Painter, sculptor & writer who uses creative expression to heal trauma
Sunshine Valley, a tiny farming community and artistic enclave in northern Taos County, doesn’t look like much, but is home to a vibrant creative, entrepreneurial, and agricultural community.
One property owner, Jill Kamas, left her architecture career in Denver to create a haven for women artists seeking refuge from the distractions of modern life. It is an artist-in-residence program, advertised through word-of-mouth. Kamas brings one artist at a time to the land adjacent to her monolithic colorfully painted building that she designed, down Sunshine Valley Road. Artists in this program live rent-free in a beautiful residence and studio to allow for a less constrained living situation, giving the artists more flexibility to create.
Jai Schmidt is the current artist-in-residence at Ute A.I.R in Sunshine Valley—an interdisciplinary artist who investigates trauma and resiliency as it relates to the body and the Earth. Jai’s residency began in September of last year and will end on June 22. Educated with a Bachelor’s of Arts from Daemen College (New York, 2015) and well traveled, she has held residencies with different groups across North America’s southwest, from Oregon to California to New Mexico as well as in South America’s Patagonia region. Jai has also obtained certification in regenerative agriculture and advanced social systems design from the Women’s Permaculture Guild, specializing in arid climate adaptation.
“I have always been an artist. Growing up, I experienced traumatic things that gave me PTSD and I was working through that through my art, so my art has always been really connected to trauma. I was able to heal and shift that through body-based practices like meditation, movement, and performance, so I’ve shifted and healed a lot. Now I’m working more with collective trauma, specifically related to climate change and climate grief—it’s an expansive view of the trauma we experience on an individual level,” says Jai. She explains how she fell in love with the “diversity of land” that Taos has to offer—such a variety of topography.
The goal for her artist residency was to complete a two-and-a-half year project called the Desert Rat Oracle, where 44 drawings were created and are used as a tool for introspection, in collaboration with over 200 people across the country. Jai has spent this time crafting woodblock carvings, ink, and paper from the wastestream to provide an artistic example of transformation and reflection, honoring the community that has offered insight to the mythology Jai has created. The ink was created from recovering charred wood from sites recovering from wildfires, connecting art, spirituality, and biospheric healing through that transformation.
Jai also used the residency to create paintings representing a vision of renewal regarding human relationships with the planet, as well as the planet’s relationships with humans.
She primarily makes a living as a hand-poke tattoo artist but also has entrepreneurial plans to make The Desert Rat Oracle accessible to a broader audience. Anyone interested in booking a tattoo session with Jai can make contact through the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Jai also has a website at https://www.jaimeschmidtarts.com/.
For more information on the Ute A.I.R. program, contact Jill Kamas on Instagram @utemountainstudios.