by Jeremy Lewis
by Georgia Gardner
Artist in Residence
“My favourite part of this whole experience was getting to meet so many clients, including Google’s co- founder and our Lieutenant Governor in California.That was really exciting and I felt really lucky.”
Jun Yang , San Francisco Resident Artist
The Lighthouse Immersive Artist in Residence program was designed to give visual artists a unique opportunity to showcase their work within Immersive Van Gogh exhibitions across North America. Artists are invited to create work during their residency around the theme of Vincent van Gogh all whilst surrounded by a community of art enthusiasts at the onsite venue. This gives local artists an opportunity to build connections, create networks, collaborate, and share work with other artists and the general public. We spoke with the Project Coordinator Kelsey Sewell about the motivations behind the project and Jun Yang, San Francisco’s outgoing resident artist about his experience over the course of his residency.
“I come from a background of theatre and supporting the arts,” says Sewell, “I’ve noticed that my friends and co-workers in the arts have suffered from the lack of opportunities due to the pandemic. This program is unique as Immersive van Gogh is unique. We are personalising the van Gogh experience to these cities across North America. I think it is important that this program is something we can bring to local communities.”
The Artist in Residence program invites artists into Immersive van Gogh venues. A portion of the venue will be used as a studio and gallery space for the length of their residency and take inspiration from Vincent van Gogh’s body of work. Artists will be able to create, showcase and sell their artwork on-site, as well as connect with attendees from the local community. The program is designed for participation, which ranges between 4-6 weeks. Artists will be present at van Gogh venues for approximately 40 hours/week.
"It started with Corey ( Co-Producer of Immersive van Gogh) wanting people to come to the venue to connect with the local part of this exhibit."
Lighthouse Immersive is not doing a national call. Instead, in each of the cities where Immersive van Gogh exhibits take place, the call for artists will be restricted to that specific city. Yang, the current Resident Artist, is a San Francisco-based artist. In terms of where the idea for this all started, Sewell continues, “ I think it started with Corey Ross (Co–Producer of Immersive van Gogh) wanting people to come to the venue to connect with the local part of this exhibit. We’re trying to reinvigorate the local arts and culture community.”
In terms of expanding the Artist in Residence program, Lighthouse Immersive has created a new website portal, containing information on the Immersive van Gogh production, the Artist in Residence program and how to apply. This portal will have a permanent place on the smART Magazine website. Lighthouse Immersive has incorporated the production’s generic information about Immersive van Gogh for attendee’s, with specificities about the application for those interested in the residency. The production has also launched their New York call for artist applications, as well as their call for artists in Charlotte, North Carolina. In San Francisco, a new resident artist will be launched by the end of May.
"This program is unique as Immersive van Gogh is unique. We are personalizing the van Gogh experience to these cities across North America."
Yang shared his highlights and challenges of the program, as his term with Immersive van Gogh comes to a close: “It was unique dealing directly with the public as you need to feel very comfortable and confident with yourself. People will often interrupt your work and take pictures of your materials, asking what paint you use.” The artists in this program would have to be comfortable with getting both positive and negative feedback, distractions as they work, and the premise that their role in this project contains an element of performance. A creative challenge to this residency is the rewarding pull to change your work to fit the space. This can be taken literally, as in forming portraits of van Gogh’s face itself, or figuratively, such as an artist reworking their existing subject matter to a style that resembles van Gogh’s thick brushstrokes.
While it is a rewarding experience, Yang admits to some anxiety in being a performance artist. He explains that he feels his art has an un-aesthetic quality when he is creating his base layers, that he does not necessarily want viewers of his artwork to see. As a result, he has learned to paint quickly, to avoid judgements on his unfinished work. Yang has held his position in San Francisco for the last twenty days, and has created almost twenty paintings during this time, which is almost a painting a day, but he works on different pieces simultaneously. The high intensity atmosphere is one that he says motivates him to create so many works. In terms of what he thinks should be done differently in the program from the artist's perspective, it would be beneficial to have the option of a small area sectioned-off from the public, while maintaining an open and inviting space for those passing by, as it can be hard to focus. As for Yang’s favourite aspect of the residency, he feels that the community engagement role has been the most valuable. He explains that in San Francisco, most people are Covid-19 vaccinated, and he is fully vaccinated, so it means he is not threatened by meeting people, which is very special.
To further enhance the Immersive Van Gogh VIP experience, the artists will be called upon to create a small piece of art of their choice, such as a small art sample or framed print of their work, preferably pre-created or with the ability to produce large quantities on site to then be gifted to the VIPs. Artists’ material expenses for this project will be covered, subject to approval by a company representative.
A large privilege that the Artist in Residence program offers, is that throughout the pandemic, the artist is given the opportunity to grow a following, which for Yang, included prestigious clients. “During this pandemic, I didn’t have many opportunities to be a part of events like these. My favourite part of this whole experience was getting to meet so many clients, which include Google’s co-founder (Sergey Brin) and our Lieutenant Governor in California, (Eleni Kounalakis). That was really exciting and I felt really lucky.”
“I started art full time five years ago when my parents passed away. So it was my therapy. I wanted to get my hands dirty and express my feelings."
The additional promotional opportunities also include digital publicity, such as the opportunity to be featured on the Immersive van Gogh social media pages, as well as a profile article on smART Magazine.
“I started making art full time five years ago when my parents passed away,” Yang continues, “so it was my therapy. I wanted to get my hands dirty and express my feelings. I created it for myself, not with the idea in my head that I wanted to sell my works.” While discussing his beginning process Yang confesses he had not thought much about his audience, or cultivating his art into what he thought viewers might like. In this mindset, he never felt like he had to try and change his viewers perception of what they thought about his art. Yang is a self professed “night owl”, as he believes he is his most creative at night. This led him to creating owls, because he identifies with them habitually, and was inspired by each owl having their own unique beautiful design. By creating these owls, it brought him a lot of attention from those who love animals, as well as art. People started giving him suggestions and ideas on other animals he could paint. He says he feels a connection to painting them because we, (the human race) also share this earth with them, therefore, they deserve the same societal recognition for the value they uphold.
Over the last two years Yang has felt that he has been unable to ignore all the political current events happening in the world right now. It has had an impact on himself personally, and within his art. Specifically, when it comes to his own gender identity, and recent racial conflicts. In conjunction with living through this pandemic, Yang’s style of painting has changed a lot. His current artworks have been more figurative, abstract, and more expressive. He tells smART Magazine that his followers, audience and artworks are now based all over the world, obtaining international recognition.