Behind the Scenes of a Studio Visit

As a gallery, we are constantly inspired by getting out of the gallery and seeing art. Every couple of months we have studio visits with our represented artists to see what projects they are working on. Many gallery visitors do not get the chance to visit an artist’s studio (although we always encourage it!), so here is a behind the scenes look into our time with our artist Ariel Basson Freiberg:

Ariel Basson Freiberg’s studio, Somerville, MA

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Thank you for hosting us, Ariel! To kick off our questions, let’s start with your schedule: What time of the day do you usually feel the most creative and do your best work? Do you stick to a regular schedule or paint whenever you have time?

Ariel Basson Freiberg: Typically, I’m in the studio four days a week. I find I work best when I have a large chunk of time. I’ll take several short breaks, but with an 8- to 16-hour day I can work with the whole surface of the canvas. I prefer to paint wet into wet so that I can make changes swiftly. It’s a balancing act scheduling time between my studio practice, my teaching schedule, and my responsibilities for the Post Baccalaureate program in studio art at Brandeis.

AOG:  Do you have any daily routines that help your productivity? And/or any pre- or post-work rituals?

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Wasnowwhen, oil on linen, 42 x 34 in., 2016

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Wasnowwhen, oil on linen, 42 x 34 in., 2016

ABF: Music is an important part of setting the tone for my studio activities. Lately, I’ve been gearing up with a mix of Felt, Grimes, Kate Bush, and the score for Sem Mim of Grupo Corpo. I also do some quick drawings to warm up before painting. I see mixing color as part of “the making” stage. I don’t really have any post-work rituals, except the obligatory brush clean up and most likely will take a photo or two of the latest works in progress.

AOG: What type/how many brushes do you use on average for each piece? Any other tools?

ABF: I use ten to thirty brushes, palette knives, scrapers, rags, and sometime brayers/rollers on the canvas and panels. I love bristle brushes for impasto painting and red stable and synthetic for smoother passages.

AOG: When you feel stuck, what do you do to become inspired again?

ABF: Inspiration is vast and complicated. The ritual of showing up in the studio is key for working through delays and hiccups. Sometimes a conversation with a partner, friend, or mentor will spark the fire. Sometimes, it’s going to see art by my favorites at one of the local museums. Other days, it’s reading poetry, like the collection Twerk by Latasha N. Nevada Diggs. I also mine dance performances for new ways of considering bodily gestures. I attend one or two dance classes a week, and I incubate the energy generated there for the studio.

AOG: Do you ever use models for your poses?

ABF: Sometimes I invite friends to model for me. I usually make drawings, which then may or may not be used in a future painting project. Most of the time I do not use models. My relationship with the canvas is very intimate, and I find it’s easier to work without having to worry about a model.

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Pegasus, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Pegasus, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

AOG: Your work is often considered bold and vibrant in terms of color palette. What colors inspire you to most? Do you perceive any specific colors in a certain way?

ABF: Vibrancy and color contrast are most inspiring for me. Fields of toxic green with a whiplash of pinks is forever seductive. Sometimes, I want the figures in my paintings to live deep in a mono-color world like in Standing Ovation. The moments of chromatic shifts occur in the accessories, and small adornments in and around the body pushed to an extreme posture. For me, color imbues a great deal of meaning. I draw many of my colors from amulets from my family heritage, fashion advertisements, the glam malls I grew up with in Houston, TX, and the landscape of my grandparent’s home in Ramat Gan, Israel.

AOG: You come from an Iraqi-Jewish heritage, have you visited Israel and if so, what did the visit(s) mean for you? How did they inspire you?

