in the painting. And yet, here more than elsewhere, at the end of your trip, you touch concrete life as it is when in deep connection with Nature.

Without denying technological progress nor comfort, but with respect for environment, Donna and Simon created an artist’s residence in accordance with their ecologist and social convictions. This does not prevent neither the delicious meals (concocted by Donna) nor the cheerful tables or exciting discussions.

From my point of view, this particular place has got a very positive aura that undoubtedly stimulated my work and ideas, helped by the fabulous welcome of Donna and her family.

I regret that my language proficiency has deprived me of more thorough discussion on all the exciting subjects we have broached together.


My warm thanks to the entire team of Joya’.


Artists statement…

Since 2012, I question my need for space and nature. Uncomfortable with my urban condition and overconsumption all around me, I tried to reconsider my place in nature. My goal is to find the link distended with large spaces, back to basics, to experience the elements, and to self-seek a certain frugality. This initial search yielded a series of small format intimate and introspective prints . I titled this series of woodcuts or linocuts “Canopy“.


Working today in a space twice as large and high ceiling, I deepened the desire of space, of movement, of natural environment. Now I explore printmaking in a format such as printing must be done by hand. My report on the matter is more physical, gesture of a woodcut line or of a brush stroke becomes more important.

As a starting point, I use photography but these two-dimensional representations of reality are not sufficient me. Linking photography —instantaneous process of capturing light— with the slow and complex production of a woodcut print raises many questions about the nature of the image that I work.

I use either my own photographs, or I look for images on the internet and social networks. In total contradiction with what they express (contemplation, slow, pause) snapshots circulating ultra-fast. This deep slowdown that is physically felt in nature is the feeling I’m looking into pictures that I choose as a basis. Appropriating these images means living landscapes that are inaccessible to me at that moment. I fantasize these landscapes. I give a subjective reading about it.

Traditional Japanese gouges that I use, as the ink I make or papers made with natural fiber resonate with my project. It’s a pleasure to handle a great tool shaped itself by hand. Woodcutting thousands small recessed surfaces in(ter)dependent who are the light of all to save the solid ones fascinates me. By printing the matrix in hand, I play with chance. I induce more or less controllable shades on raised surfaces. I often enhance the print with brush strokes  of a particular color to add additional vibration frequency.

Sometimes appears a character, usually alone, engages himself … just me somehow! I claim contemplation as a fundamental attitude of existence. And with it, the use of a long time, which helps to get rid of the superficial.

Loneliness, in my work, like that of these characters is desired and assumed. I focus on my perceptions. During the long matrix etching phase, often bathed in a selected music, my mind wanders in the popup image. Idream and shapes and I can further explain why and how. Beyond the succession of technical milestones that mark the achievement of my work, I try to keep a place for my intuition.

Joya: AiR / Nanina Kotlowski & Patric Redl / Austria

We arrived at Joya with a focus on continuing to work on our permaculture performative lecture and we could not have imagined a better place for it.

The Joya Residency and its surroundings were full of ideal places for us to observe nature and extreme weather conditions with its patterns. Initially we started off by collecting material for our lecture by observing, reading, being a bit overwhelmed by everything that we did not know yet and by simply touching the earth.

The surroundings of the national park and the freedom we felt within this vast nature nourished our creativity in unexpected ways and we decided to reserve some time for spontaneous creative outbursts. Such a healthy thing to do, as in our daily live routines we found it difficult to find this space. We were diving into a movement practice that dealt with the observation of dryness, patterns and the constant falling of our own body in movement. We measured our body parts, as to always have a measure band with us, we recorded sounds of monoculture pine forests, observed and took pictures of dry riverbanks and erosions, built physical water barriers and human catchment systems.

On top of all that it was truly inspiring for us to see how Donna and Simon have created a vivid home and residency space totally off grid, full of creativity and generosity. Thank you for all of that!

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Deborah Joy Corey / Maine USA

Joya was the perfect place for me to complete the final edit of my novel, Settling Twice.  This exquisitely designed residency allows one the freedom and comfort to focus fully on the project at hand. There are many things to be admired about Joya, particularly the restoration of a number of ancient farmhouses into an well sited retreat, which not only honors the land’s history and landscape, but is sensitive to the environment as well. Still for me, the privacy that was afforded me was a standout and made it well worth the trip from Maine, USA. Donna and Simon Beckmann have put tremendous thought into creating spaces that not only inspire, but also comfort after a long day’s work. Their evening dinner table is lively with laughter and great discussions, and even reassurances when the need be. It was my good fortune to be here during the American Presidential Election. I say good fortune because I was escaping the drama of it back in the U.S., but also because when it turned out differently than I had hoped, there was a table of artists from many places to not only share similar heartbreaking experiences in their own countries, but they were present to teach me how to go forward and what to expect. Go Forward. If there was something inscribed over the entrance of Joya, that would be it. For this is a place of restoration that encourages the going forward of the artist’s heart, soul, and mind. And Go Forward is the call that we must all heed.

