Few can deny the pleasure of viewing beautiful or compelling art on museum walls and pedestals, but sophisticated collectors and curators can’t get the full scope of an artist without visiting their studio. The arrangement of paints, brushes and tools, works in progress and the objects and inspiration throughout a space disclose much about the artist at its center.
With this in mind, Southampton Arts Center’s (SAC) first exhibition of 2019, Takeover! Artists in Residence welcomes nine East End artists to install pop-up studio spaces inside the museum where they will work and show for six weeks through Sunday, March 24. The show marks SAC Artistic Director Amy Kirwin’s curatorial debut and features a range of styles and media from Scott Bluedorn, Daniel Cabrera, Darlene Charneco, Kara Hoblin, Ruby Jackson, Laurie Lambrecht, Jerome Lucani, Paton Miller and Jeff Muhs.
Each artist prepared his or her area—dropping off easels, tools and supplies, personal items and finished works—leading up to the opening reception this Saturday, February 9 from 5–7 p.m. From there, “They’ll all try to spend as much time as they can here,” Kirwin says.
Artists may work and play in their temporary studios whenever an SAC staff member is onsite, but they’ve also committed to weekly studio time slots from Thursday–Sunday, 12–6 p.m. An online schedule allows visitors to see when particular artists are working, but if all goes well, guests can expect plenty of unscheduled surprises.
“If we’re here, they can be here,” Kirwin says, pointing out that certain artists are between studios right now, so SAC will be their only workspace. “The idea of being able to go into an artist’s studio—it’s such a rare opportunity not afforded to most people,” she says.
Even if an artist isn’t there, visitors can enjoy a firsthand look at the studios, each full of life and in a constant state of flux. “It’s a bit of the unexpected,” Kirwin says of the evolving exhibition. “It’s about pulling back the curtain and being immersed in that process.”
Kirwin carefully selected her featured artists to represent a broad spectrum of age and approach. Most have participated in SAC’s annual East End Collected group exhibition, curated by Paton Miller, who is also showing in Takeover! “They all know each other,” she says. “They have a rapport that’s very humorous.”
This easy interaction will be on full display during planned Takeover! hangouts, where artists gather after hours, every Thursday, February 14–March 21 from 6–8 p.m., to paint, sip drinks, play ping-pong—whatever. “There will always be a little something extra,” Kirwin says, suggesting guests might also be treated to a performance, music and more.
“I love visiting my friends’ studios. I love seeing their tools,” Miller says. “It’s like visiting Frankenstein’s laboratory—you get a view into the artist’s process.” The painter, who is completing a residency in California and won’t appear at SAC until after February 12, is excited by Kirwin’s concept, and his space is ready. Miller delivered finished paintings and furnishings, such as paint-spattered worktables and easels, a beat-up, pleather easy chair, and an antique tricycle used as a drawing prop for his students.
“I’ve been teaching for 35 years,” Miller says, explaining how he intends to paint and teach in his SAC space, adding, “It’s just a continuation of what I do normally.” The artist admits he’s happy to enjoy the museum’s heat instead of constantly burning wood for warmth, as he must in his home studio. “About this time of year, I get a little tired of it,” Miller says.
Along with bringing in students and friends, some artists are embracing the communal aspect of Takeover! and working together on special projects. As Kirwin puts it, “There’s already collaboration afoot.” Scott Bluedorn and Daniel Cabrera, for example, are building a Peruvian reed boat using local phragmites to create something useful with the otherwise harmful invasive species.
A multimedia artist who curates shows and regularly collaborates with others, Bluedorn says Kirwin’s idea for Takeover! injects much-needed, outside-the-box thinking into the local arts scene. “It’s something I’m really surprised hasn’t happened before out here,” he says. “It’s the future of what these institutions should be aiming for. I think it’s right on.”
SAC Executive Director Tom Dunn agrees. “I think it’s the perfect show for us,” he says. “It’s exactly what Southampton Arts Center should be doing.”
Visit southamptonartscenter.org for the full schedule of Takeover! Artists in Residence events and artist appearances. Southampton Arts Center is located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton.