Last January, Burlington City Arts announced that Burlington artist Kate Donnelly was the 2013 recipient of the annual Barbara Smail Award. That honor, named for a late local artist, comes with a $1500 stipend, $1000 worth of classes in any BCA studio, and three months in the fourth-floor space of the BCA Center.
Thing is, it wouldn't kick in until June 12. But that happens to be tomorrow, and Donnelly is ready to get crackin' on her ... "examination of the mundane routines in everyday life." Huh?
In a recent grant application that Donnelly shared with me, she sheds a little more light on her hard-to-explain project, called "A Period of Confinement."
For 103 days I will be in residence at Burlington City Arts' Artlab studio, which is situated on the top floor of a narrow, four-story building. Within this room there exists a door reachable only by ladder that leads higher still to a bell tower. Inspired by Xavier De Maistre's "Voyage Around My Room,' an 18th-century narrative in which the author, under house arrest, sets out on an exploration of the interior of his room, mind and spirit, and, referencing the stories of Rapunzel and St. Barbara, I will employ the unique architecture of this studio to explore the notion of our everyday, mundane actions as periods of confinement. Is this a confinement that we desire escape or rescue from, or is it one that, through examination and playful exploration, offers us a deeper understanding of the self?
OK, maybe that didn't really clarify things. But Donnelly is by no means planning to navel-gaze during her residency. In a phone conversation, she says she'll be working toward a multimedia exhibit, to be shown downstairs at BCA upon the conclusion of her residency. It will incorporate audio, video and perhaps performance, she says, and will likely be both inside the gallery and outdoors.
"My work is going in that direction anyway — outside, and outside the box," Donnelly says. "I don't want to confine myself."
Indeed, the artist startled plenty of passersby in February last year when she went outside covered head to toe in a bizarre, yeti-like costume — see the photo above. Seven Days' wrote about her performance art, which she called "Also There: A Performance for the Commuters."
Donnelly may be planning more outlandish outfits for her new work, but then again, you never know. And neither does she, yet.
"I don't know entirely — it's a working thing," she says of her residency. "I do plan on interviewing people who come to visit and using that as part of the work I'll be creating."
So, if you will be one of them, don't say anything you'll live to regret.
Donnelly will establish visiting hours after she gets started at the BCA Center, and will be ensconced on the fourth floor, contemplating the meaning of captivity and rescue, through September 20. Her resulting exhibit, she says, will likely be in January or February 2014.