an evolution of creative spaces

For someone as messy as I am, the organization and appearance of my personal spaces are surprisingly important. My bedroom, my bathroom, my car- all spaces that I spend so much of my time in, that are astonishingly messy, but in a way that I find sort of comforting. I, as a person, pride myself on not being messy. My spaces might be messy, but I am not a mess. Not usually, anyway. I'm a nester, which on good days means mostly that I like to make spaces immediately mine, no matter how long I'm actually staying in them, and on bad days, means that everything I own ends up in various strategic piles around me. 

My studio space is maybe the one general exception to the rule. Because it is a personal space, but one that I'm often inviting other people to spend time in, I make a much bigger effort to keep it habitable than I do for say, my bedroom.

The first studio ever granted to me was a three-walled, 12'x12' space that I shared with my friend Rona in the Gallery building at the Burren College of Art. It was my third year of undergrad, and I was working almost exclusively in 2d digital photography. I'd never been given so much space to work in before, and I was pretty overwhelmed by it. I kept a worktable, chair and pile of books there. Halfway through the semester I used some of the wall space to consider several large maps of the area that I'd purchased. I never used it for anything else, hence why I have a photo of Rona's space, but not mine:

Rona's half of our first shared studio at the Burren College of Art in Ireland.

Rona's half of our first shared studio at the Burren College of Art in Ireland.

In the spring of that year, Rona and I chose to move into a smaller-but-brighter studio affectionally referred to as "the Fishbowl". Our space in the Bowl featured high ceilings, a 12' shared wall, a sink, and a long set of low shelves. Rona had the back half of the space, granting her another 6-8' of wall space, while I took the half of our shared wall and the courtyard-facing wall made of glass panels. I was still working overwhelmingly in 2d, although I'd added a painting course to my schedule that term. The Fishbowl was a interesting experience in the public-private duality of artists' spaces- tourists who came to view the castle on the grounds of the school often had to walk past our space on their way to or from the Gallery building, and would stop to view us through the aquarium-like walls. Children would point at something that was going on in the space, asking their parents about whatever bizarre-looking thing we we working on that week. I don't know what sort of answers those parents gave their young ones- none of them ever came inside to consult us.

The view from my studio table in the second space that Rona & I shared, looking into the courtyard. It was often obscured by my work prints and wide edits, due to lack of wall space.

The view from my studio table in the second space that Rona & I shared, looking into the courtyard. It was often obscured by my work prints and wide edits, due to lack of wall space.

Looking from the castle through the courtyard. Rona and I shared the left 1/3 of the set of windows on the right.

Looking from the castle through the courtyard. Rona and I shared the left 1/3 of the set of windows on the right.

The campus cat and I, sitting behind my studio table. This cat really did love me. Rona's half of our shared wall begins behind me.

The campus cat and I, sitting behind my studio table. This cat really did love me. Rona's half of our shared wall begins behind me.

When I returned to my home institution after a year of studio indulgence at the Burren, I didn't quite know what to expect. I knew that the space generally granted to Photography thesis students was limited, but I thought for sure that they couldn't expect all twelve of us to share a space only twice the size of the spaces that I'd shared with Rona in Ireland. I was wrong. 

The Corcoran gave each Fine Art Photography thesis student a 5' long table and the wall immediately in front of it. Some of us rearrange our spaces in such a way as to take better advantage of what we had versus how we needed to work- I replaced my large table with a much smaller pedestal in order to better access the wall space, many of my peers installed shelves for books and supplies, and one of us removed their table and replaced it with a cushy armchair, abandoning the pretense of working in the space completely. I like to think that our shared clown car-esque experience really brought us all closer- that mightn't have been true, but it sure felt like it.

Ta da! The entirety of my studio space as a fourth-year BFA student. For reference, my space begins at the door frame, that hanging print is 55" wide (4.5 ft), and the roll of paper in the bottom-right is leaning up against my roommate's studio table.

Ta da! The entirety of my studio space as a fourth-year BFA student. For reference, my space begins at the door frame, that hanging print is 55" wide (4.5 ft), and the roll of paper in the bottom-right is leaning up against my roommate's studio table.

The MFA studios at UAF, where I've been for the past year and a half, are housed in a gutted graduate student triplex. The building was condemned as a housing unit at some point, after which it was given to the Chemistry department, after which it transferred into the ink-and-paint-stained clutches of the Art department. It's not ideal, but it has a lot of potential. We can't make many structural changes to it, which is disappointing, but it's a space, which is a good thing.

The first space that I occupied in the MFA studios. My space began about halfway through the last windowpane on the right and included the wall on the left and the wall at the back of the photo. It was about six square feet that housed a work table and a low set of shelves, with 5' of wall on the left and 6-7'ft of space on the back wall.

The first space that I occupied in the MFA studios. My space began about halfway through the last windowpane on the right and included the wall on the left and the wall at the back of the photo. It was about six square feet that housed a work table and a low set of shelves, with 5' of wall on the left and 6-7'ft of space on the back wall.

I don't have any photos of my first studio setup because I wasn't very comfortable in it. I didn't have much space to spread out and I didn't feel at all like the space belonged to me. Working in borrowed space is fine for a certain amount of time, but after awhile it can grow tiring. This January, I was able to move into a vacated space on the other side of the basement. The long, continuous wall is ideal for organizing wide edits and really getting to sit with the work I'm making. Even after moving to a largely digital workflow, making work prints and sequencing physical images is the only way to visualize what shape the final work will take. I plan to begin making final prints at the end of this semester, and this wall will allow me to hang several of them together at a time, rather than just one or two (like my previous space would've allowed).

My current space in the MFA studios.

My current space in the MFA studios.

The perfect, unobstructed 15-foot wall that runs along the left side of my space. 

The perfect, unobstructed 15-foot wall that runs along the left side of my space. 

All photos in this post are mine unless otherwise noted.