After a brief hiatus, we’re back with the 198th installment of A View From the Easel, a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. Want to take part? Please submit your studio! Just check out the submission guidelines.
BA Thomas, Raleigh, North Carolina
Here, oh here, is my unedited, un-Instagram-worthy artist playpen during times of quarantine. Back in February of 2020, I got home from hanging 19 paintings and 19 cut-outs in a solo show, walked in my studio, and turned on the light. This is what I saw — I burst into laughter. Why? Well, I paint rooms and furniture, so I study how private, interior spaces often reflect psychological states and behavioral choices.
At the time, I didn’t know if anyone would physically see my work due to the social restrictions. I just knew that it was vital that I make it anyways. My stress was felt through the mess. Empty coffee cups, sketches, notes strewn on the floor, cookbooks used as weights to flatten my cut-outs, scraps of paper, dried paint, a fan hastening drying time to meet my deadline.
Looking back at this studio wasteland, I see a person who was terrified, and who put all of that emotion into making work — painting, drawing, mixing, cutting, gluing, peeling, scraping, and sanding. It was one of the only forms of control I had at the time. This space is still my playpen, but it’s cleaner. Things are better now.
When schools closed, I had my preschooler with me 24/7. She always wanted to help with whatever I was doing, so I created projects for her that related to pattern and symmetry in nature, which are themes I explore in my work. We both enjoyed this exercise so much that we decided we wanted to share what we were doing, so we started inviting other children for masked messy art playdates in the studio. The pandemic has eroded many of the distinctions between my work and life in general. During lockdown, I eventually decided to try to embrace these blurred boundaries. This photo illustrates the evolution of my studio into a combined workplace and family-friendly space.
My beloved basement studio — my mental and physical haven that I spent months and months cleaning, organizing, decorating. In coming back to painting after a few years of maternity leave, in the midst of a pandemic, I experienced a beautiful sort of confluence in those nocturnal hours of solitude down here — being by myself, only for myself, connecting, reflecting. All the various voices and awareness engaged to create harmony in my soul, on the canvas — something new, yet also familiar, like a feeling of home. The more immersed I become, the deeper I become attuned. This is the experience I have every time I come down to my studio — a disconnect from the toils of the outside world, only to become more connected to my inner world, the truly authentic space I inhabit. My studio is an embodiment of what I love most in this world, what I feel is my true purpose — to beautify the world with my hands.
My studio occupies a very modest part of my flat: it’s an enclave about 58.6 sq ft [5.4 sq meters] in the living room of my apartment. The floor is covered of cardboard tiles, connected together by a blue masking tape. Dotted with stains, traces and imprints, left by the successive projects, these slabs tend to constitute a kind of memory of my activity as a painter, in this space more definitive than provisional. This gray and blue grid on the ground, independently of its protective function, above all to define a separate and more sober workspace than that of the living room, in the way to remain there not to overrun the living environment. Which, in fact, turns out to be quite untenable, because the two converge and intermingle daily, due to a sometimes rather harsh balance. The practicality of this improvised studio is the result of a permanent effort of clear, tidy up and rearrange. This painful gymnastics is a continuous necessity which does not escape any phase of work. This is the only resolution to adopt to keep this small studio functional, alive and fruitful.