Over the 24 hours of May 1, 2011, artist Julie Torres transformed our Williamsburg office into a project called “Open 24 Hours,” with a plan to paint 100 distinct paintings in that limited period of time. Julie’s first 12 hours was all painting, finishing one 9 by 12 inch work on paper, putting it up on our wall and moving on to the next. The second 12 hours were a gallery show, with friends, writers and fellow painters stopping by to check out Julie’s work. The video above presents a three-minute long time lapse photography document of the full day.
By the time I got to check out Julie’s progress at 6 pm on Sunday, the wall was only partly filled with paintings. The reason? During the gallery show portion of the event, every visitor was invited to choose a painting to take home with them. One by one, visitors walked into the gallery, contemplated the ever-dwindling grid of paintings and grabbed one before anyone else could claim their favorite. Julie explained that it took her a good part of the beginning 12 hours to get into a good painting groove, so the best paintings came out about midway through the marathon. Visitors agreed — that middle section of paintings was the emptiest patch of wall.
The artist seemed pretty wiped out by the evening of May 1, but that wasn’t stopping her from continuing to paint. I gave Julie a call today to see how she was feeling about the whole project. Here’s what she had to say.
Kyle Chayka: So, first things first: did you get to 100 paintings over the 24 hour period?
Julie Torres: No! I did 80 paintings total. I got about 70 done overnight [and 10 more done after the first 12 hours]. I realized very quickly there was no way I was going to do 100. There were a lot of reasons … but it was totally insane to try to do 100, that was the main reason. I really think on a perfect day I could have done it, because the paper I wound up with was much bigger than I was planning, the art store was also out of the paint I wanted, so I was using a paint I wasn’t used to, I had a hard time with the paint. The other thing was that I recently took a few weeks off from painting altogether, so I had to get back into it.
Having the 24 hour event was the important part. I wasn’t completely heartbroken that I didn’t finish all of them.
KC: How were you feeling during that first 12 hour period (ending at 12 pm on May 1)?
JT: I should have warmed up. Because I hadn’t painted in a few weeks, it took a while for me to hit my stride. It took a couple hours to get to the place where I felt like I was painting freely, to hit that rhythm. Once I hit that rhythm I had a great time. But it was also very isolating. It went quickly. I didn’t run out of steam, I didn’t get bored, I didn’t get tired, I was really intent on finishing as many painting as possible. I was very focused.
KC: Did you learn anything in particular about your own painting process through the project?
JT: I learned how attached I can become to materials. I’ve been using the same gouache and same paper for a long time. You build a relationship and a language with those things. What was shocking to me was how that relationship disappeared when those materials changed. It was like running a marathon without your running shoes. Everything you know how to do goes out the window. I also learned the importance of exercise… art exercise. I took a few weeks off of painting, it’s like running a marathon but not running for two months. I never realized how much work is happening just by the practice of doing it. [The marathon] isn’t about the end result, it’s about the practice, the action, the joy of doing it. Everything that happens in that 12 hours is preparing me for every painting I’m going to make in the future.
KC: Anything else you’d like to add?
JT: The project was inspired by the 12 hour painting marathons that Geddes Levenson does, and a photo that Kevin Regan took.
Check out the video of Julie’s “Open 24 Hours” above, and see some of our own photos of the event below, shot by Hyperallergic staff. If you missed this chance to snag one of Julie’s painting and see her process, fear not — she says she might be doing another one soon.
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