Artist in residence, Michelle Bardino Vela
“This last week has been one of the most beautiful of my life,” Florida-based artist in residence Michelle Bardino Vela shared, reflecting on her first week at Sitka.
Experiencing her work during Sitka’s April 4 Resident Talk showcasing the culminating cohort of the 2022-2023 cycle, I feel a trembling inside me. The sensation is akin to what modern dance pioneer Martha Graham called a “blessed unrest.”
“This is a piece I completed just two weeks ago,” Bardino Vela beams with excitement as she reveals a large, fruiting sculpture. Part botanical, part animal, the piece was created over six months and constructed using wire, rose petals and water. A central dangling vine is laden with semi-translucent pink cocoons that seem to glow from within, simultaneously weightless and pregnant with life and all of the transitory lightness and heaviness our time on the planet brings.
Working in photography, image transfer and with “ephemeral materials that are very fragile and objects that that have memories attached to them,” Bardino Vela explores the creative tensions between time and memory, permanence and impermanence, and fragility and strength.
“The inspiration for this piece came from a memory from a few years back,” Bardino Vela explains. As she takes the Sitka community on a narrative journey of discovering a Dutchman’s pipevine that was barren of leaves but filled with empty chrysalises, I am transfixed like a child caught up in a fairytale at bedtime, too excited about setting out on my own next adventure in nature to sleep.
“As I was searching at the base of that vine,” she continues, “I found the remains of shredded snakeskin wrapped around the bark, and right beside that barren vine was a lush bleeding heart vine in full bloom. As I was looking at the vine, a hummingbird came beside me and was hovering and observing me… witnessing these two forms of transformation stayed with me for a long time.”
Michelle Bardino Vela’s art and words will stay with me for a long time, lingering and cross-pollinating with all that is discovered and made here by the artists, scientists, writers, musicians and interdisciplinary creatives who come to Sitka and take us inside their practices. Thank you, 2021-2022 Sitka Residents for making this year’s cycle so soul-nourishing. While the time we spend at Sitka is ephemeral, your creative life forces have ripple effects. By sharing your diverse work, backgrounds and perspectives, you move us all forward and connect us across time and space through these shared experiences as a community.
More and more, Sitka residents, instructors, guest speakers and Art Invitational artists are reaching out to share updates with us for inclusion in these monthly newsletters and through social media. Whether you have a new scientific publication, documentary, book, gallery exhibit, fellowship or other announcement to share, please stay in touch. When you do, you help us celebrate your new work and strengthen connections across our community.
Soon the Sitka cycle continues with workshops beginning in May and running into October. These past years have been challenging ones for working artists, and we are happy to be hosting a full workshop season this year. For those who are already registered for workshops, thank you. We can’t wait to host you and help you to create beautiful and lasting Sitka experiences and memories of your own.
For those still considering coming out of your cocoons, it’s not too late. While some workshops are full, many still have seats available. Know that when you take a Sitka workshop you directly support the gifted artists and educators who teach them and help our regional arts and nature-inspired community thrive. If a workshop you hope to take has a wait list, please join it. When wait lists grow long enough, we schedule second sessions, and your preferences directly inform the design of next year’s season.
With gratitude for the artists and scientists in residence whose work warmed our spirits through this fall and winter and to the instructors and workshop attendees who will share their wisdom, curiosity and creativity this spring and summer,