Kristina O'Connor

Time works differently at Elsewhere, moving slowly with great generosity. A residency at Elsewhere Studios truly is a choose-your-own-adventure experience.  Arriving into Grand Junction by plane, immediately the landscape drew me into its expansiveness and beauty. I’ve been to Colorado once before, and when talking about Colorado, I always remark how big the sky is…and it’s still true. The colors and textures of the Mesa’s and how open the road appears with rising mountains in the boundless sky- I would have been happy spending the residency looking out the window from the passengers seat in awe. But I did not, only sometimes, on a couple outings with other residents, for which I am grateful.


I strapped in for an adventure looking inward, from the driver’s seat of my own internal and artistic healing- oy. There is no express lane to inner peace and balance; it’s not fair, I know. But, there is a place, that offers time and space to explore the routes and possibilities of what life and the life force of art is and can be.


Elsewhere is the most whimsical place I’ve lived, with ornate décor and stylish oddities, natural beauties, and a vibrant community, events, and happenings to be inspired by. The residence itself is private, right on the way in from one side of town, a walking distance to everything. There is a backyard to explore with a small irrigation creek and an awesome Art Wall. I spent my residency in the basement studio apartment- an absolutely perfect and wonderful safe haven and incubator for personal growth and artistic exploration.


Fair warning, in the basement, there are spiders. They are calm spiders and easy to capture and release, but there are spiders none-the-less. There is an amazing sauna, which is really the highlight of the space. And a cat-door! So Tomatoes the cat can come visit! We had a rough start, but Tomatoes and I became great friends by the end.


Upon arriving, I knew there was a lot of crap inside me to work out. With a huge emphasis on letting go, getting started was challenging. It’s fascinating how, in life, you can become familiar with certain obligations or dysfunction so much so that you develop a type of Stockholm Syndrome for the things that bind you.


Elsewhere challenged that, simply by offering the time and the space, support and encouragement, flexibility, and understanding truly of the diversity of individual artistic processes and personal functioning.  When you yourself start to do the same, the world reveals much more magic, possibility, and serendipity, as you trust in yourself, others, and the process.


It is the perfect place to be curious…to explore things, infinite passions, and human limitations. It is the perfect place to be brave. Everyone around you is supportive, encouraging of your art practice, and completely encouraging of doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.


As the residency came to an end (a slow and generous end), I had the freedom to create my own presentation- taking selected works and incorporating an installation display, to create an experience, reflective of my residency experience, and also a new and curious one for others to enjoy.  The beauty of a shared human experience is how we can relate on an emotional and empathetic level, despite the specifics our own individual journeys.


The chair from my studio space was made available to get comfortable in and view the work from. The display intended visitors to have an experience. Due to heightened social anxiety, I could not be present for the open house. It was an opportunity to really honor my feelings and self. I made the collection of journals and sketchbooks from my residency available, which took a lot of courage to be vulnerable and expose what I think are my secrets and personal workings, confusions, memories, poems, doodles, hopes, dreams, desires, and humorous run-downs of my anxiety experiences.


As time passes, the perilous parts of the adventure will fade…. or time will at least distance me enough that I can laugh about it.  The opportunity to do this and expose my vulnerabilities is an exceptional realization, that really, you can let it all go. You don’t have to hold on to the things you tell yourself about how you are, the past can be the past, you can own your own being, and so what…so what if you’re afraid or sad or anxious…so what. You can still take action, you can be honest, you can get away from the things that hurt you, you can honor your need for solitude, you can be kind, you can be anonymous, you can matter just as much or as little as you want to. You can be however you wish to be, life is cliché-ly really what you make it, and it is truly a process to be alive. I extend my deepest gratitude to Elsewhere Studios for the experience and opportunity.