ELGIN — Jillayne Hunter and kb Thomason live in a minimalist oasis. With stark white walls, natural light and a Zen rooftop garden, the building looks like it could be found in downtown Manhattan. But instead of Manhattan, Hunter and Thomason reside in Elgin, participating in an artist residency program.
Together, they form “The House of ia,” an art collective working out of a studio space in Elgin. “ia”, which they define as “the in between,” represents both the artists’ collaborative work, as well as the physical space where they live and create.
“We immediately found an effortless understanding for one another’s creative inspirations,” Thomason said. “We share a mutual desire to let go in order to receive uncharted direction from the demands of our artistic processes.”
Through support from a private grant, Hunter and Thomason are renting the studio space from the Sawyer Foundation. The foundation is facilitated by Margo Sawyer, a visual and installation artist, and professor of sculpture and studio art in the masters of fine arts program at the University of Texas.
Sawyer selected Hunter and Thomason as the first residents of the space in Elgin partly because she was impressed by how well they worked together. Sawyer feels strongly about the importance of building community within the art population and recognizes the significance in having like-minded people living and working in a space that is completely dedicated to the creation of new works.
“They are both amazing artists and it has been a pleasure to watch how the space and place has been an inspiration for their work,” Sawyer said. “They are creating works from dawn to dusk.”
Sawyer chose Elgin as the location for her studio, explaining that the city reminded her of artistically vibrant Marfa, an art oasis in a small desert town. She hopes that the quiet nature of Elgin will inspire new works from Hunter and Thomason and that the experience of the residency will be one of the factors in furthering their careers as artists.
“Elgin is out of the city, and yet close enough to Austin to pull from and pour into the creative pool,” Hunter said. “Elgin is desolate in this way, so there is a necessity to create. We are able to wake up to a blank slate.”
One of the duo’s newest projects is a short experimental film called “Quiet Creases” that explores the concept of non-verbal communication. Hunter and Thomason recently shot a dinner party scene that served as a platform for further experiments in the filming of “Quiet Creases.”
“Our inspiration for this project sparked an interest in taking a closer look at non-verbal language and expression in our patterns of verbal communication, in a seemingly curated social environment, aka, the dinner party,” Hunter said.
The filming process involves 14 distinctive people from different walks of life, socializing in a dinner party setting. Through the film, Hunter and Thomason explore the inside of this common scenario by examining concepts such as witnessing degrees of intimacy, gesture, transparency, body language, information in expression, as well as the ritualization and performance aspects of human relations. The artists hope to further explore the medium of film.
Following their residency in Elgin, which will expire in June 2013, Hunter and Thomason plan to return to Europe to attend a two-month summer performing arts intensive and complete a fall residency in Stolzenhagen, Germany. They plan to show the works they created during their time in Elgin in Berlin and France, and will continue to seek financial support to fund their careers. After that, Hunter and Thomason are unsure of where their artistic endeavors will take them next.
“The House of ia is a nomadic house,” Thomason said. “Our embrace of the unknown has become a perpetual practice.”