This past Sunday my mom and I did the art version of a pub crawl—visiting over a dozen homes and workshops of local Austin artists. I hope to hit up a few more stops this coming weekend, all part of WEST, the third annual West Austin Studio Tour. I remember driving around town thirteen years ago with my friend Joanna as we explored the first ever East Austin Studio Tour. I still like peeking into the homes, personal workspaces, and collective workshops of creatives and seeing what they have produced.
The artwork I saw this weekend is all available for sale, so in keeping with fair use of copyrighted images, and to encourage support of working artists, today’s pictures are smaller than usual and linked to the artists’ websites where you can find a larger version along with additional works. I hope that you will go explore WEST for yourself, or at least poke around online by clicking on anything that sparks your interest.
Our first stop was Christopher Hynes, whose living room beautifully displayed finished pieces, and whose studio in the back felt like a work space should: high ceilinged, supplies organized, and a large collection of CDs to keep you motivated. In the studio he showed me a triptych he has in process, with three blue cubes of varying dimensions. Christopher describes himself as an assemblage artist (a bit like a cross between collage and sculpture, where you “assemble” a bunch of pieces into something new, see “Writer’s Block” above) and color field painter.
He uses Venetian plaster to create large expanses of variegated color. I looked at the surface and expected it to feel rough, like an adobe wall or highly textured spackle job. Then, he encouraged me to touch one of his works. Friends, the artist let me touch a painting! It was smooth like glass. He had applied 36 layers of Venetian plaster, polishing each one, and creating a lovely layered, textured look, but with a very refined finish. He had another unfinished cube that only had 6 or 7 layers, and it was similar, but without the intense complexity of the layers. While this work is best observed in person, here is an example of Hynes’ technique, though not the one I got to touch:
I also noted that he had nifty light switch plate covers in his house, one with a Magritte image on it. I’m a fan of dressing up the boring beige ones whenever possible. I personally have vintage brass switch plates that used to hang in my grandma’s house, though a few rooms still have the builder grade boring ones… Maybe I could commission Christopher to make me a Venetian plaster color field plate cover…hmm… it would be super nice to touch…
Larry Goode welcomed us into his living room, whose walls were filled with his most recent collages using mostly old and antique books. The one that greets you as you enter has a Ferris wheel, with simple wood chairs replacing the standard bucket gondolas. It has a sense of whimsy and solitude that I liked. The illustrations above and below were not on display, but, of the wide range of work on his website, these examples are most similar in tone and materials to what I saw in his home.
I may very well go back Saturday and buy a smaller collage on paper that he had priced for $40. It was a bird with some red fabric as a base layer on its body, and on top of that a layer of text cut from old books affixed like fringe so they would move with a breeze. Feathers that actually flutter. Above the head, almost like a comic speech bubble, were three fragments of text that read “ heart.” “The blood, accordingly,” and “can never go backward.” Goode placed the last line upside-down, so that you have to read it backward from the others. I’m a sucker for a visual pun.
Nearing dinner time my mom and I walked our way up the driveway and to the backyard studio of Sonya Berg, an art professor here in town. And there, on the crisp white walls of her workspace, was my favorite piece of the day:
When I saw Courtyard I immediately loved her blending of the photographic images with oils. She creates collages of photographs, and then paints over them. In this instance, there are parts of the photos that are still untouched by paint, but the paint serves to unify what I presume are at least three distinct photos. The fluted arches to the right of the ornate church window are painted over, and continue to arch over onto the blocky apartment façade. The column between the two images, while drawing a strong line between them, also connects them, as though it is helping to hold up the imaginary roof of both structures. The thin green painted horizontal line that cuts through the center of the artwork reminds me of a clothes line, strung across the apartment courtyard and all the way into the vast open space of the church interior.
This work blends photography and painting, interior and exterior, high religious architecture and mass public housing. It brought back memories of my year in Europe, visiting cathedrals and passing 60s era residential structures while riding public transportation. If this small 6 inch by 6 inch work had been in the budget my sweet husband said I could spend on art for a Mother’s Day present for myself, I would have bought it and brought it home. Alas, my budget is small, so please talk your spouse or friend or relative into buying it, and then invite me to come visit often. (I’m only partly joking.)
Whose private home studio would you like to visit? Are there any local artists whose work you wish you could afford?
If you’d like to find out more about the hundreds of artists inviting people into their homes and studios around town this Saturday and Sunday, click on over to the WEST website .