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This is the 198th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. Since March 2020, we’ve been asking participants to reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic has been impacting their studio space and/or if their work process has changed while quarantining. Today’s edition is the last in this version of the series, and we want to thank all the artists who have generously shared their stories. The fight against COVID-19 is far from over, and we will continue to cover how artists are responding to and coping with this challenging moment in history.
Lauren Dana Smith, Taos, New Mexico
My studio faces the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains, and my greenhouse. This is an incredible scenery shift from my old studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I moved to Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, part of Taos County, in August 2020. Incredibly, we had decided to relocate to the desert long before the pandemic hit in the United States, and stuck to our plan in the midst of a lot of summer chaos. I’m also a mental health worker/art therapist; I use this space to conduct telehealth sessions with clients (paints and kitten are out of view during my sessions!). My workspace needs to support a healthy mental balance. Even when my studio was in Brooklyn, I was able to have sessions with patients who were coping with COVID-19 loss, and then shift gears and paint. Since moving, I’ve been able to focus more on my art practice and invest myself in the Taos artist community. I have a lot of gratitude for my studio practice and my therapy practice. Right now my work explores the bodily experience of the land and the mirror it provides to us in times of calm and times of chaos.
Paul Hunter, Harlem, New York
This is a view of my studio in an industrial building in Harlem. These paintings are from my ongoing Confinement Gardens series, begun during the pandemic. Last year in March, as the virus was surging in New York and strict lockdown measures were in place, I sought relief from these restrictions by walking through the city’s public parks and gardens. Witnessing the powerful emergence of waves of flowers during the spring blooming, I felt so hopeful despite the pandemic and the political situation we were in. Though I am an abstract painter, impressions of my garden walks emerged in my usually nonfigurative compositions, and I began combining floral and leaf forms with wholly abstract linear patterns.
To convey the luminous power of these gardens, I paint several coats of translucent acrylics over an underlayer of aluminum leaf that I first apply to the canvas as a base to reflect and refract light back through the layers of semitransparent paint.
Fully aware of the deteriorating natural environment, and the artifice of cultivated gardens, during this time, I am nonetheless seeking a vision of hope by celebrating nature’s ongoing luxuriant beauty in these lush green paintings punctuated with colorful notes of imagined flowers.
Maria Bjorkdahl, Los Angeles, California
Here’s my studio space which takes up about half of the small living room in the 1930s courtyard townhouse apartment I share with my life partner in Koreatown, Los Angeles. I keep most of my supplies in a shelving system from Ikea under the stairway. A large portion of my work consists of manipulating the canvas material; I unravel/shred the canvas fabric while sitting at the dining table (outside the photo). When I’m ready to paint the work, I either staple the unstretched canvas to the wall (behind the easel, which is currently working as hanging structure for some recently finished pieces and works in progress) or I use the floor. Even though I find the space constrictive, I’ve really appreciated having my studio at home during the quarantine since it has allowed me to continue working pretty much as usual.