Posts tagged usa arts
Joya: AiR / Hillel O'Leary / USA

'There is a longing here. 

The topography has been molded into a vessel. It bends to the will of water, and forever awaits its return. 

Ruins sit forgotten along sun-bleached banks. Their doors are still open.

There is a lonely mountain in the distance. It is a haze tethered somewhere between solidity and ether, and I visit with it every morning to be sure this balance has not tipped. We have an unspoken agreement that there will be nothing without substance, and nothing too substantial for its own good.

There is a palpable stillness, an enveloping, ever-present silence that flows beneath the sand and clay. It is a kind of sonic negative space whose perimeter is loosely defined by winding stories, and punctuated with sudden fits of laughter.

Maybe it is all a mirage. Another spaghetti western fiction where names are not terribly important, and actions, if they can be proven, are the true measure of one’s worth. (We ate spaghetti in fact last night. It was quite good).

No, it is quite real, quite essential. A place where one who is willing can pare down the tangential outgrowth of a developing art practice, and return to the centre of making. The core of being. 

Here, the water has come back

The house is full'.

Hillel O’Leary is a New York sculptor whose work deals in place, time, and belonging.

He is a recent graduate of the Penn State sculpture MFA program, and he holds a bachelor’s degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

His recent work has been featured in the US and internationally, including exhibitions as part of the Digital Stone Project in Italy’s Tuscany region.

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Dipika Mukherjee / India-Malaysia-USA

“I didn’t quite know what to expect from a Joya residency; the description sounded so different from the usual residencies that I went along for the adventure. But the landscape and walking paths surrounding Cortijada Los Gázquez are truly magical…the very second day I wrote out a poem which had been marinating in my head for a month. The day after that — after watching a resident present a very different kind of performance photography — I wrote a short story in a single sitting in a fit of inspiration. Simon and Donna and the twins, along with Max the dog, Fufu the goat, and all seven cats, provide the relaxed chaos of a happy home where artists of all nationalities can forge symbiotic friendships which last beyond a single residency. A truly remarkable experience.”

Dipika Mukherjee

–Shambala Junction, (Novel) 2016. Winner of the 4th Virginia Prize for Fiction.

–Ode to Broken Things, (Novel)  2016. Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

–Rules of Desire. (Short Stories) 2015.

Joya: AiR / Alice McDonald / USA

“I came to Joya: arte + ecología / AiR while exploring ideas about home. I found that in topography completely foreign to me, and under a night sky that was otherworldly, I felt a genuine sense of belonging and home. Although I came alone, and removed myself from what was familiar and comfortable, the rich environment that Joya had to offer brought new connections to the land, the air, myself and the wonderful people I was surrounded by. It was truly amazing to pause, listen and observe not only the ephemeral beauty of our Earth, but as humans our innate ability to capture, create and respond to our surroundings when we give ourselves the time”.

“Thank you Simon, Donna, Sesi and Soli for this experience and all the wonderful memories”.

Alice McDonald

Joya: AiR / Mathew Mann / USA

“I have rarely been given the opportunity to clear the decks and work on expanding aspects of my painting practice as I have found at Joya: AiR. The freedom and generosity of the hosts and co-residents, along with the magical character of time in Spain (somehow -likely the siesta- two days seem to fit inside of one) and the epic landscape surrounding Cortijada Los Gázquez creates a perfect environment for contemplation and focus. Also the bleats of encouragement from Foufou the goat….couldn’t have done it without her.”

Mathew Mann

Joya: AiR / writer in Residence / HD Motyl / USA

'This morning, I sliced a banana into a bowl, covered it with yogurt, stirred it as I sat on my couch, with a cup of coffee nearby, and sunlight pouring through the windows looking out to my garden.  All of this, together, reminded me of Joya, and my mornings there, with virtually the same food.  The sunshine there was filtered through Iberian skies and clouds of course, and that sun beat down on land much rockier and more sparse than the earth in my backyard, but it was the morning writing, the steaming coffee, the competing flavors on my tongue that brought me back to Las Gázquez . . .

Joya.  Jewel.  A rocky jewel in the mountains of Almería.  Turn one way, and the land climbs to the sky; turn the other way, and the rocky soil tumbles to a valley that, for me, was often an inspiration for meditation, a kind of of visual respite from the computer screen I stared at as I wrote, and a reminder of where I was, what a gift I was given to be here, and a jewel this place was.

I had given myself a goal to write two film scripts while at Las Gázquez—two short film scripts with similar settings, related themes, and very different circumstances.  I achieved that goal—I finished both scripts—and I was thrilled for that, and proud of myself, because I can allow myself to be distracted, to be lured to concentrate on something unrelated, usually inconsequential.  The fulfillment of the goal, in and of itself, is good, but in this case, it was what was fulfilled in terms of the content, how the stories grew, changed, became intertwined, then unraveled from each other, only to grab onto one another again.  It was how the characters spoke—to themselves, to each other, to me—and how they changed genders, professions, how their relationships morphed from one thing to another . . . and how the autobiographical nature of the stories and the characters grew fainter as those characters themselves became independent of me, telling their own stories, and living their own lives on the page.  I put them on my narrative springboard but the water they dove into was their own—is their own—and the stories are a part of their biographies.

All of this might have happened—hopefully, would have happened—even without being at Joya, but Joya, the jewel, hastened the process tremendously.  Allowed me to live in isolation (almost) with the characters, with their words and their thoughts, so we became better acquainted much more quickly.  And they became feistier, and sexier, and more caring, and, in the end, more human.  Whether taking a walk around a mountain and coming upon crumbling buildings, or sitting quietly with a bowl of yogurt at a window watching snow falling, or sitting on the crest of a hill gazing down into a distant valley, the characters were with me—sitting quietly or babbling like fools—and the solitude, the attitude of Las Gázquez gave me the space to tell the stories of Charlie, and Vinnie, and Matt.  For that I, and they, are grateful’.


HD Motyl

HD Motyl has been transitioning from a documentary media maker to a narrative media maker. He has been a Producer/Writer/Director in the Documentary world of Chicago, creating work for both the educational and home video markets, then for TV (National Geographic, The History Channel). These video were historical documentaries, children’s documentaries and scientific documentaries. When he turned to teaching full-time, he produced a feature-length documentary (using grant money) called American Rodeo: A Cowboy Christmas, that looked at the behind-the-scenes lives and work of professional rodeo cowboys. (This film is now available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.)

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 / 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.”