North America for more than a century attracts artists from all over the world and invariably ranks among the top 10 art directions of the world. To understand how independent American art lives, let’s look at the studio of 8 artists.
In North America, there are many cities with millions of people going to get their dreams. If Los Angeles attracts the film industry or the music industry, then in terms of art the tone sets New York. Artists from all over the world come here hoping to light their star in the city’s sky. The art climate here is probably one of the most stable in the world. The art market in North America, unlike other industries, has practically not suffered during the crisis – collectors continue to spend money, galleries do not close, and artists come and go. To understand how and what independent American art lives on, it is worth visiting the studios of local artists and see the atmosphere of what you can then see at various exhibitions and art shows around the world.
Justin Orvis Steimer
The studio and Justin’s house are in Bushwick. This once industrial and uninhabited neighborhood of Brooklyn became popular with artists as soon as Williamsburg (the closest part of Brooklyn to Manhattan) saw a triple rise in rental prices. At the same time began an active migration of the entire creative layer in the interior of Brooklyn. The artists began to rent former industrial lofts, turning them into studios and apartments. When you get to Justin’s house, you immediately realize that in this space is not only his creative process but also a large number of parties, where he himself acts as a DJ. The bunk studio also serves as a bedroom and a place for meditation.
Justin started drawing at the age of eight. He moved to New York at a fairly mature age. Painting by Steimer combines mysticism and technology, in his latest works Justin used old parachutes as canvases. He is not ready to change his studio in Bushwick for anything else, and New York City considers the best place for artists on Earth: “I love Brooklyn and New York. I don’t plan to start a family, I just need my art, and this is the ideal place for this, you can create in the format “here and now” and meet many amazing people.
Osamu Kobayashi (小林 治)
Osamu Studio is so far away that it takes almost an hour to get from Manhattan. My arrival woke up the artist: “Sorry, I was asleep. It’s very important to sleep during the day – it helps to keep the balance”. Osamu is easy to understand when you look at his impressive list of projects: in ten years of his artistic activity, the artist has participated in more than 60 American exhibitions.
Kobayashi used to shoot an industrial loft in Brooklyn, which was even reported on in the studio guide for the MoMa Ps1 project. But the working schedule allows Osam to work mostly at night, so the trips to a separate studio had to be abandoned. The artist has equipped the first floor of his house for the workshop – now he can start and finish the work at any convenient moment for himself. In the workshop, curtained from all sides with artificial light, the artist’s work boils daily.
A graduate of MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), who also successfully graduated from Jeff Koons, talks about New York like this: “And where else can you go if you want to do something real? Something happens here all the time, you’re in an environment that gives you development. In general, I am from South Carolina, and I graduated from college in Baltimore. I first met most of my current friends there. Almost everyone has moved here for a reason.
Greg Haberny is a representative of a real art family, an artist in the third generation. His studio is located in a spacious garage in the main gay district of Manhattan – Chelsea. “I need a lot of space – you see how much I have here. You probably thought when you walked in here, “What the hell is this guy doing here?” It all seems to be garbage. It’s just that I like to do large-scale work the most, and in this studio, you can choose any place from wall to floor and start working. It’s important for me that guests perceive my work through the place where it was created. Greg’s studio is really more like a dump than a place where art can be born. Especially in contrast to the cozy, ivy-covered streets of Chelsea that you walk here.
Greg came to New York from Connecticut and during the ten years of his activity he managed to create his own projects all over the world: from the annual Art-Basel in Miami to various New York, London, and Berlin galleries and art fairs. His works are sold at Phillips contemporary art auctions. Haberny lectured on art, shot an underground movie – in short, did his best to leave a mark on the Big Apple art field. The artist loves New York: “I can’t imagine myself anywhere else, even though I work 60 hours a week, and sometimes I don’t know what’s going on around me. There are energy and life”.
The Fort Makers: Naomi S. Clark and Nana Spears
The duo of artist Clark and manager with the creative spark of Spades was formed when we met. Since then, they have rented in Brooklyn a spacious room on the fifth floor of a huge industrial building, now turned into lofts. To find this place, one has to walk half of the Hasidic Quarter, cross the highway and walk through the park. Naomi and Nana love their studio for its spaciousness: it easily accommodates hand-made furniture, wide tables for working with textiles. The most important advantage of the loft is a large wall, which serves Naomi as a working cloth.
