Articles

A View From the Easel

This week, artist studios in Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Wisconsin.

The 137th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. Want to take part? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.

Rebecca Leveille, Amherst, MA

My studio is the second story of a barn behind our house in Amherst, Massachusetts. The installation in progress, built on false walls inside the large space, is a reflection of the feeling I’ve always had that object and environment are connected to personal and external mythologies. I grew up in a historic home, in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a place rich with colonial history, and homespun folklore. “Salem Village” (a part of then Ipswich and the neighboring town of Essex) was actually where many of the witch trials took place. I painted in a barn studio owned by the Goodale family one summer near the marshes of Cranes Beach that proudly displayed the mill stones that were used to crush Giles Corey for being a witch.

After attending Pratt and living many years in Brooklyn, we moved to Amherst, bought a circa 1700 home and built our studio out back. The work I’m producing reflects creating within the “narrative envelope” that has been part of my life since childhood. My images are my personal amalgams of emotions, politics, power, sex, pop culture history, archetype, stereotype. I’m using the concept of a literal narrative envelope, as seen in the studio, to create the coming work for my next show, in which this installation will be included. This allows for the constant flow state back and forth in which ideas grow organically from canvas to wall to object and back.

I work almost entirely from my imagination. The paintings I make are never grounded in secondary reference but begin as gesture drawings and are successful based upon the strength of their abstract language. Figures, bodies, hair, clothes, text — none of these things are first the literal elements they seem to be but are objects and tools in service to the overall abstraction that makes a completed thought.

Julie Vornholt, Maidson, WI

My 100-square-foot studio may be small, but it packs a big feminist punch. Above my self-built work desk is my collection of women-made work, self-love, and expression. My oil paintings are centered around female bodies and health, so it’s important that I am surrounded daily by images that speak to me. That includes work created by personal friends coexisting next to a few professionals — looking at you Guerrilla Girls. My dried flowers bought for me by my mother live in a vase from my artist grandmother whom I never got to know, unfortunately. Every aspect of my little wall brings me joy and power to fuel my paintings daily. And a special shoutout to my corgi calendar because my own studio pup Corgi had to be represented. Photograph by the talented Donna Miller.

Virginia Mahoney, Brockton, MA

Working three-dimensionally with a variety of materials means that my 350-square-foot basement studio (which has five small windows) has separate areas for fiber, metal, paint, and clay, yet the space is flexible enough to suit my process well. Storage crates double as tables, permanent tables have storage under the work surface, and boards on sawhorses make a temporary work table. I can hang work from the ceiling beams (the floor joists of the first floor) or spread out on the floor. I try to keep surfaces organized so that I can easily move from one thing to another, since I work on several pieces at a time. The far end has a pull-down roll of seamless background paper, used when photographing work.

My trusty quartz heater keeps me warm when the temperature drops on cold New England days. One long wall is the fieldstone foundation of my original house, built in the 1890s; the studio is the basement of an addition built after we first moved in. Having a dedicated studio in my home has been key to maintaining my practice through raising two children and many years of full-time teaching.

William Bingham, Albuquerque, NM

My perspective on art and architecture has evolved out of an investigation into our “sense of place” — an amalgam of perceptions and impressions that have influence over us at conscious and unconscious levels. By looking into this patchwork assemblage of the familiar and the unfamiliar we construct our world. What we recognize as reality is a room of snapshots that are joined by threads of knowledge.

The power of the arts to shape experience resides in the ability to pierce the self-made veil that enshrouds us — affording blurred glimpses of truths that lay just beyond our normal grasp. This space that resides beyond our governing syntax is the realm of possibility — the “what if.” I look to this subjunctive space for guidance.

Elena Berriolo, New York, NY

I am a book artist making unique books using my sewing machine as a drawing tool. In the picture you can see my sewing machine while I am working on a unique 16-page book’s spread. My threads are hanging on the left, and my books, labeled and stored in their century boxes, are on the right.

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