Xenia Diente and Hollis King

Each year, our artist development program, Create Change, supports 15 to 20 artists developing their socially engaged creative practice through our Fellowship, Residency, and Commissions program. In 2012, we began asking our Create Change artists to pair up for Creative Conversations: open-ended creative exchanges to be published on our blog. Read on to meet our Create Change alumni.

Hollis King, Public Artist in Residence and Xenia Diente, Professional Development Fellow met up one November evening for dinner and doodling. They met up two weeks after Hurricane Sandy affected NYC and the eastern United States.


Xenia: Can we talk about Hurricane Sandy?

Hollis: OK.

Xenia: I brought a sketchbook, markers, as we talk let us just doodle and see where it leads us. Is that OK?

Hollis: Sure, I like it. I am excited, the fact we do not know where we are going to end up, feels right to me. Let us have fun.


Xenia: How did Hurricane Sandy affect you?

Hollis: Sandy was a bitch to me, two sycamore trees sitting in my house.


Hollis: A few days later her cousin visited bringing snow and sleet.

Xenia: Uninvited guests. Day 1 Hurricane Sandy and Day 8 her snowstorm cousin. Today is day 14… you still have no power? No light? No gas?!


Xenia: Where did the trees fall on your house?

Hollis: Both of these trees belong to my neighbor, one fell to the front of the house causing some medium damage, the second fell to the back of the house causing damage to the roof and destroying one bedroom. The impact of the trees’ weight shifted the whole house.


Xenia: What were the positives about this experience?

Hollis: My Joys: doing charcoal drawings and making art inspired by Sandy, and learning new stuff of life. Personally I used the daylight to create drawings and photographs, it was very productive.


Hollis: During the storm and temporary displacement, I thought about this lady who sits at the Penn Station waiting room. All my neighbors and I have been going through a tough time. Fortunately for us, our discomfort, has an end date. This lady I call Sandy has no end date. To all the displaced, I think of you during this time.


Hollis: Walking around my neighborhood, I was fascinated by the textures. Phenomena you only see from the storm. The other positive was I got to see what happens in nature during a bad storm. Green leaves die prematurely, leaves and dry branches are chewed up by the wind in tiny little bits. They are violently stuck to vehicles. Birds started crashing into window panes. Of course the evidence of the power of wind and rain is a reminder of our place in the world. The power of nature is awesome.


Xenia: What were your challenges?

Hollis: My challenges: Spending most of my day collecting fire wood. Noticed how much productive time you lose in the darkness. Staying healthy without any heat. Disconnected from the world and news. Missed the election coverage.


Xenia: What kind of feedback or responses have you been receiving?   Hollis: Lots of generosity of spirit, from people I barely know. Friends from around the world called me. Surprised in all the goodwill. There were also people who wanted to take pics of the devastation of my home. Rubber necking.


Xenia: Has Sandy brought you closer to your neighbors?

Hollis: I think we all comforted each other, we helped each other, shared resources. I live in a cul de sac and we all get along on my block. I met people from other streets in the neighborhood, who wanted to come by and offer their support. It is interesting to me how different people saw what happened, some were positive and some were freaking out. I had to remind neighbors that we are all fine and these are just things that can be repaired or replaced, we will all be eventually OK.

Xenia: I overheard on the radio, “Sandy has leveled the playing field. Sandy did not discriminate, and left many behind to pick up the pieces.”