Studio theory

[notes from a discussion/lecture by Astrid Bowlby and Gerard Brown at the University of the Arts on 6.26.13]

With what metaphors do we define our studios?  How does that affect our art?

(Keep in mind that the context for this discussion is a low-residency program in which participants are assigned a space to occupy for two months.  The distance between this temporary studio and their home base is not a negligible influence on the scale and type of work they create.  Nomadism has always encouraged portability as a desirable quality in one’s material goods.]


–the paradigm of a school or factory with a single master and assorted apprentices responsible for different niche skills

-theoretically the feudal relationship between master and apprentice eventually leads the apprentice to master their craft…ideally

-examples:  Rubens, pre-18th c. workshops for printing, woodworking, etc.


-materials are made for future use or display in another location

-research and development

Changes associated with modernism in late 18th c. (major shifts in patronage)

-increased emphasis on individual genius and sovereign styles

-concomitant romantic interest/appeal in the studio as a subject of interest
consider Courbet, The Painter’s Studio (A Real Allegory Summarizing Seven Years of My Life as an Artist), 1855

Studio without studio

-plein air painting and the elimination of studios (increased attention to outside world qua valid subject matter in natural history fashion…not bringing it into studio like Durer but going out into it like Monet and Van Gogh)

-bohemian neighborhoods as the “natural” home of artists, marginalized status (i.e. Zola’s “Masterpiece”)-places where the rules supposedly don’t apply

-studio not separate from life

-work looks so different in and out of a studio (need a non-studio place to see your work freshly)

-is any of it stuff to take out of the studio and do in company? (i.e. knitting)


-aimed at a professional environment

-positioning of artist as a person with low morals and on fringes of society was rejected by many Americans (Sloan and Chase, Ashcan school, photographed as wearing suits as a self-projection as a business or professional man…being an artist wasn’t a complete identity in and of itself)

-anecdote about artist painting cuffs white w/ oil paint in order to present well enough to receive a desperately-needed monetary award (Hawthorne on Painting)


-Calder, Warhol

Management class of artists

-Warhol and Koons

Expression of one’s macho  artist cred

-cf. Serra throwing lead in studio to Frankenthaler with enormous paintings

Neutral space to go crazy in

-bias towards white walls

-cf. Batchelor’s book Chromophobia

Fortress of solitude

-the power trip question:  who does or doesn’t get to visit, the idea of a place where the artist compromises with nothing and nobody but the art

-isolated or fishbowl?

Machine, engine/propellant

-empowering the artist/art by designating a particular place to channel/evoke/spur creative process

-(if nice/impressive) your work must justify it

-attitude of a studio:  refuge/gratitude/peace/quiet = conducive to making art but incompatible to needing to make it?


-magical stuff happens for you there




-configured in order to be completed elsewhere, cf. also catering kitchen

-i.e. river


-trash heap


-resting point

Hoarding space

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