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

Can you name #5WomenArtists?

Since 2016—every Women’s History Month—the National Museum of Women in the Arts has challenged those active on social media to answer this question: Can you name five women artists?

This task should be simple. It’s just five artists . . . female artists. Unfortunately, many cannot answer this question, not without resorting to a quick internet search. 

#5WomenArtists is a campaign to support gender equality in the arts. Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is proud to answer #5WomenArtists this Women’s History Month with five modern and contemporary female artists, working across a range of media, on view in Boston this spring.

SAND Performers. Image courtesy of Victoria Awkward.

1. Contemporary Performance/Interdisciplinary
Victoria Awkward (present)
is a Boston-based emerging interdisciplinary performance artist whose work combines dance, music, photography, and empowerment. Victoria collaborates with diverse groups and focuses her practice on considerations of individuality and self-realization. Her recent performance SAND is an evening-length dance installation combining dance, poetry, music, and visual arts that celebrates the inherent differences between women by highlighting each female dancers’ unique qualities and personal expression.

Recently, Victoria hosted SAND at the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery and will host another performance at Fountain Street Gallery on April 26 and 27.

2. Contemporary Drawings/Public Installation
Joan Jonas (1936–present)
is an American performance and video artist who explores and reinterprets representations of time, space, and female subjectivity in her work. Jonas pioneered video art, and became one of the most important female artists to emerge in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Her work frequently questions portrayals of female identity in dramatic and contrived performances that draw on stories from many cultures, using theatrical gestures, masks, mirrors, and costumes. In 2017, she was the Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Gardner Museum. 

Her solo exhibition I Know Why They Left and her public installation Blue to Blue are on view at the Isabella Gardner Museum from January 23–October 14, 2019, and January 22–June 24, 2019, respectively.

Isabella Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115

I Know Why They Left is a new series of drawings by the 2017 Artist-in-Residence Joan Jonas, Image courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

3. Contemporary Sculpture
Kapwani Kiwanga (1978–present)
is a Paris-based artist who investigates historical narratives, the global consequences of colonialism, and the pervasive impact of power asymmetries still present in society today. She examines marginalized and forgotten histories by juxtaposing them with present realities and future possibilities, using sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance. Her recurrent reference to materiality and the economics of material production allude to how exploitation invariably manifests in politics and culture.

Her solo exhibition is on view at the MIT List Visual Arts Center from February 8–April 21, 2019.

MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames St, Cambridge, MA 02142

4. Modern Painting/Print/Sculpture
Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) 
was a German artist, who worked with painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Kollwitz was a resolute pacifist whose son died during World War I. She is best known for her compelling anti-war graphic works—which emphasize the suffering and sacrifice of those on the home front and especially the female perspective of the war—and her art cycles which depict the effects of poverty, hunger, and war on the working class. Several of her works are currently on view at the Harvard Art Museum (with many more in storage).

Harvard Art Museum
32 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138

5. Contemporary Photography
Cindy Sherman (1954–present)
is an American photographer and filmmaker who critiques contemporary stereotypes of gender and identity. Using herself as the subject of most of her work, Sherman examines and distorts the social constructs of femininity and the mechanics of their production. “I like making images that from a distance seem kind of seductive, colorful, luscious, and engaging, and then you realize what you're looking at is something totally opposite,” she explains.

Several of her works are currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

 Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA 02210

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #3, gelatin silver print, 1977, Image courtesy of the ICA Boston.

Honorable Mention: Contemporary Fashion Exhibition
Made Visible: Contemporary South African Fashion and Identity
is a female-forward fashion exhibition celebrating the identities of South Africans historically denied rights and representation, such as Xhosa, Ndebele, and Zulu communities; women of color; members of the LGBTQI community; and rural citizens. The exhibition explores how clothing communicates individuality, creates or erases cultural identity, and enforces class divisions.

This exhibition is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from February 2–May 12, 2019.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Written by Devon Engle

5 Upcoming Artist Talks in New England

One of the unique features of contemporary art is that the creators can discuss their emotions, intentions, and process, often revealing wonderful details that allow us to understand the artwork on a deeper level. It is also a great opportunity to meet an artist whose work you admire!

Check out these 5 artist talks happening across New England between February and April:

1. Olafur Eliasson – February 26, 6:00–8:00 pm at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
Eliasson is an Icelandic-Danish artist who uses elemental materials to create large-scale sculptural and installation works that explore contemporary social and environmental issues.
Click for event details.

Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism. Image courtesy of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.

2. Sheila Pepe – February 28, 6:30–7:30 pm at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA
Pepe is a fiber artist who creates playful large-scale sculptural and installation pieces using traditional female craft mediums to examine patriarchal roles and methods of art creation.
Click for event details.

3. Andrew Fish – March 2, 12:00–2:00 pm at Childs Gallery, Boston, MA
Blending traditional media and contemporary motifs, Fish explores the transient nature of technology-based images and human memory in the digital age.
Click for event details.

Andrew Fish, Bride on the Bridge, 2018, Oil on linen, 54 x 54 in. Image courtesy of Childs Gallery.

4. Guerrilla Girls – April 3, 5:00–6:00 pm at Brown University, Providence, RI
The Guerrilla Girls is a group of feminist artist-activists who use their work to expose gender and ethnic discrimination in contemporary art, politics, and pop culture.
Click for event details.

5. Trenton Doyle Hancock – April 10, 6:30–9:30 pm at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA
Hancock is a mixed media artist who uses comic-book style and pop culture illustrations to flesh out characters that inhabit his world and mythological creations (and a fun fact: Abigail Ogilvy attended Art League Houston’s 2017 Gala where he won Award for Texas Artist of the Year!).
Click for event details.

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Becoming the Toymaker, Phase 14 of 41, or Common Phenomenon or Simply Commomenon, 2017, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 16 x 16 x 1 in. Image courtesy of Mass MoCa.