Djerassi: 250 Hectare Private Ground with 48 Artworks to Explore

Djerassi: 250 Hectare Private Ground with 48 Artworks to Explore

Dutch artist Isabelle Smeets was artist in residence at the Djerassi Program in Woodside, California from September to October 2006.

Choosing an Artist-in-Residence to apply for I have always done on the basis of a reference from artists I know and respect in their opinion. That's how I got to know about Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. Both the artists I asked independently pointed me to this place as being one of the three best residences of the USA and both said nature was the most beautiful at Djerassi with its magnificent views to the ocean.

There are 48 artworks on 250 hectares of private ground, all only for the 8 artists who are invited to work there for a month. At Djerassi you don't see any artificial light in the night except the light in your own studio.Out of 600 applicants per year a jury chooses 56 artists and for 7 months a year. 3 visual artists, a non-fiction writer, a poet, a play writer, a composer and a choreographer were there when I was there from the 12th of September until the 12th of October this year and I had a great time.

A GIFT OF TIME the Djerassi Program calls it. A time where you don't have to worry about a thing except to have a good time. It is their vision that every artist has to do what he or she thinks is the right thing to do during this time. There is no expectation from the Program towards the artist except that they don't disturb the other artists. My beautiful large studio was equipped with a woodstove I loved to burn when it would be cold but most of the time it was sunny and crisp. I went hiking over the estate to explore nature and all the places artists had made site-specific artworks since 1983. To walk in such a vast countryside without worrying who you can run into except the people you know is magnificent and a rare thing to experience for me.

The quality level of the artists is very high at the Djerassi Program and being a month together with these artists, who are at first virtual strangers to you, does not have to lead to a successful interaction artistically. But we were a great group together. Everyone was asked to give a presentation of their work. These evenings were very interesting and so was having dinner together and cooking together in the weekend. During the week there was a chef who cooked for us. If the connection is good the closeness in these situations can bring you to exchange with another artist about you work on a level you can not find in any other situation,that I think is the most important part of a residence. And that will reflect in me and my work. I have been invited to design the set for the next dance created by Jorge Domínguez for the Compañía Jorge Domínguez in Mexico. This was the result of a great connection between us and mutual enthusiasm towards both our work. By coincidence the director of the Albertina Museum in Vienna came to visit our studios and invited me to come and make a permanent work in the museum. This is what I would call the practical spin off of my stay at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and it will have a big influence on how my work will evolve in the future. Beside that I have gained some magnificent new friends.

Isabelle Smeets, Broekhuizen, 2006