22 Dec Space to Create
Artists in their creative spaces
An artist’s studio is the soul of their creative process. In a physical space of their own formation, artists experience the breadth of emotional, intellectual and creative freedom. They shape the space, and the space shapes them.
I recently had the privilege of photographing five talented and diverse Bend-based artists in their studios. Here’s what I discovered: artists have a lot of stuff, and they like to move it around. Objects are collected from nature, salvage yards, dismantled toys. The artists mix glazes, paints and inks. They hammer, glue and sand. Power tools create sparks, hand tools carve into clay and wood. They are deliberate and delicate, sometimes. Other times, they smash and destroy things. They play, they work. In the end, things of beauty emerge. But the process, and the space, can be messy and unpredictable.
Follow me and delve into the eclectic, sacred world of five local artists’ work spaces.
A native Oregonian, McMullen adopted her father’s classic first name after he passed. She has been a working artist for what she describes as eons. McMullen’s studio is a room in her home, but really every inch of her eclectic house becomes a place for her to work. And it seems everything in her small and crowded house works its way back into her art. Every table, shelf and countertop is covered with found objects, many of which end up as part of a finished piece of art. “From an early age, I have been a collector of agates, shells and shiny objects,” she says. “I can remember finding old-fashioned thumbtacks that had been flattened, and wearing them as jewelry.” The busyness of her working space means McMullen is constantly finding new ways to clear more space to create. Re-evaluation, rethinking and moving things around are not new experiences for McMullen. In fact, she’s had a lifetime of perfecting the art of crafting and re-crafting spaces. “Our first childhood home was on a lake, and my twin sister and I would drag towels and lawn chairs into the shallow end of our ‘lagoon’ and there we would set up mermaid lairs. There was always that compulsion to make a space our own.”
Entering Ron Schultz’s attic studio is like stepping into a Roald Dahl novel, where the atmosphere is unpredictable and darkly comic. Low ceilings, weighty bookcases and stacks of drawings lead up to the narrow door, beyond which possibility awaits. “Every day, I feel a great sense of the creative and inspirational possibilities that reside in this space,” he says. Schultz is formally trained as a fine art printmaker, and spends his days creating and teaching in the genres of mixed media, book-making, drawing and printmaking. A conversation with Schultz can be esoteric, like watching a PBS science special on how the universe works. “Time, in all of its manifestations, is the ever-present fabric underlying conscious life. It is the medium we are all swimming through and it deserves notice,” he says. This philosophy explains the clocks—there are so many clocks in Schultz’s studio. “After all,” he says, “Everything we do in life is performed on the stage of time.”
Sandy Anderson works in her garage studio on her current art form of choice—life-size human forms made of clay. “Clay has been a friend of mine for a very long time,” says Anderson, dipping her hands into familiar cold glaze. “But it is a demanding mistress. It dries on its own schedule, parched and brittle, sometimes cracking like mud flats.” Clay reminds Anderson of all that lies beneath our feet. “The tactile qualities of clay refer to the earth and its surface,” she says. Her work references what can be found under the earth, too—standing in Anderson’s studio is akin to being at an archeological site. There’s a fair amount of dust, and clay body parts. Figures in human form, mostly torsos, lie across Anderson’s large wooden worktables, as if in the silent slumber of ancient spirits. The figures are inspired by her trips to Africa. “The bones of our common ancestors have lived in my mind, and these figures come from that paleoarchaeology place that is still of great interest.”
Chris Cole is a self-taught kinetic sculptor and painter. He works in his backyard studio, which is part old bus, part garden shed. The bus is a walk-in toolbox for Cole, and the shed is a well-lit, dry working space. “I got the bus when we moved out of a house that had a garage,” he says. “The bus allowed me to have space regardless of where we lived.” Sometimes, Cole’s studio rattles, and that’s because of its proximity to the railroad tracks and steel yard. But being close to those places is a natural connection for Cole. By engineering parts from discarded machines, gears and bikes, Chris ignites life into large-scale creatures, some real, like a fish or a bird, and some fantasy, like a scorpion dog or a zephyr, but all working kinetic machines, driven by a motor or a hand-crank. In his art and in his studio, everything is in motion, including Cole. Looking like a masked super-hero wielding a drill, he flits around the space. Sparks fly. Power tools whirr. Things are dismantled. “Once, when I was a child, I broke my parents’ car’s headlights,” he says. “The car wasn’t in the driveway for more than 15 minutes and my parents even told me not to play with the lights. But I couldn’t resist.” Today, Cole tears things apart only to rebuild them into something new.
Pat Clark is the founder of Atelier 6000, a unique, state-of-the-art printmaking and book arts studio that she created for many artists, not just herself. In this studio, artists share space, collaborate and learn from teachers and each other the 15th century tradition of printmaking. Clark’s signature style is that of an ‘art cheerleader,’ and she loves the experience of seeing other artists discover new techniques or become inspired by seeing something in a new way. “There are so many “aha” moments that happen for people when they discover something looks different backwards or upside down. Or when a color is grayed, enhanced or brightened. Or when they use a grid to get even margins,” she says. Of her lifelong role as educator and mentor to artists, Clark says, “Natural leader? You mean was I always bossy? I was the oldest child and my siblings thought I was aloof, always my head elsewhere. But I did take the reins. I’m impatient.”