What can be learned from looking at an artist’s desk? Does the workspace contain the material markers of process? Does it hint at the final outcome of the artwork?
Naturally. But as we’ve gleaned from our ongoing exercise in hearing from artists about their desks, what takes place in the studio and on the desktop is not all wrestling with concepts and materials. It’s where the prosaic business of being an artist meets with its more esteemed sidekicks, inspiration and process.
In this special edition of Artists’ Desks we see the tools of the three very different artistic practices—X-Acto knife, sewing machine, and paint jar—meet comic books and unused swimming pools (the latter is desk-adjacent, of course). Laptops receive pride of place, or maybe they disappear under paintings. We meet feathered companions and encounter the artworks of friends and loved ones. Read on, as three artists exhibiting at the fairs during Armory Week each share an image of their desk and tell us about it.
Manhattan, New York
I have many desks in my studio, and each changes its purpose to deal with the needs of my various projects.
The desk in this picture stays consistent. It is a comfortable and centering corner of my studio, a home base where I accumulate and rearrange images and project ideas to inspire me to move forward.
Here is a list of what was on my desk on 2/26/16:
· My sketchbook
· Pages from the Book Empathetic Plant Alchemy mouse pad from my first solo museum show
· Holiday card from Brooklyn Museum curator Kevin Dumouchelle
· The Pollen Catchers Color Mixing Machine animation for Daata Editions
· Virtual Chimeric Space virtual installation on large motor
· my sewing machine
· mannequin head drawn by my daughter Aya
· Steel painted butterfly
· canvas test print of a CloudSkin
· mannequin body and arms with painted su spirit mask
· rendering of a hypothetical building for Studio Museum’s upcoming Alma Thomas Show
· print out of Alma Thomas’s painting Apollo 12 Splash Down
· drawing by Aya
· postcards and paintings by my studio assistant Yura Osborn
· drawing by Nina Bovasso
· cover illustration by Yura for a children’s story written by my husband Sean Mitchell
· birthday card from my Japanese Grandmother with hand drawn flowers
· preparatory drawing by me
· Land of the Pleasure Machines printed on a Show Paper
· Framed photo of my daughter Aya
· Garment District Arts festival poster
· Poster for Feminist Optics series at Rutgers
Amir H. Fallah
Highland Park, Los Angeles
I’d like to think that I’m a tidy person but when it comes to the studio it’s a constant battle to keep things in order. My studio is in a converted two-car garage and every square inch is packed with supplies and artworks. The perks of a home studio is that my commute is short (about a hundred steps and I’m at work) and that my studio door opens up to a pool in my backyard. Everyone that comes by always asks if I take swimming breaks during the day. I’d love to answer “yes, every single day” but the truth is that this has not happened once in the last 5 years. Sometimes if I’m feeling a bit wild I might dip a toe into the water during the summer months but that’s about as exciting as it gets.
My work desk is an 8 x 4’ piece of chipboard sitting on top of sawhorses. I only work on small paintings at my desk but all of my studio emailing, planning, and computer work happens here. My paintings are for the most part based on photo shoots or collages that I create so I may spend a few weeks sitting at my desk and planning away on the computer before a single drop of paint is touched. Sometimes I’ll work on a small painting and watch a movie or documentary on my laptop. I love these times as it feels like I’m cheating a bit and multitasking. Recently I’ve been finding a cache of artist lectures on YouTube that I’ll play while I work at the desk.
Every once in a while my desk will become so cluttered that I can’t make room to put down my laptop. That’s always a good time to stop what I’m doing and put away all the jars of paint and try to bring some level of order to the controlled chaos. No matter how hard I try things go back to their messy ways in a few days.
New York City
February 19, 2016. This is my desk from 10pm to about 3am. Okay, starting clockwise from 7 o’clock:
- HRH Fennel [the artist's parrotlet], Wonderworld star who likes to sample a lot of my paper and who redecorates most things I like
- Cardboard protector for The Wonderworld of Fennel and Jasmin, on top of some old comics I’m re-reading (when my favorite superhero goes nuts in the early 90s), cutting mat, and some poufy Sponge Bob stickers from Christmas
- Ink stone with Japanese glue and various types of indigo blue inks
- Syringe, Japanese exacto, box cutter, small brushes, bike light, calligraphy pen, erasers
- Sketchbook—in the Spring, Summer, and early Fall, this would be my daylight “desk” where I keep the deli paper bags I’d draw on, dry leaves collection, and many pictures of animals and trees I’m interested in. I’d use this as a hard surface when drawing plants while crawling around gardens, parks, wherever I find plants when biking and exploring.
- …more animals
- My favorite mechanical pencil and the little book (still working on it) that goes with a painting that has Fennel and my coat of arms.
Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco, is presenting a solo presentation of new work—including the aforementioned The Wonderworld of Fennel and Jasmin—by Jasmin Sian this week at ADAA: The Art Show, Booth D24.
—As told to Andrea Alessi
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