Studio Life: Rituals Collections, Tools, And Observations on the Artistic Process by Sarah Trigg was recently published by Princeton Architectural Press, New York. The book follows 100 artists with a focus on their individual studio practices. Trigg, as author, commenced upon her quest in 2009 traversing America in search of artists, friends, emerging and established and document how he or she goes about making art and what they do inside the studio to make this happen. As an author and sort of investigative journalist, Trigg set out with rules in mind and kept on track to document her findings. The specific categories she created are mascots, collected objects, makeshift tools, rituals and residue and habitat. An artist herself, she found resourceful ways to make travel and appointments with particular artists happen. Delving into the project headfirst, she was armed with knowledge of artistic traditions and pursuits that has been ongoing for centuries. An important influence during the crafting of the book came from Witness to a Surrealist Vision at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas and organized by Edmund Snow Carpenter (1922-2011). From Studio Life, the author states,
In the surrealists’ search for new visual structures, they crafted unique ways of working that has little to do with existing visual procedures. Although their process often misinterpreted tribal works for their own purposes, they were among the first to consciously collect and incorporate referential materials and artifacts from other cultures into their art and to create art-based manifestos as expressions of their relationship to materials. These associations created new parameters for their visual art that also included spiritual considerations. What they assembled went beyond a simple collection of objects, and, as such, their history includes valuable strategies for artists and their practices today.
Traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast along with several stops in between, Sarah Trigg takes us on a visual journey with an intimate look inside artists studios, refreshingly not focusing on what they happen to be making, but rather the idiosyncratic rituals that help them arrive where they want to be.
Below are five of these artists, along with a brief excerpt from the book, giving a glimpse into the nature of process and the comfort in obsession or superstition. All below text and photographs by Sarah Trigg unless noted.
Will Cotton / Lower East Side, New York
Just as I was wrapping up the shoot, I noticed Cotton’s cat, Chloe, who seemed to be posing in an imaginary throne. “She’s a Lilac Point Siamese. She’s definitely my mascot” [said Cotton]. By the time I wrote this text, Chloe, who had made it to twenty, had passed away. Cotton sent me a photo of her resting in one of his cotton-candy clouds. ~ST
Daniel Arsham / Brooklyn, New York
At this point of our visit, Oliver the rabbit made a reentry onto the scene, ready for her photo op. After posing for a bit, she directed my attention to her “condo,” a line of cardboard boxes connected through cut-out archway passages. “There’s one other thing.” Arsham told me he could show me a secret room he had designed. “It’s no longer used.” After venturing through an inconspicuous door, up a narrow shaft with a ladder, and through a small trapdoor, I found myself in a mirrored bedroom. Looking up at a mini-skylight, I felt like a burrow animal in its tricked-out den. ~ST
Wendy White / Brooklyn, New York
Wendy White to Sarah Trigg: “When I first got your email,” she said, “the first things that came to mind were my brushes.” Wendy picked up a few customized brushes that looked like they had suffered a doll’s haircut by a three-year-old. “I purposefully distress them to get the effect I want, but no matter how much I try to speed the process up, I can’t. They need to get worn out on their own. Eventually they get used enough so that they are just right.” ~ST
Bradley Pitts / Brooklyn, New York
Pitts visited Russia in 2011 for the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s inaugural space flight. He ended up in Gargarin’s hometown, which now bears the late voyager’s name. “On the anniversary day I met a Russian whose hobby happens to be his interest in the biography of Gargarin. Through broken English, my nonexistent Russian, and sign language, he ended up giving me a private tour of everything in the town.” …”An old woman just came up and put these rub els in my pocket. The only thing I can guess is that it was a good-luck gesture, welcoming the traveler. I thought, I have to keep these separate from the rest, [of what he collected] but I don’t know what they mean.”~ST
Jen de Nike / Brooklyn, New York
At DeNike’s apartment [live/work space], a set of mirrors leaned against the wall. Mirrors are much used in DeNike’s practice, appearing in three of her four additional performances following the ballet [Scrying, 2010] – Hydromancy (2010), Tzaphkiel (2010), Mirror Mirror (2011), and As Above So Below (2011). Next to the mirrors were several curiosities: a collection of homemade oils used for various meditations and rituals, her daily magic journal, and a selection of semiprecious stones. ~ST