White Room Challenge

It’s been three days since I began my residency at SVA. I feel like I’ve had enough experiences to last a month. First off, I have to comment on how the world seems to have changed dramatically from when I was but a babe in art school. When I took my first studio painting class at SVA, the art room was pretty much covered in paint – the chairs, the tables, the walls – everything. Some of the paint was dry, and some of it was still fresh and wet. Nothing I owned was free of oil paint by the end of the year. Chemicals flowed freely. Adhesives and fixatives were sprayed in the stairwells and out on the sidewalks. I’m sure many years were taken off of my life by all the artificial by-products that I breathed in. Ventilation was a concept, not a reality.

Fast forward to the present day. We were shown our studios on day one. As one fellow resident said, they look like hospital rooms – completely white with not a drop of paint on the walls or the floor. I was mystified until they presented the orientation. Every inch of workspace has to be covered. No aerosols are permitted. No turpentine or anything along those lines can be used. Not that I’m against any of these rules. I’m sure it makes everyone’s life easier and probably longer, but I was a bit stunned by the change. This was not the “free spirit/no rules” place where I learned how to be an artist all those years ago. It was a sterile, organized well-oiled machine. One small comfort was noticing the same guy still working the desk in the registrars’ office. Who still has the same job after 20 years? Good for him!

I think I’m finally feeling comfortable painting in my little corner of Chelsea. I’m looking forward to my trip to the Met tomorrow! More adventures in store. Stay tuned!


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