Inside the artists’ studios: 5 Seattle-area artists give us a peek – The Seattle Times | Candle Made Easy

As you walk through the Seattle Art Museum’s latest exhibit highlighting the work of artist Alberto Giacometti, you may notice a unique section that doesn’t often accompany an artist’s completed work. A section and a series of photographs are devoted to highlighting Giacometti’s studio space, a modest space he elaborated throughout his career.

The Giacometti Foundation, the French organization that protects and disseminates Giacometti’s work, described the artist’s studio not only as inseparable from his legend, but also as necessary to understand his work. Portraits of Giacometti in his studio show him surrounded by his artwork and capture the image of a man famous for his sculptures of lonely people. Within the walls of this workshop, Giacometti spent 40 years creating.

“His studio crystallized his work, personality and life into a single compact space,” said art historian Michael Peppiatt in a photo essay by Tate London. “In the end, the studio came closer to its vision than any single work or even a body of work and certainly closer than an exhibition or a book.”

Earlier this month, we caught up with five Seattle-area artists to find out what we can learn about their art and goals from the spaces they create in. We asked each artist to tell us, in their own words, about their areas of work and their work. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Marita Dingu

Known for her multimedia works with found objects, artist Marita Dingus works from her childhood home in Auburn, where she grew up. Dingus splits time between her studio in Auburn and her home in Renton, where she lives with her spouse.

My father bought the land in 1950 and built the house in 1956. When my parents died, my brothers and sisters said it was okay that I could keep the family home for my studio. It’s a house in seven acres of woods in Auburn. I’ve lived in this house most of my life. I’ve gone away many times to live in other places, but I always come back. I’ve been there for 66 years, I’ve always loved it because of the forest.

People who come out say, ‘Gosh, you have your own forest.’ The forest influences my work. If you look at my work and think that I grew up in a forest, live in a forest and my studio is a forest, it will make a lot more sense to you as to why the aesthetic is the way it is.

Most of the art I make I do outside on the patio because I’m out in nature on the cement deck looking up at the trees. I get inspiration from the outdoors in the forest, but a lot of my inspiration comes from African art. My favorite African art, of course, came from the groups that lived in the forest, like the Congo. So I say I must be a descendant of a forest dweller because forests really excite me.

I’ve always known that I love the forest, but the older I get, the more I love it.

Romson Bustillo

Interdisciplinary artist Romson Bustillo works in Seattle’s Good Arts Building and creates art that explores mixed media and printmaking. Bustillo moved into this workspace just before the pandemic lockdown began in 2020, having previously worked at a South Jackson Street studio for several years.

It is important that I have this space in which I feel comfortable working, space in which I can think things through, design, pause, reflect etc. without too much distraction or external pressure in one direction or the other walk . That’s why the place is crucial for me. Sometimes you have studio spaces and they’re open spaces. We are individual actual rooms.

Light is super important. I am someone who must have a window. Sometimes studios are inside, so mine tend to be outside. When I enter a room for the first time there is something that is difficult to explain – I try to feel the atmosphere of the room. I have a little ritual of making offerings to the room in my own way to grant me the privilege of working in that room.

And it really is [about] not having to worry about things like order or anything. It’s a space where you can work without distractions. This is the most critical factor for me. During the manufacturing process, it may actually look like a hurricane. And the idea is that you can have that freedom. During production, the idea for many of us is to let out whatever comes out in that moment – knowing that no one will be knocking on your door. Just do it.

Barbara Graf Thomas

Throughout her long career, Barbara Earl Thomas has seen many studio configurations: at one point, she was working in a large building and crammed into the studio late after work. On the other, she shares the studio space with her living room. Now, Thomas creates her intricate paper-cut artworks in a converted home in the Columbia City neighborhood, just a few minutes’ walk from where she lives. Walls and tables are lined with her current projects and prints and pictures that serve as inspiration.

Whatever configuration you have, it has good aspects. When I live in space, I turn around and there everything is. If I get an idea, it would be right there. When I’m away from it, I’m like, ‘Isn’t it great? It’s not about washing the dishes and picking my clothes off the floor. It’s all about this one thing.’

