There was plenty of finished art to see in West River Arts on Whalley Avenue as artists threw open the doors of their studios for City Wide Open Studios’s Westville weekend. For some artists the weekend was as much about making the art as showing it.
Inside Mohamad Hafez‘s studio, the artist fielded questions from a stream of visitors about his pieces dealing with the destruction wrought by the war in Syria.
Just outside the studio was a pile of suitcases, suggesting pieces Hafez has yet to make.
Artist Howard El-Yasin likewise spent the afternoon talking about his art with the curious. On the door of his studio was a sign printed on bright magenta paper. “Dryer Lint: Save for Pick Up. Thank You!” it read, with El-Yasin’s contact information posted beneath it. Draped on a line behind El-Yasin were some of the results.
Next door to El-Yasin was Caryn Azoff, whose art on the wall of her studio — a massive grid of eight-inch-by-eight-inch squares, each one a small work of abstract art — was explicitly about process. Azoff explained that she started with very large sheets of watercolor paper that she then cut into the squares she needed. She prepared each piece to be painted, then drew grids of lines on each to turn them into graph paper.
“I was working on graph paper” beforehand, she explained; she was currently working through her 44th graph paper pad.
So why not just use graph paper for this project?
“The whole thing was about process for me,” Azoff said. “I think that’s what I love most about it. It’s what energizes me.” She explained that even in preparing the paper to be painted, when a certain step was over — cutting the paper, drawing the graph lines — “I miss it.”
How did she use the grid on each page in creating the finished pieces? “At first I was disobeying it completely,” Azoff said. “Then I started obeying it more, finding the right shapes to communicate with each other.”
Azoff’s previous project had been more representational, so she felt it was time for a change. But as she worked through her latest set of paintings, she noticed parallels. She was drawn to the same color palette. Reds, oranges, greens and blues that had occurred in more natural settings now re-occurred in her abstractions. Likewise, she realized, or others noticed, that the geometry in some of her pieces echoed actual places. On a certain level, the paintings are “architectural spaces in my brain,” Azoff said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m drawing from memory” — even if she couldn’t remember specifically what place she was drawing.
And if “process” sounded too esoteric or self-referential to be a subject of art, Azoff had an answer. “Process,” after all, was just another word for making things. And the desire to make things, Azoff said, “is what makes us all human.”
City Wide Open Studios continues in the Goffe Street Armory Oct. 14 and 15, in private studios Oct. 21 and 22, and in Erector Square Oct. 28 and 29. Click here for more information.