"I could happily live in this space for the rest of my life," says Louis Schmidt, an Illinois native and the inaugural artist-in-residence at Watershed, a residency that artist Nina Mayer has begun in Watertown, 45 minutes east of Nashville. Watershed isn't for everyone, but both Schmidt and Mayer agree that it's been beneficial for someone with Schmidt's focus and determination.
"This is an opportunity for a specific type of person who's looking to make work in a specific type of environment," Mayer says of the residency's rural setting. Watertown's population is roughly 1,200, and although the residency is located in a downtown storefront, there's no question that this is a cloistered locale. "I feel really lucky to have Louis out here as the first artist — he's literally working nonstop. The space is designed for people like him, people with an intense drive and a really clear idea of a body of work they want to make but haven't had time to."
The body of work Schmidt has been creating since he arrived at Watershed in October is called Cy Twombly Death's Head, which will be exhibited at San Francisco's Park Life in January. Graphite drawings of the late artist Twombly, geometric designs that recall everything from Arlington National Cemetery to Q*bert, and gray painted skeletons with sharply lit faces line the Watershed walls. "I've always been fascinated and invested in art history," Schmidt says. He traveled to Rome earlier this year to trace Twombly's particular view of history, and the work he's created at Watershed is both intimate and removed, sort of like the death's head grave markers Schmidt references in the show's title.
Schmidt will continue his residency until the end of November, and the space will open up for its next artist, whose identity Mayer is keeping top-secret for now. For more information or to apply for a residency yourself, visit watershedresidency.com.