Artscope Magazine Logo

Open Studio vs. Working Studio

Image of the Sowa districtImage of the Sowa district

By LACEY DALEY – Friday, July 9, 2010

BOSTON – Most people have viewed a finished piece of art in a gallery, shop or on a living room wall. But how many have had the occasion to see how and under what conditions it takes to get there? My guess is not many, especially for those like myself who are relatively new to the visual arts scene.

As artscope’s summer intern, I had no idea what to expect when I set out for SoWa’s First Friday Open Studios on July 2. I thought open studios simply meant artists opened their doors. Much to my surprise, most of the studios that were open concealed all evidence and paraphernalia of the art work. All that remained were shining floors, high heels, wine and priced artwork.

The artists were friendly and the work was astonishing, but nothing quite fit the picture in my head. The first “working” studio that I hunted down drew me in with a waft of wet paint. I knocked on the half open door of Elena Francesca duPlessis just in case she wasn’t open, but her friend Brad assured me she was. Her 500 square foot studio consisted of art in every form. There were finished pieces, unfinished pieces, a piece she was currently working on, paint on the floor, paint on the desk, even paint covering her apron. She was so consumed in her work that I think she might have ignored me if I hadn’t started a conversation.

duPlessis is one of the oldest tenants at 450 Harrison Avenue. She has always participated in Open Studios because she “appreciates the feedback,” but agrees that things are changing. A studio to her is a personal space, a sanctuary where work can be done. Although she is a fan of the event, she doesn’t sacrifice any time and paints while she mingles. Without knowing it, she was slowly making the picture in my head come to life.

Other artists helped to pump life into my open studio vision as well. Stephen Silver pulled me into SilverWoods Studio with his broadcasting of the Red Sox game. Despite the finished look to the front of the studio, I noticed a cubby in the back containing easels, paint-splattered appliances and several copies of artscope — all pluses in my book. It was nice to see some of his character seeping from this back corner and making itself suddenly evident to me in his work on the wall.

Linda Cordner’s studio was another I frequented a few times, and it wasn’t the music or refreshments that kept me coming back. It was her array of encaustic tools that were laid out in a very orderly and aesthetically pleasing manner, which just begged me to ask about them. “I can’t work unless I’m organized,” is what she told me, implying that perhaps her studio always looks this way. I took note of this and approached her wax paintings from a different angle. It was then that I was able to see the thought behind her layers and the strategy behind her indents.

I appreciated the time and conversations I spent with all the artists at SoWa, but I learned more from the “working” studios. Being immersed in the studio environment made the art become much more personal and gave me more perspective. It helped me to see both the artist and the work from a new and heightened level.

  • J.C. Foritano

    Finely written, thoughtful and informative article on open vs working studios at SOWA’S FIRST FRIDAY. I especially enjoyed the “you are there” vividness of your narrative. I enjoyed also your verbal metaphors of “character seeping” out of the artist’s private spaces, and encaustic tools “begging” to be interrogated.
    Good to see you in print after meeting you and talking with you at the Watertown Open Studios.
    I hope you are taking back pleasant memories of Boston and its art and its opportunities for sharpening your prose – as well as the “rug burn” you mentioned.
    I viewed a recent dramatic production at the Lyric Theater here in Boston: “My Name is Asher Lev”
    and then reviewed it for our Artscope Blog. I really enjoyed stretching my muscles, so to speak, by writing about a medium which I enjoy greatly, but haven’t until now written about critically.
    My best wishes.

    Jim Foritano

    P.S. I’m looking forward to attending your aunt Catherine’s opening at Regis College