Sylvie Mayer

The morning before I left for Elsewhere, I woke up to 6 inches of snow on my car. It was May 1st. I had been living in Aspen working a ski season for the six months prior. I was yearning for spring to break.  I drove up McClure pass in a storm, straining to see through sheets of white sleet. Suddenly, as I descended into the North Fork Valley, I entered a different climate. 

In Paonia, it was sunny and warm. The trees along my route were budding with flowers in gradations of purple, pink and yellow, and the grass was green. I could see where the climate shifted by looking in the distance toward the West Elks mountain range. Its peaks were shrouded in thick grey storm clouds, and sharply, below around 6000’, the clouds cleared, revealing the bases of the mountains. 

In Aspen, I lived in a tiny shared room in an employee housing complex. Without space to paint, I spent the winter making a series of size-constrained paintings. With a hectic work schedule, I often painted frantically and late at night, using a desk lamp in the corner to avoid disturbing my roommate. The paintings I made were all 8’’x10’’, and fit neatly in a box that I stored in my car. 

I arrived at Elsewhere and settled into my studio with anticipation, excited to have the time and space to make for a month. I got there with plans to spend the month in relative solitude, making the paintings that I’d been hoping to create during my stint without a studio. Soon, Paonia set me on a different path.

When I think of Elsewhere, I think of community. Paonia is a welcoming place, and my thoughts of solitude were quickly impeded by meeting people around town and spending time with the other three resident artists. Even though I was transplanted for only a month, by the end, I felt as though I had been in Paonia much longer.  

I started taking long walks and bike rides around the town and surrounding mesas. I collected sketches, photographs and snippets of thought. As I worked in the studio, despite my efforts to focus on my prior plans, a new theme started to emerge. I was making work about Paonia - its people, its landscapes, and the sense of community I’d found there as a short term resident. 

It was alarming to me how quickly Paonia provided a sense of familiarity as I settled into my monthlong routine. Time expanded and contracted, passing more quickly than I’d expected. Despite this, I left the residency with work that I never would have made without the specific experience of being at Elsewhere. Despite the vibrant community, and getting to interact with Kat, Derek and Erica (the three other incredible residents) - there is a certain slowness and quietness to being at Elsewhere. By moving through it, a subtle attentiveness emerged, and I was able to approach my work with a sense of calm which was previously unavailable to me.