Moly-Sabata hasn’t changed much since Gleizes and Roche first invited their artist friends and students to the property, early in the 20th century. It remains the tranquil environment that the couple set out to create.
“No bills, no invoices, no social meetings, no openings, no shopping distraction, no boyfriend waiting at home for his meal to be cooked, just work, work, work, work, work, reading, and lots of naps,” explains painter
, who spent summer 2014 at the residency. “Time is elastic, and if your bed is not far from your studio, you just work five times more than when there’s the outside world.”
The nucleus of the property still exists, too: an 18th-century mansion, complete with a sprawling balcony and windows decorated with sea-green shutters that look out over the Rhône. Five studios surround it, where visiting artists live and work. One, which Halvorson settled into for the summer of 2014, operated as the poterie, or pottery studio, during Gleizes’s time. It was there that one Cubism’s few female artists, the Australian expat Anne Dangar, made her famed ceramics and taught pottery lessons to the surrounding community.
When Halvorson entered the space, it had been untouched for several decades. “It was the history of the pottery studio, of Moly-Sabata, and of the Rhône that appealed to me—and that ended up informing new work,” she says. Vestiges of the studio’s past—a clay-caked leather apron and long-forgotten tools tucked away in a massive armoire—cropped up in paintings she made while there.
The property and the people Halvorson encountered beyond the studio walls influenced her practice, too. She took her sketchbook to the banks of the Rhône or the meadows dotting Moly-Sabata. She discussed her work, and the work of others, over communal dinners with fellow residents, friends, and the Moly-Sabata staff, including Riff, director Pierre David, and administrator Virginie Retornaz.