This is the 160th 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.
Carol Es, Joshua Tree, California
After working for more than 30 years in various artists’ studios, I’ve come to make do with one of the bedrooms in our rented house in the high desert. It is both my office workspace and makeshift art studio where, since the coronavirus, I decided to make a new series out of paper grocery bags. Not being able to use our own recyclable bags, I figured it might be sort of wise to reuse them in this way. However, perhaps I just liked the odd shape of the paper and the interesting composition. I try not to think about the “why” too much, especially during these times when spending an immense amount of time in one’s head can send us spinning out of control. For me, making art is a way to bring solace and order to the world, even if it is just my world. It makes me realize how every artist creates their own world, their own universe, and shares it with those who want to experience it. And how each of us are many worlds, making up one — all of us wanting the same things. #aloneasone
My studio is located on the third floor of my brownstone in Harlem, New York. It is a large studio which has been renovated to have additional ceiling windows to get more natural light in it, as the house is surrounded by high buildings. I have been confined for 58 days and I had to change my studio routine as I am the mother of a three-year-old daughter. Mornings are dedicated to her and we spend most of them in the studio: she enjoys exploring the studio and likes to use tools and materials she can find in there. We both enjoyed her new experience with art, like painting with sand on paper.
In the afternoons my husband takes care of her, so I can work in my studio. I am taking advantage of this parenthesis to devote myself to the development of a new series that is particularly close to my heart and whose execution process is very lengthy. This series is about writing my dreams with sand on canvas with a unique alphabet I have created. And during this confinement time, I am dreaming a lot!
The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic hung over my childhood like a dark shadow. My father was six when it took the lives of his father and older brother in Europe. His mother remarried and started a new family. She gave my father to relatives and he never got over the loss. When the coronavirus was proclaimed a pandemic, it felt like a familiar ghost crept back into my life and followed me into the studio. I had been on a roll, having spent the fall in Norway traveling and then at an artist residency there. Abstract fjords, deep blue and stretching across the horizon, filled my studio in a vast mélange of jagged edges and dynamic colors. My first fjords of painted cutout wood are full and lurid, like deep inky buckets held in place by invisible landforms. Then the coronavirus struck Seattle, where I live. An undercurrent of restlessness chiseled away at my focus and somehow drained my fjords of their original élan. My new fjords are only edges; gone are the buckets with all their depth. They’re paler, sketchier, more tentative — kind of like the world has become. As I surrender to my new-world fjords, I wonder what they’ll morph into next or if they’ll just disappear.
I live in the West Village, and my studio is in the Garment District. Before the coronavirus, I used to arrive at the studio first thing in the morning and work all day with my assistants; my studio was a hub of activity. Now it’s my solitary place where I come to have much-needed mental space. Since week three of quarantine I’ve been biking to the studio in the afternoon and staying into the evening, then biking home at night through the quiet streets of Manhattan.
My days are filled with practicalities rather than creativity — filling out forms and figuring out how, as a self-employed artist, to get through this new financial reality. But I’m lucky to have a big, empty space that I can come to every day. Recently I began pulling out photographs of figurative sculptures — images of artworks in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A mix of solemn figures and fragmented bodies, these photographs resonate for me with our current state of disconnection and distance, while serving as my silent companions.
I left my home studio in New Jersey in January to winter in a rental home in Naples, Florida. Due to the coronavirus I am still here in May, painting away in this lovely space. The calm colors of this home combined with daily sunshine have changed my art significantly.
Having always worked on large canvases, I instead am working here on newsprint and watercolor paper at the dining room table. I’ve added inks and fine markers, gesso and neocolors to my typical supply of golden paints. My work has lightened up emotionally, almost with a sense of play. My usually bold palette has been replaced with one closely resembling the tones of this home; blues, pale greens, white, and Indian yellow hue. I’ve added lots of line to my work, often starting a new sheet with scribbles formed by my non-dominant hand.
Each day I clean my space, choose four fresh hibiscuses for the table, and light my palo santo candle. There is a new kind of pleasure here in spite of a world rife with bad news. I feel grateful for this temporary space.