Featured Residents: Robert Hickman & Michelle Welsch

With our vast array of talent this summer, it was difficult to pick only two residents to feature for this first session. Each of our residents shine in unique and interesting ways and both Robert Hickman, a visual artist, and  Michelle Welsch, a writer, are great examples of that.

Robert Hickman

Robert Hickman

Q: What kind of artist are you? What type of art do you create?
I’m a visual artist. I make objects, installations, and public art. I’m best known for my skylight commission for the MTA 72nd Street Subway Station on New City’s Upper West Side. I’ve been working with cut glass and mirror mosaic for over 25 years.

Q: What are you currently working on?
Last year I bought a sewing machine and began taking classes at City Quilter. I was looking for a way to make soft, lightweight tiles. I’ve been interested in quilt patterns for years, and it was challenging and fulfilling to learn a new craft. I refer to my mosaic practice as transparent mosaics. I use clear glass. The interstices between the tiles are filled with black grout to create a drawing. The quilts I have been doing are mostly bleached and unbleached muslin, with some found fabric thrown in for good measure. I use black thread to stitch the pieces together. I generate a lot of scraps which I hold onto. I brought several thousand muslin triangle pieces to Byrdcliffe which I stitched together to create a six foot square patchwork. In addition to my studio practice, I’m doing a performative public art project with my friend Keith Nelson called the Unicycle Bridge Tour. We’re attempting to cross every single bridge in New York City on unicycles. We were the first people to unicycle the Florida Keys, and I recently travelled to St. Petersburg Russia to cross historic bridges there. Last week Keith and I pedaled 12 miles on the Hurley O & W Rail-Trail, crossing 4 bridges along the way. Every afternoon as a break from my studio work, I’ve been pedaling loops on Upper Byrdcliffe.

Q: How did you find out about Byrdcliffe?/How did you end up at Byrdcliffe?
I was looking for a residency, and my friend Wendy Feuer suggested that I apply to Byrdcliffe. She knows board member Frances Halsband. As it turns out, I had stayed here back in the 90’s. My friend Melissa Zexter had rented a cabin for the summer. Also, my friend Paul Hoffman has a house here as well. I ran into him on the road last week. There have been so many coincidences here. I’ve encountered a lot of people that I know.

Q: How has your time at Byrdcliffe contributed to your progress as an artist/writer?
My work is time intensive and my meticulous projects are intense. The change of environment has been useful. I picked a project that I would never do in Brooklyn. I gave myself a strict work routine, and I stuck to it. Life in the city can be stressful, and I am often frustrated by the ugliness. Here, it is so beautiful! I relish my afternoon unicycle rides under the trees alongside the chipmunks. The other day I took a 62 mile bike ride through the mountains, alongside streams, waterfalls, and wild flowers. I have stayed up late to gaze at the full moon, stars, and planets, which cannot be seen in the city. I have gotten up before sunrise to witness first light high up on the mountain. I love when it rains. I’m brimming with energy here. My spirit has greatly benefited from this place. I’ve met great people, and I created a big beautiful piece.

Q: Where can people check out more of your work?
http://hickmanindustries.com
http://unibridgetour.info

 

Michelle Welsch Michelle

Q: What kind of artist are you? What type of art do you create?

I am a writer, social worker and researcher. In Nepal, I am currently investigating the factors contributing to students’ decisions to pursue education abroad. There’s a huge brain drain happening in the country. Many young people are leaving to work or study in different countries, and their absence is deeply felt. I take photographs to help document my work and encourage community education and leadership initiatives.

Q: What are you currently working on?

I came to Byrdcliffe to focus on my experiences as a foreigner in Asia. I am working on a book that details what led me there in the first place and what keeps me staying. I have three years of in-depth journals and notebooks to transcribe, and I’m pushing to get a first draft completed.

Q: How did you find out about Byrdcliffe?/How did you end up at Byrdcliffe?

I had been thinking about attending a writer’s residence for a while, and a friend suggested I follow this Art Alliance Facebook group that lists residencies from around the world. Byrdcliffe was mentioned, and I was thrilled to be accepted. I fundraised online and over 25 friends helped chip in to get me here. It was a long journey but totally worth it.

Q: How has your time at Byrdcliffe contributed to your progress as an artist/writer?

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be among many talented creatives. Everyone here brings something uniquely special, and the energy is contagious. Taking time away from my day-to-day in Nepal has been a gift, and I’ve made excellent progress on my work. Time has flown here in Woodstock!

Q: Where can people check out more of your work?

To learn more about my projects in Nepal, feel free to visit http://www.khatalife.com. You can also tweet me @redheadlefthand.

Michelle Welsch

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