This is the 175th 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.
Cibyl Kavan, Portland, Oregon
This is a snapshot of my studio on the morning before fall teacher pre-service starts — all online, of course! This summer I’ve been painting, working with clay, gardening, as well as doing a ton of online trainings for art teachers and digital skills. My home studio is a converted downstairs bedroom in our Portland, Oregon bungalow. I’ve been to some protests and painted signs for friends. In the spring I rearranged my studio so that there were lots of interesting things for my students to see behind me, including a salon-style display of some of my monster illustrations and other drawings. At the end of the school year I heard from several different parents that their children were turning family living and/ or dining rooms into salon-style art galleries, with their drawings, paintings, and other art projects hung floor to ceiling!
Joanne Matthews, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
My work is not tied to one single discipline, I’ll make a book one day, a drawing or video art on the next. My desk was more of a formality pre-lockdown, with lots of my work rooted in nature, outdoors in landscapes, and with other beings. Since the lockdown I am at my desk more often, drawing and reading critical essays and books about ecology and queerness. I create manifestos for working on my wall with words and drawings for inspiration. My studio is the spare room in my flat, which is in a block of six in Edinburgh, UK, five minutes from the beach, which has a post-industrial backdrop. The room also functions as my yoga and workout room. I go to my garden for breaks and smell the wildflowers that I have planted; the salty air is more abundant these days. I am studying for an MFA and pre-lockdown I had access to every kind of workshop imaginable and recording equipment at university, so I’ve had to adapt to having less.
Cynthia Zeman (the mom) and Claire Weaver-Zeman (the daughter), Swampscott, Massachusetts
My studio is in my attic. After getting my MFA this year, I was looking forward to really spending time there.
Last year, my daughter returned here to work and save money to move to New York and then got stuck by the pandemic. She is also a painter, and used her twin brother’s bedroom as a studio, as he was working in California. Three weeks ago he returned to work from Massachusetts, and moved into his old room.
My daughter and I are now sharing my studio. For now. So far, so good. We split the time informally and have taped off designated spaces to maintain personal space and materials. We each have a skylight, an easel, and a wheeled cart.
We love each other, but it’s a mixed bag. I have threatened her under pain of death to not touch my stuff. My daughter often rolls her eyes when I ask for a crit, and I secretly seethe with jealously when I look at her gorgeous, inventive paintings. But we also gossip about art stuff we like or we think ridiculous. We try to support each other always. We are both looking forward to a vaccine.
butch Murphy, Bellair, Missouri
Attempting to avoid a COVID-19 illness, we have for the most part secluded ourselves in rural Missouri where social distancing is measured in miles and fortunately that’s where my nine-year-old studio is located. It’s a big change from dashing madly from Kansas City to rural Bellair. Technology helps to stay and even expand our connections, but it’s not same. The pandemic has changed my creative attempts where now I have time to dwell and not be in a rush to complete. I’m still captivated by the cubists, but now finding I like color in place of rust. My space remains the same, a converted oversized single car garage. There’s nothing attractive about the studio unless one likes grime and the tools of the trade … grinders, a drill press, chop saw, chains hosts, plasma cutter, spray paint, and welding equipment. I’m now working at least part of the day seven days a week. I don’t look out to a beautiful cityscape, instead to a flowering meadow, large pond to swim in, and a forest with “wildlife” checking out our invasion.
Livia Stein, Oakland, California
This is my studio where I also live. I am based in Oakland, California, and have been a practicing painter/printmaker here for more than half my life. I have always valued studio time and prioritized my life decisions to have my work come first. No weekday lunch invitations with friends, museums were OK.
COVID-19 intensified this practice, only now I could say no to my social side without the guilt of letting friends and family down. My practice has been: get up, eat breakfast, and slowly make my way upstairs to work, with perhaps a walk and yoga snuck in.
I have added to that structure a healthy dinner with my partner, then streaming opera from the Met in New York. This activity has become almost essential. I began drawing from the broadcasts and realized how important the operas were to me. First of all, I need to say my father was an opera fan to the extreme. I was always around opera and his commentary, like background music in the room. My father is long gone, but I feel very comforted by his presence in the room. I am learning about opera past and present in a big way. I compare it to reading a really good novel: escapism, drama, and often some catharsis. I find great solace in opera symbolizing how life is precious, short, and often painful, mixed in with joy.
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