Cervo, Beyond Culture

The Cabin Essence - Artists in Residence - report by Adam Stamp


I went from Spoleto, a small art hamlet in Umbria, to Milano, the day before I was meant to arrive for my Cabin Essence residency at Cervo Mountain Resort in Zermatt. It was my maiden trip to Milano, a quick stop to see the two Caravaggio paintings that live there (I’ve been traveling to see these paintings for over a decade and have now seen 57 of the 103 in existence). Leaving the 30 plus degree, stagnant, city heat, I got on the train to Valais. Passing Lago Maggiore for the first time, I was captivated by the landscape and was surprised to see palm trees so far north. And yet, as I approached the Swiss-Italian border, I could feel the changes - pink and yellow stucco slowly being replaced by wooden, pitched roof chalets - living up to the fairy tale ideas I’d had about Alpine Swiss life. 

A quick change in Brig and then hopping on the last train in Visp, packed full of tourists. The huge panoramic windows are meant to allow you to enjoy the incredible vistas, but on a sunny day like this, they created a greenhouse effect - I put on my bucket hat and tried not to get a sunburn. Despite hiding under my brim, I noticed no less than 6 waterfalls on the hour-long ride up into the mountains.  

This train is comically slow - just like the most child friendly theme park ride, further solidifying the connection between the Matterhorn and all things Disney. Arrival at the Zermatt Bahnhof is equally weird - adventure seekers everywhere - big backpacks, binoculars, pick axes, and ski poles (even in summer, yes). CERVO sent a car to pick me up, but this was unlike any car I’ve ever seen - a van in miniature, with carpeted floors and a wood ceiling. There are not real cars in Zermatt - they’re all mini - the cabs, the city buses, flat beds, and dump trucks. 

I took the minibus through the tiny, winding, chalet lined streets of Zermatt, up the hill to CERVO Mountain resort, a complex of contemporary chic lodges. I’d recently been to Zurich and Basel and enjoyed floating in the rivers there, but noticed going over the Vispa there would be no river swims here - the water rages and is clearly glacial and frigid. Upon arrival at CERVO, I was warmly greeted by what felt like dozens of staff, welcomed and given a glass of Franciacorta (the champagne of Brescia). After meeting everyone, I was desperate for a shower and change - it was a long train journey in the end - so I was taken to my room. 

I was given an Alpinist Roof L room and while I have stayed at some very nice places in my life, this was my clear favourite. Being on the top floor, the ceiling pitches at about 4 meters. The bathroom is perfect. There is a cabinet with every single accoutrement you could want on a stay: coffee maker and pods, tea kettle and 6 different types of tea, wine key, cutting board, knife, aluminium water canteen for hikes, espresso mugs, tea mugs, 2 types of wine glasses, notepad, pencil, even a pencil sharpener! 

And the bed - Hastens linens, pillows with a range of firmness, and a wonderfully comfortable mattress. The bed also floats in the middle of the room, there is no wall or headboard behind your head (only a low desk in my room arrangement). Ever since I visited the Donald Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, I have longed to sleep in this way. When you visit either of the Judd foundations, either in Marfa or New York, you’ll see there are many rooms where he would place a sole floating bed in the middle, as this was where he liked to nap throughout the day. There’s something about the energy and air being able to move completely around you that is so restful and refreshing, and I can say that as someone who has suffered from sleeping problems for most of my adult life, I had some of the most solid, restful sleep of my life during my stay at CERVO. 


Most of my days looked like this: Wake up at 5 to birds chirping, cold crisp air, and the sun slowly rising (I should mention, I did not close my balcony door one time during my three week stay). Meditation, coffee, NY Times Crossword, written ideas, email work, talk to my partner in Los Angeles. 8:45 - Yoga in the Mountain Ashram Spa. Breakfast at around 10 (it is served until 11:30 every morning). After breakfast, about 30 minutes of plunging between the hot and cold pools, followed by at 10 minute steam. Go back to my room, shower, and start work for the day. Work on drawings from around 11 - 3:30. Yoga again at 4. Work a bit more. Dinner at 6:30. Back to room around 8:30 and asleep by 10.

My Cabin Essence

An allowance for space and time is the most important thing for an artist. The Cabin Essence Residency at CERVO offered both of those in bounds. During my stay, I made over 100 drawings, different sizes - many of the Matterhorn, of my lover, some text works, some poodles, and portraits of nearly all of the 80 summer employees of CERVO (I still have a few to finish). I started projects - a bar commission in Los Angeles - and some new bodies of work that have no intended place to go, which feels fresh and free, and is very different than how I normally work, on deadlines, always with specificity, the next project or exhibition in mind. Urban life and the hustle of the art world can often make me forget the joy and magic of art making, but I think I rediscovered that at CERVO. Being that my work is also very social, I loved meeting all the staff and other guests, which the environment of a hotel is made for. And above all, I was able to achieve a balance that is often untenable in regular life - heath, mindfulness, inspiration, tenderness.