Monday, January 04, 2016
Resa Blatman: A Somerville Artist and Arctic Explorer
By Doug Holder
Resa Blatman is an adventurous person. Recently this longtime Somerville resident took a trip to the Arctic with other artists on an antique sailing boat.I talked with Blatman about this, the gentrification of Somerville and its impact on artists, and other projects she is involved in. Blatman joined me at my usual seat at the Bloc11 cafe in Union Square
Doug Holder: Tell me about your Somerville connection?
Resa Blatman: My husband and I have lived in Somerville since 1998. We own a home and live near the Vernon Street Studios where I have a studio. I also founded and was president of a non-profit “Short Space.” Our mission was to find and create as many art spaces as possible in the city of Somervillle. And it really didn't bear fruit. Real estate in these parts is just so valuable. I dropped out of the organization. I am still trying to find artist spaces that are affordable.
DH: So what is your take on the gentrification of Somerville?
RB: I don't like it. I think of moving all the time. I have a great life here. If the Green Line ever gets here there will be very little room for artists. I am sure Vernon Street will eventually decide to sell. And where will the 100 artists go? So I am thinking ahead. I am not sure where to go. I want to go to a place where artists can buy a building to work in. I think 10 years down the line Somerville will be a city for the rich. What you need is a mayor who really puts his foot down with developers.
DH: What have you been working on since we last spoke two years ago?
RB: My work has focused on issues that affect climate change. I am painting images like songbirds in the Arctic—where they shouldn't be---flowers blooming in places they shouldn't be. I am still doing work like that but I am doing installations that use layers and layers of painting material. This is my Gaia Series. Gaea is the goddess of Mother Earth. Gaia speaks to the fact that earth is a self-regulator and it can sustain itself and change. The planet will survive—it is humans who are in danger. The earth will go on for a long time after we are gone. In terms of my projects I have produced installations of water. A sort of a wall of ocean. I think it is stunning. It is 3 dimensional and painted. I haven't shown it yet but I am working on it. I am also in a lot of exhibits around the country related to climate change. One exhibit is here locally at the Nave Gallery.
DH: Tell me about the boat trip you took to the Arctic with other artists.
RB: I was involved in that last summer. It was beautiful. The landscape of the Arctic is dessert – like. Nothing grows there but tiny flowers. We were on an antique sailing vessel—we were packed in there. It was called the Arctic Circle Residency. There were artists, poets and writers on the vessel. There was very little room to do artwork on the boat. On land as well. We made land twice-a-day. We were on the boat trip for 15 days. Personally I am used to a lot of solitude. There was none of that on the boat. You were cheek to jowl with other people. The sun was at 12 noon for 24 hours., It messed with you and kept you awake. It confused the body. There was a lot of drinking on board. It was a fairly good group of people but you were surrounded by strangers. And when we went on land we were guarded by three gorgeous Scandinavian women with rifles because of Polar Bears. I brought a long piece of Mylar, a plastic film and wrote and pained on it. I made a visual diary of things that I observed. They were slightly abstract. All in all it was fascinating to be there. I am very glad I went. While there I collected fishing line that washed up on the shore. I brought back a huge net—scrap fishing line, to use in projects. I made drawings based on the fishing lines.
DH: More and more art is viewed as a commodity, as an investment. Your take?
RB Yes. Sometimes this makes it hard to know what to do. I remember my work was in this local gallery, and I remember the owner walk into my studio, and say about a few pieces, “ You know I can't sell that!” I mean you have to make something pretty—something someone would be inclined to put in their home. But I am more selective now. I make challenging work, and more people are willing to buy it.