The Fort Makers are quite active in New York’s art life, despite their busy schedules related to clothing production or the development of various collaborations. Naomi, with a classical art education, creates drawings that are later translated into prints and can be used for almost anything. Last year, for installation at the DUMBO Art Festival, Naomi painted canvases, which were then put into various patterns in the park between the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, and then removed from one of the bridges. Naomi offers creative solutions for new projects and helps with implementation. Her path has been through the thorns of management in the fashion industry and as a result, Fort Makers made their own collection and in 2013 they collaborated with Victoria’s Secret, which has been written about by all New York magazines and blogs.
For life and work, Gail chose the fifth floor of a Brooklyn apartment building in Greenpoint district. The through-room between the bedroom and kitchen became the artist’s working area. She specifically arranged the entire space in such a way that she wouldn’t stop working for a moment. “Sometimes I get up at night and go to the kitchen to get water, and on the way back I look at the canvas or work and think that something can be done differently, and I already forget about the dream and just start working. There is a lot of light in Gail’s apartment, and she just needs it: almost all night the artist dedicates her life to the cause. “Now I work a lot with fabrics. I do everything by hand. Such work is very spontaneous, you can never predict how much time will be spent on it.
Native American woman with a surprisingly sound and, as it seems at first, Russian surname, converted to the modern American way, has never been to Russia, and the surname was “inherited” from her Greek grandfather, who moved to America. “I too love to travel. It is incredibly important for creativity, after a trip to Italy I only want to create, create, and create, but I could hardly change New York for something else forever. If I was invited to work somewhere, I would be able to leave, but only to return later.
A small studio in Bushwick’s industrial loft is located on one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood. Life here boils from the subway to Roberta’s Pizza, which became famous worldwide thanks to the series Girls. In this place there is a cluster of creative sites, where on the first floor you can find a studio with dance performances, on the second floor – a photo studio, and on the third – a carpentry shop, which makes details for one of the future art installations.
The Japanese artist moved to North America five years ago: “I always dreamed of moving to New York. If you want to be somehow connected with art, this place is number one. I have never thought about changing everything”. Shinji gained popularity in the local art market because of his love for 8-bit video games, which inspired him to make pixel wood works. “At first, I just made a cube, then I got a flower, then an animal, and now the project has a whole wall of cats. Designing everything on a computer, he creates his objects from plastic and wood, works with paint and metal. All this requires a special place and conditions for storage – the studio is like a workshop. Shinji notices the bright body of my phone and gets excited: “Oh, did you know that the idea with colored dogs came from these 5c-caverns? I made them as many and exactly the same colors as the entire c5 series of phones. It’s all New York – ideas are born very quickly, and you want to do something new immediately.
Frank de Leon-Jones
Frank Studio is located in one of the industrial lofts in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, known more as a residential area. However, even here, enterprising developers have managed to create a special offer for those who are looking for space to work. The workshop is a creative mess.
Frank works as a designer, photographer, and sculptor. He looks for the beauty in random, loves mysticism and uses different kinds of aesthetics. One of Frank’s latest hobbies is his collaborations with various music bands, with which he develops single covers. First photo projects are created, and then designer artworks are created from them. “Of course, you should have studied classical art before you took up all this,” he jokes. Frank’s parents moved to the USA from Italy and Panama, and the artist himself was born and grew up between Los Angeles and Chicago. “I am an international child, my relatives are in Italy and Panama, my home is in Brooklyn, and part of my memories is in Los Angeles.
The artist and cartographer Anton Thomas drew a map of North America by hand. Creating this incredibly detailed view of the continent, he spent 5 years with a pen and colored pencils in his hand, which is almost four thousand hours. It is worth mentioning that this is a very ambitious project, which required amazing dedication and great sacrifice from the author. However, they were fully rewarded both personally and professionally.
The map fits on one huge sheet of paper and is a testimony to Thomas’s inhuman persistence and efficiency. It is a very unusual portrait of North America, depicting more than six hundred city horizons, as well as thousands of details, and helping to tell the history of different cities. The artist reflected on the map the local flora or fauna, iconic symbols of the city or monuments – exactly what best reflects the essence and spirit of the city.