Two women, an artist and a writer, will soon move into the foothills of Santa Barbara to spend the entire month of October living at the Via Maria Villa, where they will create their latest works during the Squire Foundation’s 2019 Fall Artist in Residence Season. During their time in Santa Barbara, Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Joan Giroux and Los Angeles-based writer Peppur Chambers will produce a new collection of prints and expand a short story into a novella, respectively.
The two women will be introduced to the AIR program with a welcome dinner at the villa on October 7.
In an interview with the News-Press, Ms. Giroux said she’s very excited to move into the villa and get to work on a series of prints that she plans on compiling into a book bound with Coptic stitching. These prints will include monoprints and risographs, prints made from a Japanese-made machine that the artist described as a cross between silk screening and a mimeograph machine. While Ms. Giroux plans on spending her days at the villa working on these prints, in the evening she will work on the Coptic stitching to bind the books. She plans on making 56 editions of the book, each with slight variations in the prints and with different covers.
Thematically, Ms. Giroux’s print collection will cover themes like illness, death, and loss. It will be specifically dedicated to Matthew Ranger, an artist and close friend of hers when she was living in New York who died of AIDS in 1991. As well as being “a portrait of young artists at a particular time,” 1980s and 1990s New York City, Ms. Giroux’s book will attempt to encourage people to more often discuss the subject of death. Since her mother was a geriatric nurse who worked in hospice, Ms. Giroux “grew up around the idea of death” and believes it is a topic that should be more normally discussed because it is “one of the only universal aspects of human experience.”
“I try in my work to start a conversation and make it more normalized and less stigmatized,” she said.
Upon completion, Ms. Giroux’s print books will be exhibited in partnership with Hospice of Santa Barbara at the Leigh Block Gallery on Oct. 29 with a reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The artist said she finds this arrangement apt given the subject of her art.
“Since that’s kind of related to the content of the work, it’s kind of a good fit,” she said.
While in residence, Ms. Giroux will also co-lead two workshops along with local artist Lisa Marie Kaftori, which will also reflect the theme of loss and remembering those who have died. During the workshops, the ladies will help attendees create clamshell memory boxes with booklets inside and encourage them to “reflect on loss or anticipated loss.” The workshops will be held on Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Montecito Library, and October 6 during the same hours at the Art from Scrap Gallery.
By the end of October, writer Peppur Chambers aims to have her short story “Ancestry.com” lengthened into a good draft of a novella. Originally published in “BONED: A Collection of Skeletal Writings,” a publication centered specifically on stories related bones and skeletons, “Ancestry.com” addresses the difficulty black Americans face when tracing their lineage as many of their ancestors perished in the sea during the slave trade. The story’s yet to be named protagonist is an African queen and warrior who died on one of the voyages, but is revived when a contemporary American black woman gives out a call out for her ancestors. As the warrior queen is revived, her bones rise up from the water and reassemble, which is the image that originally inspired Ms. Chambers’ story.
“I literally had this image of bones coming up from the sea to form a woman,” she said.
When asked how she intends to expand her short story into a longer format, Ms. Chambers said she intends to add new strand to the story that will deal with modern-day issues like slavery reparations. Another new narrative strand will follow how the main character deals with other revived ancestors who are seeking violent retribution for their enslavement. With these new additions, Ms. Chambers hopes to have a novella around 60,000 words in length. However, she will leave it be at whichever length the story reaches its natural conclusion.
“If it turns out to be something that’s shorter, I want it to live where it lives,” she said.