Renee Coutour at PLAYA Summer Lake Artist Residency

Renee Coutour takes her work into new conceptual territory at PLAYA Summer Lake, an artist residency in south-central Oregon.

Excerpted from conversation with other artists in residence at PLAYA: Sue Landers, Rachel Zollinger, Donna Henderson.

Photo credit: Rewa Bush

I’m at PLAYA at Summer Lake trying to find a way forward into new conceptual territory. Asking questions, beginning research, seeking answers, trying to find the path forward, planning, and balancing time with walks. It’s during this fragile time that I have to remind myself to be playful, to play, and to experiment. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to fail.
Toward the end of 2017, I realized it was time for me to shift the focus of my work. It’s a scary and exciting time in the studio. I simultaneously feel lost while on a path forward. That being said, I can’t think of a better place to enter new territory than an artist residency—a place where others are bravely pushing the boundaries of their own work and being supportive of each other as we are all the vulnerable position of exploration. Walking the edge of “I have no idea what I’m doing!” with the freedom of “I think I’ll do/try/think about this today,” is at the heart of a residency. Having the literal space and time to walk and wander in the quiet and reflect opens places in the mind because of the movement of the body. And not having much in the way of internet is also helpful.

Books to read. I managed to get through six of the ten.

After finishing the book A More Beautiful Question, I wrote out a series of questions to help guide future work. I know I need to add a few more questions:

I think I put together a solid budget for one sculpture:

This landscape and spring-like weather made for nice work breaks.

Video still from a project I’m starting. Or trying to start. We’ll see where it goes.

In the Studio

I took this photo in my studio one day while working. It serves as a reminder of the importance of being present when working because even a small, unexpected moment can help me see something in a new way or can help me find new/different/surprising answers.

Marfa, Texas

Okay, I know this is probably cliché. I mean, the mural is in Marfa, TX, and Marfa has become almost a pilgrimage site for artists. But this mural speaks to me. These questions feel relevant to me, both in my studio practice and my personal life. I think questions are at the heart of my studio practice. I often use my art practice as a means of investigation and seeking answers.

A Fault Line Where Pressure Builds
Renee Couture

Renee Couture
’s work has been exhibited nationally. She has received grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and participated in residencies at Djerassi, Jentel, PLAYA, KHN Center for the Arts, and Vermont Studio Center. Couture graduated from Buena Vista University and Vermont College of Fine Arts. More at

I Am Not My Great Grandfather’s Forest
Renee Couture

It All Turns on Affection
Renee Couture



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