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This is the 173rd 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.
Leslie Fandrich, Warwick, New York
I moved back to my 180-square-foot home studio after I was evicted from the 650-square-foot room that I rented at a former elementary school. The school district needed the building back to socially distance students in the fall. This is only a third of my stuff; the rest of the furniture, completed artworks, and materials are in two different storage units. I like being at home, the commute is short and it is more affordable, but I sense a shift about the kind of work I can make. Previously, I sewed large, soft sculptures that needed plenty of space. It’s tight in here, and I wonder how these limitations may challenge me. I am thinking about small prototypes, fabric books, and dollhouses, and possibly some digital work. I also see the forest outside my window as a potential place to put work. Durable ripstop nylon fabric can withstand the weather and sun and I’m working on some ideas for banners and shelters that can be placed outside. Finally, I really enjoy making small, postcard-sized collages that I have been mailing out to people. It’s so nice to get good mail right now.
Gwendolyn Aqui-brooks, Wesley Chapel, Florida
As you enter my studio, the first thing you notice is my work table. It is an antique oak table that I’ve had for years. It is here that I create drawings, write poems and children’s stories. My studio is located in my home. The space is very intimate; it’s a place of tranquility, my cocoon.
Since the pandemic, I’ve been able to continue to produce artwork, which included paintings and art quilts. Thank God for my practice, without which I would go bonkers.
Pieces that I’ve done have been related to Black Lives Matter and the Coronavirus. Finally, I pray daily.
Debbie Ali (DebuccinoArt), Bronx, New York
Growing up, I never had my own studio. I moved around a lot, and the art materials I used were based on the type and amount of space I could find.
When quarantine happened, and public schools closed in NYC, I started living with my partner in his studio apartment and needed space for teaching art demonstration videos to my high school students. I found a weird metal contraption that looked enough like an easel, and put it on top of white poster paper on the cover of my partner’s laundry basket. That was my studio space, a fake rusted metal easel on top of a laundry basket. Slowly, I’ve been repurposing furniture (including a shower caddy and a bar stool), food jars, plant holders, and other obscure objects to create my first-ever personal art space. We rearranged the entire apartment so that a desk and my art supplies could fit. Now, I finally don’t have to choose which medium I need to solely work with anymore, I can make ink illustrations at 10am, sparkle paint pour at 1pm, and acrylic paint at 7pm, all in the same space.
Kevin Flynn, Oakland, California
My primary workspace is in our basement. As an artist who works in analog and digital photography, I make, as well as create, images. Two things I like about my space is a translucent glass door to allow subdued daylight and a sit–stand work table from Ikea.
There were several projects I planned to do this year, but they are now postponed: one requires travel and the other is a series of formal portraits. My pivot has been to concentrate on things that I’ve been procrastinating: developing years of film that have been stored in our freezer; work on a book that I intend to self-publish; and redesign and update my website (in order to save money I learned how to do my own web work). The difficulty now, though, is to try and be creative and keep moving forward when the rest of the world has stopped. One example of a recent work is a free coloring book to be used during an existing or future pandemic, entitled “Armchair Travel to the Floating World.”
Lorna Ritz, Amherst, Massachusetts
I am a third generation abstract expressionist/ impressionist painter; self-isolation all these months painting without outside interruptions is like being on a grant. I go out to the barn studio in my nightgown from my sleeping bed to see if the painting is what I thought it was when I went to sleep the night before, (or, is it still there)? and then paint on it all day, day after day. Each night I would tell myself before sleep, “I think I am getting better.” That was why, I would tell myself, I still paint. By late March many more people were dying. I love my solitude, but I was sad, so sad. I would bring this reality into the painting. Then the sun would come up and the buds open a little more each day, giving me another chance to do what I do well and then, even better. How could I best express my most passionate realities I see in the landscape (the story beneath ordinary everyday life things), producing on canvas much of what people feel when they get religious? I had been painting every day for decades and now had new focus: combining sadness with beauty.
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