ABF: Most of my extended family currently live in Israel and Montreal. All of my family fled Iraq in the ‘50s and ‘70s. My family in Montreal kept close to their Iraqi identity, speaking their dialect all the time. My mom was only three years old, and my uncle eight days old, when they left Baghdad for Israel. As refugees from a Middle Eastern country, it was important for the youth to embody “Israeli” culture. Since the whole family had to revoke their Iraqi citizenships, they had to remake and modify themselves, from their names and language to their behavior to assimilate to their new home.
From a very young age, I would visit my family near Tel Aviv. It was the place I was always accepted and embraced. I loved the feel of the red clay soil on my feet and the dumplings my grandmother would make, along with the sweet milk and date cookies. 
The will to make art is a feeble attempt at forging an understanding and unity between the high-contrast, surreal states of two disparate cultures: Texas and Iraqi Israeli. It took years to see how complicated our Iraqi identity was. It was privately fully embodied by my family yet publicly severed and veiled as much as possible. Only as a late teen did I realize I spoke two different languages when I thought I was only speaking Hebrew.

We were so grateful for the time spent at Vernon Street Studios with Ariel Basson Freiberg, thanks for having us!

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Standing Ovation, oil on linen, 56 x 78 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Standing Ovation, oil on linen, 56 x 78 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Double Twist, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Double Twist, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

Opinion: Top 3 Art Podcasts

A few weeks ago, local art advisor Hadley Powell posed the question on her Instagram, “what podcasts are you listening to?” Incidentally, she had also recently told me about the podcast Collect Wisely which has quickly become my favorite podcast about art. Hadley’s question made me think further about the arts focused podcasts I am listening to right now and why, so I thought I’d share:

1.     Collect Wisely

Host: Gallerist Sean Kelly
Who should listen: Anyone interested in the arts (so, essentially everyone!)

Image courtesy of @seankellyny Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BihpqlTny6n/

The podcast’s mission says it all: “in which we sit down with people who care deeply about art and discuss their passion for collecting. This is an initiative we’ve wanted to do for quite some time. In which we question the nature of collecting and connoisseurship in the 21st Century, and through doing so hope to inspire a new generation of collectors and individuals committed to making a vital and meaningful investment in our common cultural future.”

Each episode features an interview with a different art collector, with the featured guests ranging in age, heritage, gender, sometimes couple, Sean Kelly does a wonderful job of welcoming all to the art word. It is a refreshing reminder that some of today’s top art collectors started out buying $500 prints through multiple payments in their younger years. The Podcast serves as a unique opportunity to hear the stories of these art supporters directly, and that building an art collection can happen in many different ways that are only specific to each person. Thank you Hadley for the great recommendation! 

My favorite episode to date: Episode 8 with Jill and Peter Kraus

2.     Armchair Expert

Hosts: Actor Dax Shepard and his friend Monica Padman
Who should listen: This podcast is for everyone, but I would especially recommend listening if you are early in your career in the arts (artists, gallerists, consultants, etc!)

Each episode is an interview with a different celebrity in the entertainment industry. Dax and Monica navigate a casual conversation with their guest, ranging from starting their career, family life, mental health awareness, current projects, personal relationships…to many other topics I can’t mention here because our blog is G rated! The most important takeaway from each episode: being in an arts related field takes hard work, a lot of perseverance, and it will likely be a very long road to success – and that’s okay. I also quickly noticed a pattern in the success stories: those who kept an open mind and were willing to trying new opportunities outside of their comfort zone are most likely to succeed. It’s also a great reminder that many big name celebrities had very un-glamorous beginnings (think: unpaid extra in a scene where it is pouring rain, in Maine, in the winter). You will walk away from each episode most likely laughing hysterically, and also remembering that you never know where an opportunity will lead.

 My favorite episode to date: Episode 29 with Mila Kunis

Image courtesy of @armchairexppod Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bvt1ZwRFOX8/

3.     I Like Your Work: Conversations with Artists, Curators & Collectors

Host: Artist Erika B Hess
Who should listen: Artists, curators, gallerists, art consultants, and anyone who supports the arts

Image courtesy of @ilikeyourworkpodcast Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvEhL9ZDUKa/

This podcast is dedicated to interviewing creative people who are both involved in a creative lifestyle and also in building community. Erika has a way with making her guests at ease and in their element, which makes the podcasts fun, interesting, and a great way to learn more about the behind the scenes that happens in the art world. If you go to her website, she does online features of artists in her Studio Visit section of her blog. This October I am looking forward to exhibiting the work of an artist at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery who I discovered on her website (so again, you never know what opportunity leads to something else!)

