Images and Interview from my residency in Lithuania
I traveled to Klaipeda and Vilnius in Lithuania from May 5 to May 17th. Below you can find an interview given with Ruta Jakstoniene and published in an online Lithuanian Arts Journal as well as some photographs. To see more, go to my Instagram page: fieldhouse44
Artist Colby Caldwell: Glimpse to Lithuania
Creative ideas have no borders, o the desire to know overcomes all geographical distances. The proof - United States photographic artist Colby Caldwell visit at Lithuania. In May this year C.Caldwell participated in the cultural project "„A glimpse into the American Culture“, which was dedicated to the American culture of spring events in Lithuania.
The artist's familiarity with the history of Lithuania leads to New York, when in 2006 the curator Sarah Tanguy put together Vanishing Boundaries at Nailya Alexander Gallery. This exhibition was attended by the most famous photographers of the middle generation of Lithuania: Remigijus Treigys, Gintautas Trimakas, Alvydas Lukys and three U.S.A. art photographers. Colby Caldwell, one of the American participants in Vanishing Boundaries recently visited Lithuania.
Remembering his trip to Lithuania in prehistory, Colby Caldwell said: "While indeed the 2006 exhibition, Vanishing Boundaries was my first experience working with Lithuanian artists, or the culture in any way, I had traveled to Russia in 1997 with Lucian Perkins for his Interfoto project, and I met with contemporary photographers in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. For me, it was a transformative moment. I realized the outburst of creativity and wealth of ideas that Russia - and indeed the rest of the former Soviet Union - which had been kept under wraps because of the oppressive and censored conditions before perestroika, was a beautiful "secret" that I was just fortunate to be privy to. The work showed a forward looking idea about photography and it's potential at the end of the 20th century. I was both moved and influenced by the spirit of these artists. I hoped that I would soon be able to meet and explore other newly freed countries such as Lithuania."
Asked what impression Lithuania left on him, our guest enthused: "My first impression simply was how beautiful the lush green landscape looked - and then the striking contrast between older buildings and the new, very modern and inventive spaces in the cities of Vilnius and Klaipeda. I was struck by Lithuania's commitment to remarkable cultural spaces and building such as the CAC, National Gallery of Art, and the riverside public parks in Vilnius, and the kultūrų komunikacijų centro, and the artist residency program in Klaipeda. I found a vibrancy and a remarkable engagement with ideas and creativity. Of course the most lasting impression will be the relationships and subsequent friendships that I made while visiting. Everywhere I went, I was met with an openness and warmness that I won't soon forget. Indeed I hope it will result in future projects and collaborations.“
During visit to Lithuania C.Caldwell had lectures for students of University of Applied Social Sciences in Klaipeda and Vilnius, led creative practical training for students and pupils of different schools, presented his work at Klaipeda and Vilnius at the meetings with professional photographers and the public. About this experience, the artist said: "My main concern coming there was whether my ideas and thoughts could be translated or understood by folks there. While it was true that sometimes I needed to repeat myself or use the translator provided - for the most part there was a wonderful level of comprehension, and at times I could freely exchange ideas with both students and other artists. On the Creative Workshops I did with students in both Klaipeda and Vilnius, I was able to speak with them as a group, and then individually as we walked and worked. I have had subsequent emails from several students thanking me, and asking for some follow up with our workshop. Again, there was more curiosity and less wariness than I expected.“
It was really interesting to know what a well know and renowned artist feels about today's Lithuanian artistic and cultural climate in general. "As I mentioned above, I was pleasantly surprised - and actually, I've mentioned this to more than one person, I was humbled by just how beautiful and functional the art spaces were that I visited. It's quite sobering to see how much emphasis on culture and art that your government commits to financially - it's in contrast to what's occurring in the States at the moment.
There were too many highlights to choose just one, but meeting the folks at Prospectus Gallery in Vilnius, especially Vilma Samulionyte and Gytis Skudzinskas, and connecting with Alvydas Lukys, Gintautas Tremakas, and Remigijus Treigys, my friends from the 2006 exhibition, as well as the folks working at SMK which hosted several lectures, were definite standouts. Having dinner at the home of filmmaker Dali Rust with friends intimated me into what the creative life on a day to day level was like. On the last evening I was honored to be invited to visit with legendary photographer Antanas Sutkus. Seeing his prints, and listening to his stories via his wife, was magical.
Of course that was just some of the art-related things, there also were many cultural moments that I will always treasure - visiting the vibrant pub life in both Klaipeda ("The White Crow"!) and Vilnius ("Marsas"!) and getting tickets to see the semi-final Basketball game between Lietuvos Rytas - Zalgiris was absolutely incredible. The competitive level was unparalleled, but the passion of the fans left me speechless!“
Asked about further opportunities for cooperation Colby Caldwell hinted that such a possibility does really exist. "My hope is that definite seeds were planted for not so future collaborations to do an exhibition and further public talks and programming. I think there is a real potential for further exchanges - the dialogue that I had with artists and curators in Lithuania was invigorating, and I'd very much like to continue to share ideas. I also feel compelled to spread the word about my experiences there, as I think what your country has to offer might be unappreciated, and in my estimation - underexposed. More folks need to see what's going on in Lithuanian art.
My conversations with the American Embassy, in particular Sarah Talalay the new Cultural Attache', seem to indicate a desire to support programming that encourages a continued visual dialogue between American artists and their Lithuanian counterparts. I intend on pursuing this, in conjunction with the Lithuanian artist I met this trip.“
Art critic Ruta Jakstoniene
The project was organized by the University of Applied Social Sciences (Klaipeda, Lithuania).
The project supported by the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania (Vilnius).
Project partner Klaipėda Culture Communication Center (Klaipeda, Lithuania ).
Project initiator an art critic Ruta Jakstoniene.
Here are some links to articles announcing my visit: