Visiting artist studios is one of my favorite activities. The studios are so revealing about the inner workings of an artist’s mind. I feel inspired and artistically energized any time I visit an artist studio. I’ve had great conversations with artists about their work when I visited their studios that I’ve found extremely informative and influential in my own work.
I visited my friend Jessica Straus’ studio in the Brickbottom Artist’s Association, an enormous artist complex in Somerville, MA with well over 80 artist studios. I’ve known Jessica for many years now, but oddly enough, this is the first time I’ve ever set foot into her studio. Jessica has been in this studio for over twenty years. Jessica’s studio is a visual feast of objects, and it was incredible to get to see her various collections of objects, tools, machines, and works that have accumulated over the years.
I’ve been familiar with Jessica’s work for some time now, and I’ve always been fascinated by the way that she finds innovative uses for items and objects that most of us would just see as ordinary and disposable. Her upcoming solo exhibition, “Scrap!” at the Boston Sculptor’s Gallery, which opens October 9, deals with the idea of using every piece of from an object. In this case she’s been working with clementine crates. She’s been collecting clementine crates in her basement for years, and it was only when she decided to throw them out that she decided to do something with the crates artistically.
Some of the most interesting objects in her studio were the objects that she has been toying with, but haven’t come to full fruition yet into finished works. Talking to her about her work, I could see that she was brimming with too many ideas, a great “problem” to have as an artist! I was particularly intrigued by these clementine peels that she’s been peeling, collecting, and flattening. When hammered to a piece of wood, the clementine peels really have the appearance of animal skin, with their texture and color. It was amazing the way that she transformed the clementine peel into something else.
I was struck by how tedious many of her works were to build and assemble. This piece in the photograph below had to have strips of clementine crates individually beveled and cut on all sides in order to fit into framework of the piece. Jessica is a master of fitting objects and materials together, she seems to know just how to physically merge objects together. What’s fascinating about her work too is how it is precise but not precise at the same time. Analyzing her sculptures up close you can see the mark of her hand, and yet simultaneously the works are so immaculately crafted that they appear to be flawless at first glance.
In addition to clementine crates, she’s created a gigantic collection of old glass bottles. As I walked throughout her studio, I could see boxes of these bottles peeking out in multiple corners underneath tables and packed into closets and corners.
Another collection that I was fascinated by was a bunch of olive oil cans, which she’s been collecting for over 40 years. Every time she buys olive oil, it’s always in a can. Her friends know she collects them, and thus she has received many cans from others in the past as well. The designs, colors, patterns are so striking and beautiful, and very diverse at the same time.
I enjoyed discovering the smallest objects in her studio, little pieces that she’s whittled and then painted. Below in this photograph there’s a set of polka-dotted earrings that are carved by hand.
In the photograph below is one of my favorite corners of her studio, a sort of “cabinet of curiosities”, filled with smaller works and objects that she’s made over the years. She rotates the display with different pieces frequently, so the line up is always changing.
A close up of one of the objects from the cabinet is in the photograph below.