For the past six months — from June through November — I have been continuing to work on my long-term project, “The North Fork,” which I began nearly four years ago.
With my interest in the North Fork Valley community and food, and my rekindled connection with my family here, it seems fitting to be posting on Thanksgiving Day about my experience as an artist-in-residence at Elsewhere Studios.
Elsewhere has been a place of support to live and work alongside an international group of artists, writers, poets, and performers. What I have found particularly unique about Elsewhere is its imaginative disposition and ad-hoc spirit. For one, there is the pistachio-green house adorned with Gaudí-esque window frames and hodge-podge woodwork throughout the interior. And then there is the Gingerbread House, a backyard sauna-turned-artist studio with a curved roof and slanted windows, which is where I stayed for the second half of my residency. I view Elsewhere as the result of Paonian artists combining their creative visions to create a place that bolsters the imagination. It has been a pleasure for me to live amid and be inspired by the world they’ve created.
My extended stay at Elsewhere has also given me the opportunity to participate in farming and food production. It has allowed me to engage with the North Fork community and land in a sustainable manner that supports the local way of life. Before arriving at Elsewhere I arranged a work-trade with two farms where I have worked as a farmhand and received food in return. I have also worked at the local food co-op, The Old River Road Trading Post, where I have helped prepare macrobiotic community lunches each week.
My aunt Chrys happens to be one of the chefs in the kitchen at the Trading Post, and her food has always fascinated me. I can think back to a moment when I was seven years old and I looked at the colorful servings of food that she placed on the table, most of which were vegetables grown in her garden. There were so many strangely beautiful foods that I had never seen before—purple potatoes, snow peas, yellow and green heirloom tomatoes, and multicolored kimchi in a glass jar. The only things that I recognized were store-bought rice, corn, and tortillas, which seemed only distantly related to the homegrown food on the table. Memories such as this one — of food and family — continue to influence my work in this valley.
As I leave Elsewhere this week, I am already planning to return to the North Fork this Winter and next Spring to continue my project. During that time I will also be processing all of the color negative film I shot during the residency. (Elsewhere doesn’t yet have the digital equipment and facilities for me to do this.) As my form of thanks to Elsewhere, I am sharing here a selection of my recent iPhone photos from the residency and the valley, which I have posted on my Instagram account, @trentdavisbailey, over the past six months.
Thank you, Elsewhere, and thank you to the 20 remarkable residents I have shared this experience with.
—Trent Davis Bailey