One spoiler: I was featured on episode 28, but I was listening to this podcast even before Erika asked me to be on it and already loved it!

Favorite episode to date: Episode 27 with artist Amy Lincoln


There are dozens of other amazing podcasts related to the arts, this list is just the top three I am listening to right now. Enjoy!

- Abigail Ogilvy

Artist Spotlight: Clint Baclawski

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is thrilled to officially represent the artwork of Clint Baclawski, a Boston-based artist working with photography, technology, light, and space. Working out of 35 Wareham Street studio, Clint transforms his landscape photographs into 3D light installations. He separates his photographs into sections which he wraps around LED light tubes and sets vertically across plexiglass sheets. The result is an interactive and compelling illuminated landscape whose dialogue with the viewer renews and refreshes as the viewer moves along the composition. We recently sat down with Clint to ask him questions about his background, process, and recent work. Check out our interview below:

Photograph of Clint Baclawski by Tony Luong

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: How has your upbringing influenced your work? What was the original spark that drew you to study photography?

Clint Baclawski: Growing up, I was a Montessori student so, even from a very young age, I’ve always been encouraged to explore my creative interests in the greatest way possible. My older sister, also an artist, attended MICA, originally for photography before switching to painting. She was a constant source of inspiration for me to pursue a creative path. However, it was really my father, a veteran and former state police officer, who inspired me to pick up my first camera at 12 years old. He was a photography hobbyist and invited me to join him for one of the photography darkroom classes he was attending. Since that day, I’ve essentially not put my camera down for the last 25 years.

AOG: Fast-forward several years later, and you’ve graduated with a degree in advertising photography. Why the shift towards fine art? What lessons from advertising have you held onto?

CB: The impetus to major in advertising photography was simply my desire to learn everything I possibly could about cameras and lighting. However, it was never my intention to go into the field of advertising or editorial work as I’ve always been drawn more towards fine art. Despite the early rise of digital photography, I was fortunate enough to be attending an institution, Rochester Institute of Technology, that had such a strong connection to The Eastman Kodak Company and film. The school instilled in me a great love of positive E-6 film, which is the basis of why I continue to shoot exclusively with a large-format camera. My early fascination with light, without my conscious knowledge, was developed during critiques. Instead of presenting images on the wall, we presented our film transparencies on a light table, in order to better develop exposure, technicality, and knowledge.

AOG: What is your creative process like? How do you start a piece? Do you have a vision of the end result?

CB:
When I’m conceptualizing my next work, sometimes I start a piece with the photograph, and, other times I will start a piece by considering how I’d like it presented, then hunt for an image which will best align with that vision.

Even with the rise of digital photography during my undergraduate years, I’ve always been drawn to film photography and these days my large format camera is often mistaken for a video camera when it’s on the tripod. The most unique aspect of my process is that I typically only shoot one frame. I either capture the image or I don’t.

I am interested in making each piece uniquely different from the previous one. I’ve enjoyed playing with multiple sizes of lightbulbs, spacing between the bulbs, and the pattern of those bulbs. Also, I’m very loyal to my camera. Everything I’ve shot in the past 15 years has been with the same Horseman camera with a standard 150 lens.

Clint Baclawski, Oasis, 2017. Glossy red Plexiglas and red mirrored Plexiglas on Dibond, archival pigment backlight prints, clear polycarbonate tubes, 2′ LED bulbs 44 x 80 x 3 in.

AOG: You’ve previously spoken about the serendipitous moment of a piece of film draping over a blub and inspiring this new exploration. How do light bulbs differ from your light boxes? What does this medium offer you?

CB: Yes, I entered graduate school in 2006 at MassArt, presenting rather traditional 2-D work. Then, for a few years, inspired by Canadian artist Jeff Wall, I presented my work in custom-built lightboxes. One night, in my studio a piece of discarded photograph fell onto a light table, setting off a figuratively lightbulb in my head, which lead me to begin wrapping my images around them.

On the most basic level, my current light bulb pieces are a deconstruction of the light boxes. As a medium, the lightbulb offers me endless of options of size and scale, which is a departure to the more confined nature of the lightboxes.