My gallery work that you will see, each series grows out of what I did last. So you go back 30 years, everything keeps growing from the fertile soil that I planted or made before. I come here and I’m like, ‘Okay, I have to finish a show.’ I just have to keep my eye on that sign and just walk towards it. Then, while I’m doing that, all sorts of things happen that I didn’t imagine or expect. The work kind of builds on itself, my skills build on itself and the work starts to appear. I’m good at following the idea rather than generating an idea that I can’t get off of. I start and I have a general idea and the work starts to unfold.

Whatever comes into my space becomes fair game. So I try to surround myself with things that I want to influence or that I want to think about or that I don’t want to forget. I really envy people who do the diary thing every day. I just never developed the habit. I have some kind of cursory notes. When I hear something, I write it down so I can remember that word or phrase because it’s related to something that interested me.

Aramis O. Hamer

Entering the studio of Aramis O. Hamer, you come face to face with the size and bold colors of her spiritual murals. Hamer works from a Ballard studio in a converted building that has been drywalled to allow a variety of artists to have their own individual workspaces. In a corner office, Hamer is surrounded by ceramic artists, photographers, painters, fashion designers and more. Half of Hamer’s space is dedicated to her efforts to sell and ship her work, and another side has the unstretched canvas of her latest work pinned to the wall.

I actually came from a studio where it was a collective studio space, which was amazing. But as my practice started to grow, I realized I needed my privacy. I needed something where it was my place. In the common room I had to pack all my things and be considerate of my neighbors. One thing about moving from painting in my living room to a studio is that I can just leave things out. So when you get back into your creative realm, you can just get back into the practice.

I usually paint by laying the canvas on the floor and watering it. You can see a little spiral here in the middle of my bottom. I had put a smaller canvas on it and I poured paint. The beauty of a stretch canvas is that it is like a plate. You can twist it and it will drip a certain way. The great thing about the unstretched canvas – you can fold it completely. From this fold of the canvas you make this kind of psychologist’s inkblot, Rorschach symmetry that gives you another level.

And it’s able to give me scale in an affordable way because huge canvases already stretched in the store are really expensive. So there’s the cost benefit, storage, and creative practice of having that flexibility to create different shapes by using the canvas and folding it on itself.

Here it was even busier [before recently reorganizing]. It frustrated me because I felt like I was a mail order company as opposed to an artist. So much square meters were boxes and shipping which is great. As a full-time artist, I sell things, put them out. But I really wanted to prioritize the space for my creative practice.

Jake Prendez

Artwork by owner and co-director Jake Prendez hangs on a wall at the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in South Delridge. The opposite wall features the work of other artists from marginalized communities. But tucked away in a corner is Prendez’s workspace, where he paints steps away from the store’s gallery and checkout counter.

It’s not ideal, but it works. It gets a little distracting because you’re painting in a zone and then you’re like, ‘I want to buy these things.’ I’m going to paint here and I think a lot of people will get curious. They’ll come by and just watch for a bit and maybe ask a few questions. It’s usually like, “Oh, what color are you using? What are you drawing?’ And I’ll explain.

Art Jake was born in LA. I got really involved with the Chicano art scene in East LA. We did all these pop-up art shows and did the art walk in downtown LA. There were simply great rooms and I was surrounded by great artists. There were these Chicano type stores that sold art and clothing and then these common areas. The idea was that it was an autonomous space. It wasn’t a non-profit organization, it wasn’t a company. It was funded entirely by the community.

One of the things I immediately realized in Seattle was that we had the talent, but we didn’t have the space. I met some incredibly talented artists. They did all these shows and never really crossed paths. I wanted to be the glue that brought people together. The community immediately accepted and supported this space.

We find that we have already outgrown this space. This was the first step. The second step is a larger commercial space. The big third step is the Nepantla Cultural Arts Center. There will be a gallery, a maker space where you can be creative, a digital art space, a tech program that teaches through an anti-racist, anti-sexist curriculum. And affordable artist studios. That’s a few years later, but it’s going really fast.

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