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

Artist Spotlight: Richard Keen

Our gallery Director Allyson Boli sat down with Richard Keen to learn more about his creative process. Not only is Richard both a talented painter and sculptor, but he also has three studio dogs! Read our interview below to learn more about him:

Allyson Boli: What was your initial spark to be an artist?  

Richard Keen: I can remember drawing and tracing a lot as a child. Throughout school, I also gravitated to art and music classes and fortunately went to a public high school that had a solid art program with four art faculty who were very supportive.  After high school, when it came time to decide between moving to LA to become a “Rock and Roll Star” versus going to college for art, something inside me must have known I would be a better visual artist – that plus a heavy parental urging to go to college.   

AB: What is your creative process like? Do you begin with an end result envisioned?

RK: My creative process generally starts with turning on music and looking around at what I did last. I often have at least 10-15 pieces happening at once and paints mixed up ready to go so that I can jump right in and get messy. Most of my work starts with putting down some light ground colors with acrylics to block out some simple shapes. Then, I start building up lines, shapes, colors and textures with my oils. Sometimes I have a sense of a basic direction that I want a painting to head in, or I try to capture elements of other paintings that I’ve completed, but I don’t typically have a vision for an end result. 

AB: So it sounds like you’re working on multiple pieces at once, how does that play into your overall process?

RK: Yes, I find that working on similar but different bodies of work at the same time keeps my work moving in interesting directions. I often find that one painting, or group of paintings, informs the other and helps me with color choices, textures and generally keeps me from getting stuck in a rut. 

AB: What inspired your sculptural and shaped paintings? 

RK: My current sculptural and shaped paintings come from within my “Form Singularity” paintings and through finding shapes that resonate with me. I’ve been exploring three-dimensional work as far back as I can remember, but I think that I would have to say that making shaped paintings could be directly attributed to my appreciation for Elizabeth Murray’s work. I can also say that walking through a boatyard in the off season, and seeing how boat hulls get sanded and repainted also stimulated my urge to make shaped work. I think I saw a rudder laying on the ground half sanded by the yard crew… that was a moment of inspiration for me too.

AB: What made you move toward the more minimal style of the Form Singularity series?  

RK: I’ve leaned towards simplifying, reducing, and minimizing the amount of information that I put onto the canvas all along my path as an artist. As far back as high school, I remember working with simplified shapes and amplified colors. My “Form Singularity” Series is, in a sense, my natural state of being, while my other series act as bridges for viewers to cross over into the way I see the world.   

AB: Are there any artists that inform your work?  

RK: Oh yes… I love so many fantastic artists. I mentioned Elizabeth Murray earlier, who I was lucky enough to meet a couple times. I’m a fan of Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and so many of the late greats. A few contemporary artists that I admire greatly are Julie Mehretu, Cadence Giersbach, Chris Ofili, Gary Hume and David Tremlett.  

AB: What are you currently working on? 

RK: I’m currently working on new “Form Singularity” paintings, new “Island Geometry and Sea Geometry” paintings, and several new sculptures while balancing out the demands of a couple upcoming three-person shows here in Maine. I’m also working on a Public Art Project through Maine’s Percent for Art Program. The multi-panel mural is an 8’ x 8’ abstraction made up of 6 geometric panels linked closely to my “Island Geometry” and will be installed in June of 2020.

View Richard Keen’s work in our exhibition Almost Exactly on view through June 16, 2019.

Artist Richard Keen in front of his work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Form Singularity No. 165, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 72 x 64 in., 2019

Artist Spotlight: Daisy St. Sauveur

One of our favorite things about contemporary art is getting to know the artist behind the work. While the work itself tells a story, the artist’s background further paints the picture of where they came from and how they got to where they are today. We sat down with our artist Daisy St. Sauveur to learn everything about her - from growing up in New England to navigating her artistic career:

Abigail Ogilvy: Tell us a little more about your background.

Daisy St. Sauveur: I grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts- it's a tiny ocean town in the South Shore. My mom is a graphic designer/painter, and my dad works in music. I knew I wanted to be an artist my whole life, but until 2015 I thought I would study illustration (I was obsessed with anime and cartoons growing up!). I ended up declaring as a printmaking major at MassArt and I've been studying it ever since.  

AO: So what was your initial spark to be an artist?  

DSTS: Since my mom is an artist, I was lucky enough to be introduced to art at a very young age. We would see all kinds of artists- from Miyazaki to Thiebaud- I was introduced to many different styles at a young age. Making art was the one thing I could focus on when I was growing up (I probably went through five sketchbooks a year!). There was definitely a period of time in middle school when I was fascinated with anime, and I think that interest inspired a lot of the shapes and colors I currently use.

AO: How did you choose your medium? 

DSTS: While I was a freshman at MassArt, I wandered into a student printmaking show one rainy morning. The work was so fresh and interesting, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Being the impulsive person I am, I decided on the spot that I would study printmaking instead of illustration. Print allows me to work in a layered, collage-like way, and I can easily make variables and play with the piece until I'm satisfied. 

I've also started painting a lot more- primarily acrylic. Painting has taught me patience, I can't be as impulsive with it, but I've learned a lot about creating unique shapes and spaces.

AO: What is your creative process like? When you begin a new work do you have a vision of the end result?  

DSTS: I always have a vague idea of what I want a piece to look like but I never know for sure. I'll start with a sketch and then realize 'You know what? I'm bored I'm gonna scribble on this.' Or I'll cut it up, collage it, paint over it, etc. I love to push my artwork as far as I can. I try to make things as chaotic as possible while staying along the lines of the original composition. Whenever I mess up, I'll paint a big square or scribble over it- kind of like white out. I always like the pieces I "mess up" better than the ones that go exactly as planned.

AO: We love that organic chaos in your work! With that in mind, what themes do you pursue? 

DSTS: Recently I've been interested in branding and advertising. The idea of interruption seems to be a common theme in my work lately. I love working with pop culture, social media, and the visual relationship between architectural and organic forms. As a young artist, my experience is a little different from those who grew up in the 90s. The 2000s fascinate me, and I take a lot of my subjects from that era.  

AO: What are you currently working on?  

DSTS: Right now I'm working on a series of screenprints that have advertisement-like interruptions. One of the pieces I'm most excited about features a pink and yellow jungle-like pattern with a vintage Sandals Resort ad in the middle of it. I really want to explore that frustrating feeling of interruption and obstruction. I'm constantly being bombarded by commercials- from Youtube and Instagram to the radio, billboards, or even airplanes. What would it be like if fine art had advertisements too?

AO: Are there any artists that inform your work?

DSTS: There are so many artists I love, but my favorites are Jonathan Lasker, Henri Matisse, Nona Hershey, Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami, Ricardo Bofill, David LaChapelle, and Leroy Neiman.

Check out Daisy St. Sauveur’s work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery on view through June 16, 2019!

Daisy St. Sauveur, Side C, Etching with screenprint, 22 x 18 in. (framed), 2018

Daisy St. Sauveur, Side B, Etching, 22 x 18 in. (framed), 2018

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