The studio visits at Sharpe Walentas Studio Program were such a unique experience. Being able to talk to several artists working in one unified space helped me contextualize a lot of things. For example, it was interesting to feel a sense of community within the space, even though all the artists had completely separate styles, and worked in varying mediums. We learned about the possibilities that exist in residencies and how to take advantage of opportunities which I found extremely helpful in thinking about what I want to do after college.
The artist who I gravitated to the most was Randy Wray. Upon walking in his studio, it felt inviting. There was so much paint and materials on the table. It felt like we were able to really see his process. Several of his paintings hung on the wall, each telling a separate story, but an overall cohesive message. There were several sculptures towards the back of the room. Randy offered great advice on making artistic dreams a reality. He was very open and honest about his own experiences and the obstacles he faced in order to get to where he is currently. He explained how expensive it can be to be an artist, and how it may be difficult to get everyone to support the decision to be an artist. However, he stated that it is important to be true to what is calling to you, and that if you trust in what you can accomplish, you can make it possible. It may be challenging at first, and you have to work hard, but it is possible.
I really loved Wray’s abstracted paintings. His color palette featured earth tones like browns, and greens, but also bright and contrasting colors like orange. He talked about how he wants viewers of his work to consider how the forms he creates can be both familiar and unrecognizable simultaneously. There seemed to be a sort of biological or natural aspect to his works. Some of his works seemed to reference cells or a brain. Yet, they exceeded one simple form and were very complex, and not literal. Every time I looked at a work, I discovered new forms and textures. I could see the influence drawing has in Wray’s process. The paintings seemed to be strongly medium based, and the relationship between the brush and the canvas seemed to play an important role in the works. I liked how he paid such attention to the positive and negative spaces and how he considered where shapes existed within these forms. I was also really drawn to how he applied the paint and how you could see the handmade quality to his work. It felt so unique, and unable to be replicated. His experiences and his personality seemed to really translate to his work, and make it extremely memorable for me. I thought about Francis Bacon’s work as well as Francisco Goya’s while looking at Wray’s work. They seemed to reference a sort of grotesque investigation of nature and the psychological effects of the environment around the artists. They also seemed to share similarities in the facture and tension of the brushwork. Wray’s work was definitely some of the most unique and captivating I have seen this semester.
After visiting with Wray, we met Yasi Alipour. Her work was pretty different than a lot we saw this semester. She works with folding paper to create mathematical and geometric forms. She also does performance pieces and writing and poetry. Alipour seemed to be open to experimentation and was welcoming to us, allowing us to touch the materials she was working with. She discussed how graduate school influenced her decisions and current artistic practices in both positive and negative ways. I liked how open she was to discussing these topics. Her work seemed to slow me down, and almost hypnotize me. I was amazed how the paper she creates could make so many shapes and illusions just from folding. The process of making a work seems repetitive but I can imagine it is cathartic as well.
Finally, we visited TARWUK, a husband and wife duo from Croatia. TARWUK offered valuable insight about how working collaboratively can allow for new innovations and another set of ideas. I was amazed to learn how modern and contemporary art is so different in Croatia than in the United States. I think that a lot of times it is easy to focus on art in New York, and to forget how art is responded to in other places. TARWUK opened my eyes to how the political environment can influence artistic practices in many ways. I enjoyed their sculptural pieces and felt a sense of existentialism within their work. It was really interesting to see how their sculptures influenced their paintings and vice versa. Their work seemed really powerful, and even perplexing.
(Image courtesy of Randy Wray, https://www.twocoatsofpaint.com/)