A View From the Easel

Welcome to the 220th installment of A View From the Easel, a series in which artists reflect on their workspace. This week, artists measure time through paint stains on a studio table, meditate on the meaning of home, collect molted feathers, and re-envision their practice.

Want to take part? Check out our submission guidelines and share a bit about your studio with us! All mediums and workspaces are welcome, including your home studio.

Verónica Uribe, Facatativá, Colombia

Before the COVID pandemic, I used to rent a studio in the city. In June 2020 my family and I spent three months in the rural area of Facatativá (30 miles away from Bogotá) where we own a farm with a plum orchard. While in lockdown, painting and drawing en plein air invited me to close my urban workshop and build a small space in this beautiful location. This 13 by 16-foot wooden shed, surrounded by ancient rock formations, is now the place where the view of a mountain takes my breath away and where an old walnut tree has proved to be awe-inspiring. The variety of shades of green in the landscape, the cows that graze in nearby pastures, and the sunsets I get to see are a gift to my eyes. Over the years my art practice has moved between figuration and abstraction, working in series that have a beginning and an end. Inspiration has come from cartography, Classical literature, and my notebooks from school, among other topics. In the studio, the protagonist is a big wooden table that my father gave to me when I enrolled in art school. It is a large board supported on stilts, its surface is covered with 27 years’ worth of paint stains, including recognizable colors and smudges from specific projects. This is now my art-making sanctuary, the most beautiful studio I’ve had in my painting career.

Malavika Rao, Los Angeles, California

My studio at the moment is a corner of my little bedroom in my costly Los Angeles apartment. After I completed my MFA at CalArts, I had to give up my spacious graduate studio. That studio witnessed my immense growth as both an artist and a person, and saying goodbye to it was bittersweet. I half-heartedly searched for a studio in LA to replace it, but ultimately decided I couldn’t afford it yet. Luckily, my work lives very comfortably within a domestic environment because that is where I recognize its roots. In my work, I primarily investigate the structures of the domestic space; the unnoticed labor that maintains it, the relationships that form within it, and the ideologies that construct it. Through fiber art, painting, ceramics, and installation, I aim to reconstruct the domestic space as a powerful realm of resistance and love. A place from which we can begin to heal and build toward the future. Materially, I am drawn to craft practices such as crochet and quilting because of their connection to the domestic space, and the homemakers I know. While I sit at this little desk in this little corner, I think about the idea of home; how does one build a home for oneself, for loved ones? What objects make up a home, and what goes into maintaining and managing it? I think about bell hooks’s idea of homeplace. Home as a space where we can return to rest, to recover, and ultimately get ready to bring down structures of oppression. I think of my mother who’s been a homemaker since she was 23 years old. I wonder if she asked these questions of herself. It is from this place that I envision a future through (home)making. It is here that I sew a patchwork tent larger than my room, paint colorful gouache miniatures exploring my relationship to the past, and build sturdy canvas tote bags for my friends.

Charlie Brouwer, New River Valley, Virginia

My studio is at the end of a gravel road in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. For 28 years I’ve worked here constructing wood sculptures and concocting large installations. The 30 outdoor sculptures installed in the field and woods surrounding it are memories of what I used to do here. Suddenly, in 2021, becoming legally blind changed my practice.

These “new eyes” made driving impossible, but I began noticing trees. They lined our Appalachian roads with their arms raised high against the winter sky. They saved my art practice by encouraging me to pay attention to them. I found that the high contrast of charcoal on white paper and canvas suited my low vision. As I drew them they taught me about persistence, grace, and silence. I was shocked when a large woods just down the road from us was logged. But, as I walked among their ruins and remains, they spoke of other things — about time and how suffering belongs to us all, and life includes both carnage and beauty.

My studio is a sanctuary, built with considerable effort … it expects me to use it … so now, in gratitude, I do.

Ruth Geos, San Francisco, California

I have had the same studio since 1986, at the once-active Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. You can see the city, downtown, through my windows to the left, with the distant outlines of skyscrapers, and to the right, the edge of the massive tree in the courtyard outside, and the bay just beyond. When I first saw this space, it was entirely empty except for a swept-up mound of cigarette butts and one roll of white drawing paper left behind. I fell in love — just like they say, a coup de foudre — and though I had no money, I signed the lease.

Over time, the studio changed me: from painting in gouache and egg tempera with a defined palette of colors, to a new kind of three-dimensional work with bird feathers, gold, poetry, and music. Here you can see finished pieces in the acrylic cases, works in progress, and multiple collections of feathers (given to me by those who save the molt of their birds). I work best within all these possibilities around me. My studio space contains it all, and holds all the parts for me for when I am here again.

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