Moving an Art Studio: Boxes and Baggage

The old studio had charming, arched windows. photo: jparadisi 2012

In December, I moved my studio. Construction needs of the landlord required vacating a few art studios, including mine. Fortunately, another was available in the same building. The caveat: I couldn’t move in until December 1, and had to vacate the old studio by December 31, 2011. Between holiday busy-ness, and increased census at work, I threw everything haphazardly into boxes, dumped them equally haphazardly into the new studio, and locked the door.

After the holidays, selling art, a new writing opportunity, and knitting socks distracted me.

This is the third studio I’ve rented since making that commitment to my art. I prefer studios in romantic old buildings. These often change owners, require new construction, or are torn down altogether. Renting studios adds a Bedouin characteristic to an otherwise stable life. In true nomadic spirit, I schlep boxes of art supplies, broken pieces of junk I hope to transform into art supplies, empty yogurt cups for mixing paint, notes from art school, good work from my student days, poor work from my student days, several unfinished paintings I intend to return to, and the equivalent of a paper ton in past issues of Art Forum, Art News, Modern Painters, Women in the Arts, and Cabinet magazines.

Now it is nearly March, and I begin the onerous task of organizing a new studio.

Opening its door, I confirm no “studio elves” have magically transformed my stuff into an organized workspace. Studio elves exist; they are called interns. They work for free, but you have to be a famous artist to have one. Or, if you are rich, they are called studio assistants. You have to pay them. I cannot afford one.

Friends offered to help, but I turned down their offers. The truth is, I want to sort through the fossils of my art life with the care of an archeologist. I’m not sure what I hope to find, but here’s some random thoughts I had while hauling bags of yogurt cups to the recycle bin:

  • Why do I have hundreds of empty yogurt cups? How much paint do I hope to mix in my lifetime? Why do I eat so much yogurt?
  • Art students draw lots of naked people. I have seen more fully naked people as an artist than as a nurse.
  • Bad paintings, like bad relationships, don’t improve over time. Get rid of them.
  • Sometimes junk is junk. Quit trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
  • Some paintings are good even if everyone doesn’t understand them. Believe in yourself.

    My new studio is brilliantly illuminated by skylights. photo: jparadisi 2012

Obviously, this is a metaphor. Ideas and beliefs no longer serving us gather like old junk behind a closed door while we are distracted by new experiences.  We lug them home and to work where they sabotage us. They are heavy, dragged from place to place, taking up space better occupied by a richer life.