Suzanne Bocanegra is a renowned artist working in the mediums of painting, costume design, installations and performance. More recently she has ventured into the world of theater with her Artist Lectures, including “Farmhouse/Whorehouse,” which was performed as part of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance 2017–2018 season.
Following that well-received performance, among her next projects was a commission from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though excited about the high-profile opportunity, Bocanegra was struggling with what she wanted to do.
A conversation with Kristy Edmunds, CAP UCLA’s artistic and executive director, helped Bocanegra figure out at least how to begin answering that question — participate in CAP UCLA’s Artist Residency Program.
“She was listening to me do all this, blah, blah, blah, and she said, ‘OK, I’ll tell you how we’re going to put this together. This is what you need,’” Bocanegra recalled. “Kristy took all the mess that I was and then she put it in a reality about how to proceed to make the piece. “
CAP UCLA’s Artist Residency Program provides local and national artists creative time and necessary space for the development of new work. Exclusive to CAP UCLA is its proximity to a wide variety of campus resources, which allow resident artists to engage not only with CAP UCLA staff but with faculty and sometimes even students in the creation process.
“The artist residency program serves as a vehicle in which CAP UCLA can help students widen their knowledge base and experience,” Edmunds said. “For UCLA staff, the artists help expand teachings beyond the classroom.”
In constructing the new work, which takes as it’s subject the largest tapestry in the Met’s collection, called “Honor,” Bocanegra spent many hours researching topics in contrast or relating to what honor means including crafting an honorably gift in the form of crocheted daisies and how The Monkees were honored as musicians.
Since the tapestry was woven in 1532, Bocanegra also spent a lot of time researching this period. UCLA history professor Teofilo Ruiz’s lectures on tape proved very useful to her research. According to both Bocanegra and students, Ruiz has a knack for making history entertaining and relevant to life in the 21st century. Bocanegra’s residency concluded with an invited work-in-progress showing in November featuring Nia McClinton, a junior in social psychology at UCLA.
“Performance doesn’t just magically appear on a stage,” Edmunds said. “Behind every work, there are years of creative development, months of rehearsal and continual pursuit of support.”
Another CAP UCLA resident artist to visit this fall was Eiko Otake, a movement-based, interdisciplinary artist who worked for more than 40 years as half of the internationally acclaimed duo Eiko & Koma.
Otake’s new project, “Distance is Malleable,” is part of a larger project called “The Body in Places,” which started with her revisiting the nuclear disaster site at Fukushima. “Distance is Malleable” includes photographic and video elements taken at both man-made and natural disaster sites around California intertwined with duets and conversations with other artists and people, living and dead. Eiko also conducted a master class for dance students and they were required to come to her work-in-progress showing.
“With the strong guidance of CAP UCLA staff and its chief, Kristy Edmunds, I was invited to travel widely and deeply recognized that California and its landscape illuminate so many of the problems we are facing both regionally and globally elsewhere,” Otake said. “California is bigger than Japan, where I come from, and so varied. Some of the landscapes were so inspiring and awe-causing I ended up creating some media work which will be incorporated into a larger scale installation that is new to me.”
Each year since 2012, CAP UCLA welcomes a new cohort of six to 12 artist residents and offers resources, time, connections, and more to their process of bringing an idea to the stage. It is not an easy task when deciding who is deserving of the program. The resident artists completed works often appear in an upcoming CAP UCLA season. As part of the selection criteria Edmunds “considers the work L.A. needs to see right now, what artists are on the brink of something brilliant, or even by recommendation from a colleague.”
Each residency has different needs as far as what goes into the final presentation but the through-line for all of the artists is researching, drafting, and trying and trying again.
The other 2019–20 resident artists include actor/performer/producer, Toshi Reagon; artist and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Lynette Wallworth; and visual artist Constance Hockaday, who is known for her large-scale public installations. Past participants include Ann Carlson, Somi, Contra-Tiempo, Lars Jan, Phantom Limb Company, Los Angeles Performance Practice, Ate9 Dance Company, UCLA professor of dance Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, Okwui Okpokwasili, Jennie Liu, Poor Dog Group, Meredith Monk, Barak Marshall, Susan Deyhim, Claire Evans & Jona Bechtolt, Ellina Kevorkian, L’Atelier Arts, LA Poverty Department, Heidi Rodewalkd, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Jim Skuldt and Early Morning Opera.