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A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine

This week, artists reflect on quarantining from their studios in Chicago, Three Rivers, New York City, San Diego, and Saskatchewan, Canada.

This the 155th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. In light of COVID-19, we’ve asked participants to reflect on how the pandemic has changed their studio space and/or if they are focusing on particular projects while quarantining. Want to take part? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.

Dia Bassett, San Diego, California

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Up until now, I had been using space in our garage to work. My work is primarily fiber installation, usually sculptural and large. After I had a baby in 2018, my work had to shift in size. With the COVID-19 pandemic, my life as a mom to a toddler is more confined. My parents are not able to come help with caregiving, so I’m caring for my daughter full-time. It means I create art on the fly, so I have some of my old childhood paintings and college drawings tucked in a corner by the couch to pull out at any given moment. I try to experiment safely with them using crayons and chalk and other toddler-friendly media. I work on the dining room table, the coffee table, the floor, and the walls of our apartment. One wall is now host to a weaving. I just created a wall loom and went for it.

Holly Fay, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Shifts in scale and interconnectivity are integral concepts in my studio practice. Currently, other shifts of scale occupy my thoughts, both in terms of importance and in physicality. As we do our part to collectively flatten the curve, physical distancing has transformed friends and colleagues into small Zoom frames on my computer. Correspondingly, as the university I teach at moved to working remotely, it necessitated shifting my studio from a space on campus to a tiny home office room. Before the move I had been working on two 5-by-9-foot drawings mounted on the studio wall, plus on various preliminary works which covered the sizable drawing tables. Now, I must reenvision my work to fit on one small desk. Dismantling a bookcase afforded a small wall area to pin work up. It’s been a clunky adjustment, with bins of collected studio material stacked and scattered within the space. Still, I feel incredibly fortunate to have work, and a place to work in, and to be healthy. Shifting scales have become the continuum as we adapt, and worry, and stay home.

Vesna Jovanovic, Chicago, Illinois

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My Chicago apartment studio is usually plastered in colorful reference images and test scraps, colored pencils and markers strewn about. After the Illinois governor announced the stay-at-home order, I got the sudden urge to put away all my color materials and remove everything from the walls. The space became sterile, and I started making monochromatic works on paper that friends have described as “monstrous” and “raw.” Also, I’m completing a piece per day, which is unfathomable to me under normal circumstances. I feel an urgency and a compulsion to do this new work.

Nadi Spencer, Three Rivers, California

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My studio is divided in half, one side for creating, one side for visitors. I work seven days a week, year-round, sometimes at an easel, at other times in front of my computer. The biggest change since the COVID-19 crises is that my studio is now closed. I am single and live with three dogs, and most of my social life comes with the visitors to my studio. I enjoy those times spent with people from all over the world, and am often inspired by their visits. I feel less connected to the world right now.

Kate Shepherd, New York City, New York

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Oddly enough, since my show opened at Galerie Lelong right before New York City cracked down and galleries closed, my studio also echoes the emptiness. A month ago, while I was still able to ride the subway, I painted floors and walls, cleared off the tables and cut up old clothes to make painting rags — the stacks look like delicious lasagna. I also hung some of the panels that didn’t go to the gallery — the nascent works. They remind me where the show began. The space is a like a shell, a remnant of puzzle-solving and discovery, a now-silent breakthrough. In the gallery, the paintings hang in solitude, safe, happily doing what they were meant to do — reflecting their environs.

My kitchen is the studio now. I find it oddly satisfying to make papier mâché bowls by ripping newspaper — mostly it’s news of the virus — into shreds. After the forms dry they are a chalky grey and create yet another void to behold while we wait.

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