Lidia Guerrero

It’s always sunny in Paonia 

I can’t help but smile when I think about how many times people asked me about how I ended up in Paonia, during my stay at Elsewhere. There are approximately 8500km between the city I was born in and that small house in the middle of nowhere. I have always believed in the idea of life having its own way of guiding us to the right path, the thought of that maybe if we are smart enough to listen we can get to the place in where we need to be in the present moment. 

I had been trying to find my motivation for a whole year. It felt like standing up in the middle of a crowded street looking for the keys to your apartment while you have to be careful to not drop another two bags of groceries: Hard and at the same time embarrassing. 

I felt like everything I wanted to express through art wasn’t important enough or worth saying in a society that already has its own problems. I kept searching for a topic to paint about that would be interesting and that could also make me excited to work on. 

At the end of august I received an e-mail from Carolina telling me I was chosen to spend February on Elsewhere Studios and suddenly a door opened. As you can guess from what I was explaining before, at that time I was completely lost. I had arrived home after spending six months in a foreign country, my future plans were ruined by unexpected and awful events, the topic I was searching for never appeared and I couldn’t remember the last time I created something. Even without motivation to work at all, I kept applying to residencies. I longed for space and time to think about where my art and my life were heading to. 

When I received the news, I started searching for a job so I could save money and travel to the United States from Spain for the first time. I worked as an entertainer in a hotel and later as a saleswoman in a jewellery store. When the end of January arrived I just couldn’t believe what I was about to do. At that moment I didn’t know how many things I would achieve and how that month would be so important for my personal developing. 

My first week was a mess. Even though I had studied English during most part of my life and was used to the language, I felt the most awkward person in the whole world each time I tried to start a conversation, my surprise was that everyone understood instead of laughing at me. I had my oil paints, paper and ideas of working on Spanish culture and myths. I have been interested in this topic for a couple years now and for some reason, I always felt like everything that has been coming out is not good enough and too “typical” of a woman who grew in southern Spain. I felt embarrassed each time I showed my work and I was afraid what people I went to college with would think of me focusing on gipsies in colourful dresses instead of trying to burn down the world with each brushstroke. 

As I was expecting, that fear came back to me the day we were having our official presentation to the community of Paonia. I remember myself shaking. Minutes before my turn arrived, I decided that I wasn’t going to pretend to be someone I am not and that I was only going to explain my journey in the arts and show everything I had done since I started creating. I wanted to try and make everyone understand how I ended up in that small town in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t do any efforts to look interesting, smart or capable of changing the world. I found myself being only me in front of lots of strangers and after explaining my journey without trying to satisfy anyone’s expectations I felt free. 

In that moment I understood that my art is special because it is mine. 

And all the weight in my chest disappeared. 

And I felt safe. 

That night I decided to give myself a chance. My motivation came back in the moment I realized that I am showing a part of my culture through my paintings therefore I am also communicating a part of who I am through it. Suddenly everything made sense. 

It’s exhausting to be constantly doubting every step you take and Elsewhere provided me a supportive space to be myself and just let go. That freedom made it able for me to think about who I am, what I truly enjoy doing and to which path I am heading to, and I can’t even begin to explain how much I needed that. 

I’m proud to say this residency gave me everything I needed at this point of my life and helped me met wonderful people who I plan to see and hug again when time decides to reunite us again. Now it is time for me to keep working on art and self-development until the next adventure comes up, now without any fears, just pride of being the person I am and lots of love. 

So thank you Elsewhere and Paonia, it was very nice to be a part of you for a while.