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A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine

This week, artists reflect on quarantining from their studios in Los Angeles, New York City, Minneapolis–Saint Paul, and Long Island.

This is the 167th 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.

Linda Hart, Los Angeles, California

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During this difficult period of COVID-19, I’ve taken the opportunity to clean and put my studio in order. The process has helped my artistic process significantly. My studio is quite small, but the newly organized space has helped to clear my mind and improve my focus. One of the many advantages is the ability to save valuable time when I could be making art by not having to search endlessly for something. In addition, I discovered tools and supplies that I didn’t even know I had. These will incorporated into new work.

Sequestration has also allowed me the luxury of making my studio more functional. I saw possibilities to alter the way I work just by making small changes. For example, my work table measures five feet by five feet. I am going to install glass over the entire table with a large piece of watercolor paper under the glass. That will give me a very large palette that shows colors on the actual type of paper I’m working with, declutter the table, and facilitate cleanup. For inspiration, the images on the wall are (left to right) works by Josef Albers, Neil Denari, and Paul Rudolph.

Barbara Friedman, Manhattan, New York

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My studio is in our Financial District apartment in downtown Manhattan. The building is 300 yards from the World Trade Center, and given that we moved in a year before 9/11, I have always found the location uncanny. The studio’s windows take in the Federal Reserve, Morgan Chase, and, down the street, the Stock Exchange. What’s an art studio doing here? It’s that much weirder these days when our apartment has become the limits of our world. But I’m grateful for this place to work, and my studio has made itself the center of the home. My husband and I use it as a makeshift gym every morning; in other ways, too, it’s a harbor that overflows. This photograph captures its surreality — men working outside windows (Federal Reserve beyond them); paintings; laptop; books; camera; tripod; severed doll’s head — corralled chaos that finds its way into the work I’ve been doing. During the pandemic I have continued a series of dystopian oil paintings, but also recently started making amorphous watercolors. Both bodies of work are about spillage in every sense of that word, appropriately for the studio that my life has spilled into and will be flowing through for who knows how long.

Lynn Wadsworth, Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota

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In the past few years, I have been working in both ceramic sculpture and paper collage. My clay studio, located in Minneapolis at Northern Clay Center, has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have chosen to see this closure and quarantine as an opportunity to focus on my collage work. My collage studio is in one corner of a small spare bedroom in my home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Much of the space is devoted to storage of my source material — discarded books and magazines. This leaves me with little room to work. Yet, I find myself spending a lot of time here. When I am working, the space quickly becomes chaos as my work spills off the table and onto the floor or whatever surface is available. Often the mess creates a happy accident. I will see two images fallen happenstance together on the floor and that becomes the beginning of my next collage.

Eric Dever, Water Mill, Long Island

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I recently moved a comfortable chair into my studio where I often sit looking at unfinished paintings waiting for something to happen. Time seems to stand still in the studio; it is a break from anxiety and fear about the progression of the pandemic outside. Everything has slowed down, including days spent preparing and stretching canvases, focusing on each staple. The pandemic keeps me there, I find myself paying close attention to the tree canopy as it unfolds outside my studio window, from a dim yellow or green in March, to pale pinks which build in intensity through April, May, and now as spring becomes summer. I sometimes paint my experience of plants which grow adjacent to the studio, and those I remember from my childhood home in subtropical Southern California. Forms appear weightless and at times dematerialize, reversing figure and ground, becoming examples of a type of full-spectrum, compressed time. At best, eventually painting, the room itself echoes my own interior sense of self, which together and suspended in nature are like an astronaut in space.

Larry Smith, Los Angeles, California

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I am an introvert. Surprising for an artist but it happens. Even an introvert needs people, just in more measured doses, sort of a time release. When COVID-19 started looking like a real threat and people began gathering toilet paper, I began gathering canvas and paint and studio supplies. I was already working on putting together an online exhibit so now I could devote all my time to it, finishing paintings, writing, building a website. I was already ‘retired’ and had built a small but usable studio in my backyard, so I did not feel uprooted and did not have to improvise a temporary space. This project took almost the entire official lock down period to complete. A couple of days later I opened my doors to the outside and looked around…and the virus was getting its second wind. I’m not really the pizza-and-ice cream-in-front-of-the-TV type. So, time for a new project. Staying busy is key, I think. I am very fortunate to have my wife here with me, so we are able to enjoy the comfort of each other’s company and touch. I do miss people though, introvert and all.

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