Joya: AiR / Sarah Sagarin / New York City USA

My process based works are constructed through indirect layers of mark making, automatic drawing, and painting. Working this way, intentionally unintentionally, allows for the underlying concept to be born and slowly emerge over time. My paintings are not about the process, rather the structure of the process affords me the freedom to explore and have a back and forth conversation with each painting, unburdened by preliminary decision making over content. My work over the past few years has revealed itself to be influenced by such varied sources as the Syrian migrant crisis, Mad Men, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, and 2016 US Presidential election.

While at Joya I have been profoundly affected by the beauty, isolation, and dramatic high desert landscape. Living off the grid, with limited water and resources has forced me to confront the realities of climate change and its growing impact on individuals and communities. It has affected how I think about my my own needs and my anxiety about the future. I am curious to see how this influence will reveal itself in my work in the coming months.

A few days after arriving at Joya, I was standing in the kitchen trying to explain to Donna (the brilliant, beautiful co-creator of this surreal artist’s world in the southern mountains of Spain) how I was feeling now that I had had a bit of time to adjust to my new surroundings. I had recovered from my jet lag, yet there lingered an odd feeling of co-existing with myself which I couldn’t quite put into words. “It’s like you’ve gone sideways”, she offered. That was exactly it. It was me, standing in the kitchen, but just beside myself. This new me was without all the constructs that define my daily life in New York. In this place, off the grid, miles from the closest town, none of my multitudes of daily “needs” could be met. The support and stress of constant contact with friends and family was gone. The mountain of ice I use each day, for the frosty cold beverages I absolutely must have, is not to be had here. I was without NPR yammering at me in my studio all day with endless news and information to be processed, and without the 250 options of what to have for lunch, all in the deli right downstairs. Yet somehow I missed none of it and wanted for nothing. There was an enormous sense of freedom in stepping outside all these things, in stripping life down to its bare essentials and sorting through the difference between needs and wants. In truth, my needs were met here in abundance. I was well fed, had all the water I needed (though through conscious conservation I used a small fraction of what I used at home), and I was surrounded by aesthetic beauty everywhere I looked, from the stunning landscape, to the beautifully designed living and work spaces of the house. I had time and solitude for work, with no distractions, and companionship around the dinner table at the end of each day. I was happy.

Joya: AiR / Michelle Tan / San Francisco USA

I was fortunate to have heard of this residency from former classmates at Goldsmiths.  My time here has been extremely productive thus far, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my output.  Funny enough, in this drought scarred landscape, I ended my own creative drought.  Whilst everyone’s creative process is different, I think a self directed program suited me in this instance. I ended up doing plan B, drawing. I left things open and abstract, and read Filipino authors.

The hike up the hill on my first day set the stage for my drawing concept.  No trail, just do it. So there will be no grand narrative, no philosophical musings in this report.  Just a simple declaration that for the first time in many years, at Joya I have rediscovered the joy in making. 

Joya: AiR / Francesca Zanella / Italy

‘My week spent at Joya: arte + ecología was a full immersion in the arid natural environment and astonishing landscape of the location and a stimulating creative exchange with the artists I met in the residence. I could take my time to focus on my artwork to try and find new means of expression.  I think that the arts residency is an intimate experience that gives you the chance to investigate your work in a new way. The time I spent at Joya was wonderful. Thanks to Donna and Simon’s warm hospitality, I felt relaxed and encouraged to create’.

Francesca Zanella joined Joya: arte + ecología from Italy with the intention of exploring the links between mountain outlines and the sky. The environment around the Comarca de Los Vélez, the beautiful landscape and the aridity of the land around Joya inspired.

In her artwork she experiments with non-toxic printmaking and she often uses recycled materials and all kinds of natural elements and papers to build and bind her art books. Thanks to original binding techniques her books are forged like creative tridimensional sculptures, while their pages are completed using from monotype to direct printmaking.

During her week stay in the artist residence in October 2016, Francesca worked with a range of media ­- drawing, watercolour, monotype, collage, printmaking on paper and cartonboard – to create her art books, and experienced new creative binding techniques giving life to books shaped like a star, or a 180° open accordion with the purpose to integrate the book pages in the surrounding environment and dissolve the outline of the earth into the sky.

Francesca is a visual artist based between Padua and Venice, where she studied book art, print-making, contemporary graphic and xilography at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica. 

Most recently she received a Masters in Children’s Illustration at the University of Padua. 

She has taken part in individual and group exhibitions in Italy and abroad. Simutaneously she has held various workshops for children based on her artistic research.

Joya: AiR / Tori Ferguson / New Zealand

I came to Joya: AiR with a tangle of loose ideas to work through – land use over time, the sedimentation of memory, repetitive processes and the life cycle of rocks. I immersed myself in reading and simultaneously explored the astounding landscape, climbing the hills and following the labyrinthine barrancas. As the land slowly revealed itself to me, the interwoven concepts become clearer.

The long days, visual expanses and Donna and Simon’s warmth and openness provided an ideal space for working with ease and rigour.