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This is the 196th 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.

David Bender, Brooklyn, New York

I live with my art or my art lives with me — it’s a love-hate relationship. I’ve been mostly alone during this past year, and at times — like many others — have experienced a painful loneliness. I am thankful that I have this passion as it has helped to sustain me through some pretty dark moments. Over the course of the past year, I have witnessed a seismic shift in my use of color and the images that I paint. I believe it to be an instinctive response to the existential threat that the pandemic has produced. The images I now paint are greatly simplified. One could even say that they are primitive. And the colors are primary, electric, and at the outer edges of the color wheel. All this as a way of compensating for the darkness which has hung over mine/all of our heads for the past year. If there’s been a silver lining in this past year’s experience; it has been creating work that has made me happy.

Binda Colebrook, Northampton, Massachusetts

In March 2020 I had a show set to open on the 14th. It did not happen. The next day, our adult children both moved home and our small home became even smaller. March was also the month that I had increased the amount of time I could spend in the studio. But we had to create a room in my studio with curtain walls for one of our kids. This lasted until June when they moved out again.

In those early months, I made work on one table — pencil-on-paper drawings of broken trees. The reduction of space was interesting. It led to a slowing down of work production, but an explosion of ideas and projects that have fueled subsequent production. What you see in this photo is some of that production. The piece on the far wall is the Hemlock Disappearing Act. When we were forced by the pandemic into our interior spaces, my response was to seek out larger, less inhabited natural spaces. My work went from exploring the psychological space within and between humans, to the psychological space between humans and the planet we come from.

Janice McDonnell, Brooklyn, New York

I love my studio in either two states: clean and orderly, which is usually reserved for Open Studios, or a complete mess, which is the goal most other times. Mess means work is being made, creative risks taken, ideas acted on and often abandoned. It means the work that is bouncing around my brain has seeped out into the physical world for good or bad. My studio is located in a big complex of studios in Brooklyn. During lockdown I went to the studio only once to grab supplies that I could use at home in a makeshift work space created in my apartment foyer with a French easel, clip light, and collapsible three-legged stool. I painted still lifes with found objects from around the apartment.  

When the city began opening up again, I came back to the studio in Phase Three. It was scary, though. My studio mate and I set up a schedule so we wouldn’t be working at the same time. Mask rules were implemented for the common areas. I was still nervous about cleaning brushes at the shared slop sink or using the restrooms. My hands were raw from the hand sanitizers and bleach wipes used every time I reentered my studio space. The biggest struggle, however, was the work; my studio was in limbo. The paintings that I was working on pre-pandemic — landscape paintings of the Brooklyn waterfront — seemed pointless, especially during the protests for social justice. I felt stuck in my neither clean nor messy studio. 

It turned itself around as the summer progressed and time spent outdoors watching my community make the most of the circumstances. Pop-up music of multiple genres played all over Prospect Park, along with theater groups performing sonnets on demand and kids summer camps, all being responsible with masks and distancing. It was inspiring. The human spirit had broken through and made the most of the situation and it was lovely. Seeing the canoe club on the Gowanus Canal kicked me back into gear, and I started working on landscapes again, and I also kept the still lifes going, and I wanted to do a little screen printing and there is this light box painting thing I’ve been thinking about. My studio is a complete disaster zone right now and I love it.

Elisa Wouk Almino

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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