The Conservation Foundation has begun using the term “artist in residence” to describe my role in the Fox River Initiative. I like the term. A residence is stable and conveys a sense of habituation, of stability. Why then, once situated in this residency, am I most struck by its fleeting temporality?
An old hymn says “time like an ever rolling stream soon bears us all away.” Time and the river are rolling. Residence along the riverbank only confirms that the roll rules. Waters we contemplate one minute roll on never to be seen again. And now in mid November we sense the rolling nature of time as the sun reels across the sky lapping the ground with rapidly changing shadows.
Any residency is really an interim position. I am here on a provisional assignment. I am a “visiting artist.”
Anyone with even a pinch of life experience already knows this. There is no point in wasting time on hackneyed clichés about the changing seasons and passing time. Instead I turn to the concept of permanence itself. None of us have experienced it, so where does the idea come from? Art, no doubt, has played a part in the illusion of permanence. I’m thinking of “Timeless art.” So long has the timelessness of art dominated our imaginations that timelessness has engendered its own reaction. Now temporary art instillations and ephemeral artworks pose for short run spectacles meant to convey a more honest and provisional poetry.
But these only point back to the timeless art they use as a foil. I’m inclined instead toward the idea of rolling permanence. It’s a matter of faith – not in a static or established accomplishment, but in an unfolding mystery that carries us forward and lasts. I am sustained in a world of change by belief in dynamic permanence. Permanence that, like the river, can roll.
Written by Joel Sheesley, Artist-in-Residence for Art of the Fox, a proram of the Fox River Initiative