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A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine

This week, artists reflect on quarantining from their studios in Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, and DC.

This is the 172nd 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.

Jonathan Adams, Johnson City, Tennessee

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I moved from my studio in New Jersey to an artist-in-residence studio at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in the span of a week and some change. Unfortunately, while moving in, my personal storage was flooded over the weekend and I’ve been drying the ones I could save here. I’ve been working around old works and finding a new way to archive my practice, while trying to maintain a daily workflow. However, I don’t make all my works here, they start at home on the floor when my legs go numb from sitting or greasy fingerprint life drawings in the woods — I’ve decentralized how I work. Despite this, I’m thoroughly grateful for the space and returning here gives me warm memories.

ETSU was my undergrad from 2011 to 2016 and there’s something poetic about the situation. From having my first fundamentals class from 2011 here, then coming back nine years later and fresh out of graduate school. The move is making me contend with my past. The sociopolitical climate has changed, the university has changed, my practice, it’s like time has collapsed on itself and it’s telling me to slow down. One of the ways I do this is by making artwork. I always feel the way to a solid artistic career is through artistic practice. Which is strange because that’s not how the world works currently. Although, it’s nice to make drawings for myself occasionally; a little introspection doesn’t hurt.

Jon Feng, Boston, Massachusetts

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I work out of my rented bedroom in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. New additions to the studio since quarantine include two aquamarine pilea plants, two milk cartons to double as storage and seats, and way too many scented candles. While in isolation, I discovered the ambient musician Hiroshi Yoshimura, a godsend because I find his work deeply calming, and it complements the plants well. To cut costs, I’ve been painting more on cardboard instead of canvas, which has allowed me to be less attached to each new picture and work in new dimensions and shapes. And since the ventilated painting spaces at the nearby art school are closed, I’m experimenting more with acrylics and making compositions with colored paper.

Hannah Ayers, Cleveland, Ohio

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I am based in Cleveland, Ohio. My workspace is in a spare bedroom in my apartment. As you can see, all of my supplies are delegated to one wall. The other side is used by my partner as a home office. One half of the room is completely devoid of art stuff so that my partner can have a blank Zoom background. The challenge of this space is that I have to be aware of how much noise I’m making while working!

I am thankful for the natural light that the space receives. I keep my main work table directly in front of the window. I shift between painting and sewing most days. I like to have a few projects with different materials going at once to keep myself fresh.

Life feels fragmentary and a little lonely right now and my work is reflecting that. It has been a big shock transitioning to this new way of life. I graduated from grad school a year ago, and was trying to fill the social void by building a community of artists in Cleveland when COVID hit. It’s strange that no one has seen the work I’ve made this year!

Mateo Gutiérrez, Brooklyn, New York

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My studio is located in a storage unit facility in an industrial area of Brooklyn called Red Hook. During the quarantine, the building was kept open because the storage unit was designated as essential for holding medical supplies, so I was able to continue working. My studio used to be a place that felt like getting away from the world, where I would take my ideas that I’d gathered from my outside experiences and give them a private space in which to germinate and grow into artworks. Now my studio functions as my whole world, where I go to feel like I’m participating in the world, engaged, alive again instead of feeling cooped up in my apartment. So, the entire studio experience has flipped from being a place of reflection and production to the very experience of being alive and in the world. I like this change; it has helped me see art making in a completely new light, as something of a real and meaningful worldly activity instead of something artists do in private, as if we are hiding from the world. Now my studio feels like it’s on the front lines, part of the world.

Claudia Gibson-Hunter, Washington, DC

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There is no dismissing the fact that this is a time of deep melancholy and a keen sense of anticipation, both in the same heart. I know there is death, that people, my people, are stressed and hungry (I delivered meals), and yet I feel hope for something exceptional. My colleagues have expressed it, too — a sensation of deep… breath. I am working ferociously.

TWO

Our ranks have thinned
AND
WE will thrive.
Dandelions amongst weeds,
WE are people of the two,
extending family,
sharing
community.
WE
culture.
Us too.

Mr. Floyd gave us
2020 vision,
and the dye was cast.
We could see so clearly
through the x-ray visions
exposing centuries of the
ones
who don’t care, don’t see, don’t know,
don’t respond, don’t lend, don’t share
don’t respect, don’t value.
The ones,
of endless taking…taking.

Those e I g h t minutes and f o r t y- s I x seconds
made it all so crystal
clear, as his sun slowly entered
his fourth moment to the aroma of smoke, sage and lilac.
The economy folded into COVID and
the invisible became essential.
Our ranks have thinned
AND
WE will thrive.
WE
are people of the
TWO.

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