Welcome to the 203rd installment of A View From the Easel, a series in which artists reflect on their workspace. In this edition, we visit studios in Kyiv, Honolulu, Denver, and Lakeville, Connecticut, with personal thoughts about identity, sanctuary, and the virtues of messiness.

Want to take part? Check out our submission guidelines and share a bit about your studio with us!

Ola Rondiak, New York City and Kyiv, Ukraine

I am sending you an image of my art studio located in Kyiv, Ukraine, which I have been unable to return to since the Russian invasion in February, 2022. I am an American-Ukrainian artist and have been living in Kyiv for almost 30 years now. I am incredibly inspired by Ukraine’s beauty and the determined Ukrainian people. My artwork reflects my family history intertwined with Ukraine’s history and has been described as contemporary art with a historical conscience, as I focus on themes of freedom, identity, healing, and the strength of the human psyche, particularly focusing on women. 

I am fortunate that I am also able to have a studio space in New York in order to continue my artwork until I can return. I have always believed that art can and does change the world and given the current war and cultural genocide that is taking place in Ukraine, this phrase could not ring truer. I will continue to create art reflecting Ukraine’s long history and cultural identity. I believe that it’s very important to keep Ukraine in the forefront, as it is currently an anchor for truth and democracy for the entire world. 

Abigail Doan, Lakeville, Connecticut

The objects and sculptural forms populating my rural lakeside studio serve as an evolving archive of materials to be installed and documented in modifiable ways. Fiber, plastics, soil/clay, and handmade tools serve as counterpoints to photographic recordings of ideas about loss, preservation, resilience, and transparency. My workspace is an open plan of sorts where I can build and re-assemble forms as well as integrate views beyond my studio’s windows. Although I also work in NYC and Europe, I set up this workspace (before the pandemic) as it was adjacent to a lake where I had childhood memories. In turn, I spent many days during COVID lockdown exploring ideas related to floating and transport via woven, raft-like vessels, crafted while sheltering in place. I typically fabricate forms on a large tabletop surface and then document the vessels on the lake’s surface or on its shores. This process allows me to think about movements and changes we are all witnessing from the anchor point of an interior sanctuary.

Sam Grabowska, Redline Contemporary Art Center in Denver, Colorado

What you see is my beloved chaotic mess, replete with works-in-progress, material experiments, and floating strands of hair EVERYWHERE. Coming from the field of architecture, I’m super sensitive to space — I’m constantly in a relationship with the built environment and that means sometimes I get into fights with it, and sometimes it helps me do things I never would’ve thought of all on my own. In the case of this studio, it has radically expanded my making (like a good supportive partner should!). There are the concrete characteristics: Looming tall ceilings and an embarrassment of riches in square footage have made me go bigger and bigger in my sculptural installations; concrete floors let me spill foam, paint, and silicone without being precious or fearful; there’s the television screen to facilitate and communicate forays into other mediums like digital landscapes and video. Then there are the less material dimensions: Flanking me are two artists who also have their own nooks in our shared studio (not pictured), and I get to exchange the scent of our sweat in toil and the sound of our cathartic laughter. It makes the moments of our creative grind so much more bearable.

Mari Matsuda, Honolulu, Hawai’i

For forty years, work was an office lined with books, where I wrote critical race theory. I knew there was another, visual language with which to speak of justice, and I woke up one day staring down my one last chance to use that language. I told another second-career artist about my regret over the years lost after I put my hammer down, leaving a nascent art practice behind. “Your eye never stopped working,” she said. Yes, the eye worked, and it was greedy. In a literal subterranean space beneath my house, a lifetime’s worth of collected objects sat Waiting. Things — from pebbles to pianos — called out, insisting that they needed to become something more than waste on the side of the road. Today, they have a home. I am a found object sculptor and printmaker.  The objects now crowd my studio, and they are deciding what they will become.

Lakshmi Rivera Amin (she/her) is a writer and artist based in New York City. She currently works as Hyperallergic's editorial coordinator.