This is the 180th 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 impacted their studio space and/or if their work process has changed while quarantining. Want to take part? Please submit your studio! Just check out the submission guidelines.
Donna Barati, Berkeley, California
Along with the adjustments we’re all making during this ongoing pandemic, new ideas and experimentation have blossomed between the dark days of wildfires and unhealthy air, and my long walks appreciating the floral beauty of my neighborhood.
I paint abstract, acrylic paintings, flavored with nature and bold colors. My studio is located in a small corner of my living room. The light is insufficient and I often long for a spacious, open room to paint in. My adult children, unexpectedly, needed to move home for months, as college and housing plans shifted geographically. But, after an initial paralysis of creativity, I have been working abundantly. Many paintings cover the walls and surfaces, proliferating like hangers in a closet. I love that my two cats can sleep comfortably nearby and neither offers advice about my style or composition. My family has learned to be wary of disturbing me when I am at the easel.
Unfortunately, two of the galleries that show my work have closed permanently, so I am learning more about the online distribution of art and also repurposing, reusing materials to lower my costs and help environmentally.
Overall, I have been fortunate during the COVID-19 pandemic. I enjoy painting alone and am used to working in a cocoon of canvases and acrylic paint.
Stacie Maya Johnson, Brooklyn, New York
During the peak of the pandemic in NYC, I was quarantined with my husband and six-year-old daughter in our railroad apartment on the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn and Ridgewood, Queens. Luckily, my studio is outside of the apartment but within walking distance. I spent afternoons in the studio hearing sirens and listening to WNYC — trying to make sense of what was going on. In March, the walk to my studio took me past Wyckoff Hospital as semi-trailers accumulated to serve as temporary morgues. In June, I tried to return home from my studio before the mayor’s curfew, which had been imposed to curb the protests against George Floyd’s death. Many of the paintings made during this time began by pouring printer ink on canvas. This was ink I had brought home from work after an accidental order that was refunded, but didn’t require a return. The USPS tote in the bottom-left corner of this photo was also from my work, as I have had to use my studio as a space for working remotely. Distracted and concerned, I created a series of intensely bright and busy paintings during this time.
Baret Boisson, Santa Barbara, California
My studio has been my sanctuary during this pandemic. It’s in a live/work space located right next to the beach, on what used to be a lima bean packing plant and retains a industrial aesthetic.
It was super challenging to find a studio when I first moved to Santa Barbara four years ago, but after two years on a waitlist, I moved into this loft with a living area upstairs and my studio on the ground floor. By this March, when most of us were asked to stay at home, I was able to continue to work without any interruption. My work consists of both abstract paintings and portraits, and I am now exploring ceramics as well. There never seems to be enough time for everything that I want to do, but certainly not having to commute helps!
A few years ago I made portraits of men and women who inspire me, folks like Marian Anderson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Billie Jean King, and Harvey Milk, for a solo show at the National Civil Right Museum. I continue to get commissions to paint heroes, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and this one of Sitting Bull.
This period has been unlike anything I’ve experienced before; there is so much heartbreak all around. Still, I am grateful beyond measure to have this “room of my own” where I can dive deep into my work and create pieces that express my belief in humanity and hope for the future.
Ann Smith, Highland Park, Michigan
As a mixed-media sculptor, being told to “Stay home, stay safe” meant no paying work at the day job, but also no work at the art studio complex in Highland Park, Michigan.
The research and observations usually reserved for sculpture were redirected toward masks. Efficacy, comfort, and durability replaced intent, composition, aesthetics. Optimal mask achieved (N95-style fabric and sterilization wrap), I began to draw again.
My sketchbook bloomed with masks, reflections of the area of confinement, and current events. While I typically reflect from personal experience, it seems critical to amplify cooperation and inclusion at this time. I am struggling to convey the idea of “holding space” for others, while recognizing we can no longer afford to enable anti-social leaders.
Eventually, with safety protocols, the studios reopened. In this shared studio, the functioning windows have become vital ventilation. My forays to natural areas on my bicycle helped sustain me during the shutdown. The gathered phone photos, bits of bark, steel, and detritus of civilization join the images in my sketchbook and become sculpture. The process is the same, but I am now aware that my sculpture, while personal, does not embody the values I hold. There is work to do.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.