[Note: The dated entries to the residency journal were done on-site at Playa, but because of restrictions on the bandwidth at the site, none were uploaded until I returned home at the end of September. I will be posting those over the next month, starting with the one done on the first day.]
In this post I thought I do a bit of introduction to Playa.
The Playa website explains something about how the idea for the compound of the artist residencies at Playa arose. My experience of the place was a bit odd, because, as a contributing artist, I was there totally alone; normally there are 8–10 other artists in residence. The on-site manager, Rachel Streeter and I bonded over beer and her dog Pepper. Unfortunately I never remembered to take photos of either. Or, more accurately, I thought of taking the photos but never when either were nearby.
The compound is large. My digs, of which more later in later posts, was a two-story house facing the playa (at the left in the above photo are a shop and two studios; Cabin 10,¬† where I was located, is next left in the photograph). The Commons, where normally everyone gathers for weekly meals and to pick up incidentals and chat up the staff and each other is on the far right in the photo. There are¬† three more cabins further to the right, out of sight, which sit on a little knoll (photo below). The playa or lakebed for which the residency is named is the area beyond the structures in the first photo.
The furthest south cabin, on the knoll, overlooks the playa and here, a classic clothesline. A piece of Winter Ridge can be seen in this photo; the Ridge extends in a quarter moon shaped escarpment that rounds from the southwest to the northwest. Playa sits within the shelter of it. The photo is from the Playa website.
I painted from that knoll a couple of times, as well as from the Great Lawn that stretches in front of the cabins from my space in the north to the south past the Commons. The pond, which I faced the north end of, is off the great lawn to the east , and the lake (encompassing the playa) is beyond the ponds further east. All the cabins have big windows and decks that face the playa, which is the feature that became my most frequent companion during my stay.
View from the south end of Summer Lake. Playa (a tiny line of green) is in the center. The curve of Winter Ridge is clearer in this photo. From Playa website.
A “playa” is a primary feature of the basin and range of a large geological area and should not to be confused with the “great basin” which is a subset of the basin and range land. The basin and range lies in the interior US, between the Cascade Mountains and the Rockies. Basin and range country can be found in southern Oregon (Steens Mountain and Lake Abert most prominently,) most of Nevada and pieces of Utah, Arizona, and the country of Mexico. A playa is formed when the water from the ranges flows to the valleys below and forms lakes rather than down to major rivers which ultimately run out to the oceans. Formally this is known as an endorheic basin, but “playa” is a much nicer word. And easier to pronounce.
And “Playa”, the artist residency site, is an oasis sandwiched between Summer Lake, which is endorheic and almost completely dry in mid-September, and Winter Ridge, a classic “range”, gradually graded from its floor going up the slope to the ridge to the steep frontage that confronts Playa. Both geographical places were named by John Fremont who climbed up Winter Ridge in a howling gale and saw the lake and valley below. It looked much warmer down there. Hence, “Summer” Lake.