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Omaha

In 1996 and 1998 I was Artist-in-Residence at the Bemis Centre for Contemporary Art, Omaha, Nebraska, along with a small cohort of international artists from around the globe.

During the latter residency, I experimented with installations, video projections, sound production and site-specific works at the Center and in the Old Stockyards; where a million head of cattle were driven into the city on Friday night, and rancher’s debutantes danced in the now abandoned ballroom five floor above the cows awaiting slaughter. There were installations of rhinestone studded green-and-white leather chairs, mirrored sheds, sampled 8mm B&W porn cut with taped messages from telephone answering machines – of which, there are no surviving records.

In 1996, I painted. The Bemis Centre was in a vast red-brick industrial factory building, once home to the Bemis Bag Company, who made burlap and cotton bags for grain, flour, animal feed and many other products. Following on from residencies examining the concept of ‘place’ in Spain and Rajasthan, I wanted to incorporate samples of these agricultural products into my work, together with imagery from animal hunting (which was still popular) and the red/crimson/brown colour which the early Dutch settlers had used for their barns; a tradition maintained to this day. Nebraska and the Mid-West at the time had a particular identity and the influence of the pioneers on contemporary culture was easy to identify. It wasn’t until I made a road trip to Dakota, The Badlands and Wyoming that I began to experience the older, Native American and First People’s culture.