March 2020 The Soul of the Studio

The Soul of the Studio

A Crit Labber who was moving studios- from a space outside to one inside her home expressed surprise at the level of grief she experienced, to leave a studio of many years, even while knowing the new studio was the right move. I responded that it makes sense to grieve; the studio is a space of the soul. 

I’ve always thought this, but the conversation made me consider it more closely. The studio is where the soul of our work resides, and, for those of us who feel compelled to make art, the soul of our lives. The studio is an intimate space, one of private ruminations and explorations, a space to roam, to dream, to play. The studio is a place where the imagination is fostered, nurtured, cultivated, and grown. It is a space where success and failure are sublimated behind the complex fact of creation, with its fits and starts, its tears and joys, its triumphs and defeats (including those we easily confuse, one for the other). This is where the imagination is made resilient, robust and hearty, able to resist the daily slings and arrows that might diminish it, that cast doubt and aspersions on its value from within and without. The protection of our imagination’s autonomy is an act of resistance.

The studio is also a space we share - a space where all of the art made and all of the conversations had- in the past, present and potentialities of the future, crowd in and participate in our individual acts of creation. The collective space of the imagination is an active force in our studios at every moment, a silent partner working alongside our every action. The shared unconscious of the studio is a collaborator we cannot control, we can only welcome into our peripheral awareness. When we acknowledge its presence we play harder, tougher, more rigorously, and more humbly and soulfully, with the concerns we bring to the table. Our work then joins these conversations, from past into future- a grand dinner party of art.

Crucially, the studio exists in the material world, on the land, in the deep particularities of place. The studio grounds our work and our bodies to its specific parameters and location, the way a family or a home does. Our work is rooted there, in that space, grown by its shape and context, like an indigenous seed adapted to its environment.

leave a studio is to leave a home, to rend a part of our psyche away from itself. The move to a new place, even a better one, does not make that wrenching less visceral in our body, less felt in our soul. We leave ghostly tracings in that space, for a party that we’ll pick up in another place, with its strange coordinates and angles, its unfamiliar windows and doors, its fresh tears and laughters and clinking of new glasses. Raise a toast to the studio, my friends, and come rejoin the party.