SMFA‘s Traveling Fellowship program was created shortly after the School’s founding in 1876 to encourage post-graduate travel and independent work for select SMFA artists. Ten artists were awarded Traveling Fellowships in 2012, traveling to diverse locations such as Austria, China, Norway, Peru and Turkey. In May, Boston-based artist Evelyn Rydz (Master of Fine Arts, 2005) was selected from this group of 10 by the Fellowship review committee for a solo presentation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) April 19–October 26, 2014. We caught up with Evelyn (busy with a new baby!) to ask her a few questions.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a traveling fellow? Where did you travel, and what was the focus of your work?
The Traveling Fellowship provided me with a tremendous opportunity to study, collect and document the accumulation of marine debris washed ashore at Kamilo Point, Hawaii. This is an area where tons of drifting debris washes onto shore each year. I walked for days through massive amounts of debris and plastic sands feeling like an archeologist excavating the residues of contemporary history. It was an unforgettable experience.
My interest in this subject has led me to study currents and sources of marine debris and to explore recurring patterns along different coastlines. Over the last four years I have made regular visits to coastlines to document objects that have washed ashore. To gain a better understanding of the relationship between coasts, I traveled down the Atlantic from Maine to Florida and across the Gulf from Florida to Louisiana, stopping to study, collect and document flotsam and jetsam washed ashore. My most recent research trip to Kamilo Point shifted my perception of scale from individual coastlines to the global currents and cumulative human habits that link them and us together. I returned with a wealth of source material for a new body of work.
How did you feel when you found out you were selected?
I was incredibly honored to have been selected! Since moving to Boston the MFA has been a really significant place for me. I visited the Museum on my first trip to Boston; then as a student I spent much of my time there sketching, going to lectures, seeing films, meeting with friends. The year after graduating I was the visiting artist for their community arts initiative, the Artist Project. I worked on the Blueprint Voyage Project, a multimedia collaborative installation created by children of the participating community organizations in response to their experiences working with the MFA’s collections. The exhibition was designed and created in collaboration with children of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, the United South End Settlements, and the West End House Boys & Girls Clubs of Allston-Brighton. Being in the Museum with the kids gave me a new perspective on engaging and interacting with the work. I still visit the Museum regularly and am extremely excited to have a show there soon.
Can you tell us anything about the upcoming show? It’s still a while away, but what are your thoughts and plans?
I am really excited about my new work for the show. I am creating a new project for the Museum specifically related to my experiences in Kamilo Point, Hawaii. The work is still in process and I look forward to sharing it soon.
Thinking back on your experience at SMFA, what was your focus as a student?
I came into the program focused on drawing and painting. The first year I experimented with everything I could get my hands on: welding, animation, installation, small sculptures, painting, mold making, photography, Photoshop design work, drawing and more. I tried to really squeeze the juice out of the interdisciplinary school and I had a great experience. In the end I came back to making drawings, but with many new perspectives.
That sounds like such a perfect interdisciplinary experience! Were there any faculty members who were particularly influential?
There were so many wonderful creative thinkers who I had the opportunity to work with during my time at the Museum School. I felt challenged and encouraged to make my work by a diverse group of faculty. I worked with Ann Craven, Jane Hudson, Gerry Bergstein, Barbara Gallucci, Diane O’Donoghue, Ron Rizzi—and I worked especially closely with Magda Campos-Pons. In addition to the faculty, I was and continue to be very inspired by my SMFA classmates.
What are you up to now? What’s ahead for you?
Right now the focus in the studio is developing new work for the Museum show. I am also creating works for an exhibition at the Anchorage Museum of Art, Alaska called “GYRE: an expedition and exhibition with Marine Debris as Material and Message.” Outside the studio I am preparing my classes and projects for the next year of teaching at MassArt. My biggest adventure yet is becoming a new mom. This summer I am working intensely in the studio, revamping my teaching curriculum for the next year, and mostly enjoying my family and its latest addition!
What a busy, happy time! Thank you so much, Evelyn. We can’t wait to see the show.