AOG: Much of your current photography explores landscapes and architecture, whether it be a houseboat, wind turbines, or a home. Why this theme? What kinds of subject matter are you drawn to?

CB:
In the last few years, I’m drawn to photographing places that are generally solitary in nature and were often inhabited but may no longer be. I then use the lightbulbs as a representative symbol of former advertising displays. More recently, after living here for almost 13 years, I’ve finally turned my camera to capture subject matter in New England. Previously, most of the imagery I exhibited was far outside of New England.

2017, ©Clint Baclawski

AOG: Last fall, you showed Zephyr, an immersive installation in a shipping container for Boston’s HUB week (and recently sold, woohoo congrats). How has this harmony between technology and art, electricity and film, defined your work?

CB:
I wouldn’t exactly say defined it but when HUBweek asked me to propose artwork for the shipping container I was intrigued by the concept and felt confident that I already had an image, Zephyr, that strongly represented their theme. Zephyr at HUBweek was really about viewer engagement. The scale allowed the piece to be viewed from different angles, producing a different viewer experience for each person. Some HUBweek viewers preferred the upclose nature of the work, which produces an abstract image, but most prefer to walk along the image until it comes together as one. And, quite honestly, the children who viewed the piece simply loved the lights. As a father, I took particular delight in young people interacting with the work.

AOG: What types of pieces are you working on currently? Do you have any goals or experiments you’re eager to try?

CB: Lately, I’ve been working on a few large-scale site-related proposals and one I am particularly excited about is entitled Fringe. The installation includes new materials and a slight departure from my other image concepts and I look forward to presenting it in the gallery as part of a solo exhibition opening on Friday, September 6, 2019.

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Clint Baclawski’s solo exhibition locations include San Luis Obispo, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Boston, Massachusetts; Edinburgh, Scotland; and group shows at the Chelsea Art Museum, Danforth Museum, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, San Diego Art Institute, and others. His work has been featured in: FRAME magazine, The Boston Globe, The Creator’s Project, Boston Home magazine, Designboom, Take Magazine, and The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Volume II. When not in his studio or behind a camera, Clint is a staff member, and teaches Installation Art to graduate students at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Sand: A Dance Performance by Victoria Awkward

Last weekend we had the honor of hosting local dance performance, Sand. They kicked off the weekend with notable press from The Boston Globe, The Improper Bostonian, and The Arts Fuse - so it came as no surprise it was sold out both nights.

Sand Performers at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. Image courtesy of Victoria Awkward.

Sand is a dance performance organized and choreographed by visual and performance artist Victoria Awkward. It started as a trio and aimed to explore the nature of sand through dance. By interpreting “the loose, compact, and rocky textures of sand,” Victoria combines solo, duet, and full group dances to showcase the relationships between the dancers as well as their individual strong suits. Since the first installment, Sand has gone on to develop as both a film and a larger installment. It highlights five dancers; Joniece “JoJo” Boykins, a graduate of SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance; Tabitha Hanay-Reaves, who trains with the Boston Dance Theater; Michayla Kelly, a graduate of Goucher College in Mathematics and Dance; Kate Dube, a member of the Boston Dance Theater and freelance dancer; and Jessy Zizzo, an interdisciplinary artist focused in dance and comedy. This performance also features Tatiana Isabel, whose poetry contributes to the passionate narrative established in Sand.

With roughly forty people in attendance, Sand ran for forty minutes. Following the performance, Victoria Awkward invites audience members to participate in a question and answer session as well as an opportunity to meet the dancers. The purpose of the performance, as noted by Tatiana Isabel, is not only to explore the idea of sand in a physical way, but to “explore diversity and inclusion through the lens of a woman of color.” As an audience member, it was wonderful to see the way Victoria Awkward’s choreography was able to highlight each dancer as an individual, while also celebrating the importance of their movements as a whole and each member’s contribution to the narrative.

If you missed the performance this past weekend, you have another chance to view the show at Fountain Street Gallery in April, click for details. A huge thanks to Victoria Awkward and her team for putting on a wonderful show!

All images courtesy of Victoria Awkward. Blog post written by Kaylee Hennessey.