The Value of Residency

Heather Jones

The time I spent as an artist in residence at Black Rock Senegal, in October of 2019, was transformative to me. I was completely inspired by the scenery in Dakar, both by the natural landscape of the city, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, dotted with beautiful black rocks and red sandy dust, and also the vibrant culture of the people who call Dakar home. There is a bustling energy to the city, and an endless array of colors, shapes, patterns, and sounds no matter where I went, which I will carry with me the rest of my days.

My stay at Black Rock was very conducive to getting a large amount of work done, and I was able to accomplish quite a large body of work while I was there. I spent just about every one of my 30 days there working in my studio, many times from morning until night. I would leave for excursions to the local market to buy supplies and find additional sources of inspiration, and I would bring those to my studio and get back to work. I created sketchbooks full of drawings, sewn sketches on paper that I taped to all of the walls, I worked on both large and small scale sewn textile constructions, and I also painted a series of works on paper, directly inspired by the black rocks along the coast.

It was incredibly meaningful to me and my practice to have the gift of time to work as much as I wanted to. In my daily life, as a wife and mother, I don’t often have such long expanses of hour after hour of uninterrupted time, so I was well aware of just how important that was while I was in Dakar. My daily ritual involved watching the sunset on the coast from the pool area at Black Rock, and I found that it was a perfect way for me to unwind at the end of the day, and also recharge myself for the next day in the studio.

I felt a connection to both the place and the people there as well. The connection between Western Africa and our country is intertwined, as it has been for over four hundred years. It always has been, and will be, an incredible source of inspiration to generations of people, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work in studio there. I feel like the work I produced at Black Rock, many of which is included in the exhibition, is some of the strongest that I have made in my career, and I look forward to the day that I can return to Senegal.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Heather Jones with Kehinde Wiley, founder of Black Rock

Black Rock is a multidisciplinary artist-in-residence program founded by renowned artist Kehinde Wiley in 2019. The residency brings together international artists to live and work in Dakar, Senegal for 1-3 month stays.