Home studios: 11 local artists tell us what they’ve been working on

Visual artist Barb Stork stays busy at home with her work. CONTRIBUTED
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Visual artist Barb Stork stays busy at home with her work. CONTRIBUTED

Some have always worked from home, while others are adapting to the new normal created by the coronavirus outbreak

For many, the switch from working in an office to working at home was a matter of setting up a new desk and scheduling meetings via Zoom. But we’ve been wondering how this new reality has affected those in the arts community — painters, photographers, authors, dancers, musicians.

In this two-part series, we’ll checked in with some of them. Today, with help from executive director Eva Buttcavoli of The Contemporary Dayton, we’re sharing thoughts from visual artists around the Miami Valley. Next week, we’ll check in with a musician, dancer and author.

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Photographer Bill Franz is working on a series of abstracts using his photos of Ohio butterflies. “Eventually we will all emerge from our cocoons,” he says. “I hope we emerge like the butterfly—better than when we went in.”
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Photographer Bill Franz is working on a series of abstracts using his photos of Ohio butterflies. “Eventually we will all emerge from our cocoons,” he says. “I hope we emerge like the butterfly—better than when we went in.”

For more than a year, well-known photographer Bill Franz has been photographing the people of Dayton in preparation for an April exhibition at K12 Gallery & TEJAS. The show was to have 66 of his photos, showing people in each of Dayton's 66 neighborhoods. Like many exhibits, it has been postponed.

"Now that I can't travel around photographing people, I'm working on a few very different projects that I can do at home," says Franz, who posts a photo every day on Facebook.

One of his new projects is a series of abstracts using his photos of Ohio butterflies. “Eventually we will all emerge from our cocoons,” says Franz. “I hope we emerge like the butterfly, better than when we went in.”

Sandra and David Brand travel to Mexico each year for "inspiration and renewal, and workshops." But when they arrived there this year, they learned their retreat had been canceled and they'd have to return home immediately.

“Fortunately, we have a large studio where we are able to spend a great deal of time — organizing, creating new work, and making plans for future workshops to offer,” David says. ” We are so thankful for our studio, where we never feel a sense of isolation, and that always calls us home.”

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Artist Virginia Burroughs is a writer and educator, as well. CONTRIBUTED
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Artist Virginia Burroughs is a writer and educator, as well. CONTRIBUTED

Virginia Burroughs, an artist who regularly writes for the Neighbors section of the Dayton Daily News, has always had a home studio. She'd almost finished a series when the pandemic hit. "I'd had bought most of my mats, frames and glass so I'm using the forced indoor time to put the pieces together."

What’s depressing, Burroughs says, is that exhibits have been canceled or moved so there’s no place to submit or show work right now. “Although visual artists work alone, after a new series is complete, they need an audience to get feedback,” she says. “To paraphrase the saying ‘All dressed up with no place to go,’ the current version for artists would be ‘All new work but no place to show.’”

Mychaelyn Michalec of Oakwood has moved recently from painting to fiber art for her scenes of domestic and family life. CONTRIBUTED
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Mychaelyn Michalec of Oakwood has moved recently from painting to fiber art for her scenes of domestic and family life. CONTRIBUTED

Mychaelyn Michalec was in the midst of an artist residency in Nebraska when she decided to come home early. "I felt Ohio was doing more preventative stuff than Nebraska," she says. " I had to forfeit part of my stipend when I did this."

“My studio is in my home, so I’m happy ” she says. “I encourage people who can to support artists by purchasing their work directly from their studio.”

Barb Stork is aware every day that life is fragile and we are mortal. "I have so many paintings and long-term art projects to finish so I remain focused on these," she says. "But some days I lose focus and remain distracted. The news looms larger than life."

She had to cancel a much-anticipated painting trip to Monument Park that was to be her trip of a lifetime. “The Dayton arts community has a strong presence on social media,” says Stork, who is inspired by those words and images. “Hopefully I have served others in some positive way as well. We are in this together.”

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Bridgette Bogle in her home studio. CONTRIBUTED
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Bridgette Bogle in her home studio. CONTRIBUTED

Bridgette Bogle says one of the biggest changes for her is having two 4-year-olds at home. "I hadn't realized how much time their preschool schedule had opened up for work in the studio," Bogle says. "One of the blessings of having children around is that they keep us on consistent schedules, force us to eat meals, go on walks, and play outside. I think my anxiety would be even more through the roof if they weren't here to be a calming and structured presence."

Bogle teaches painting and drawing at Sinclair Community College; her husband teaches photography at the University of Dayton. Both have been busy prepping to teach art studio classes online. “I really appreciate all the pop-ups that are happening to try to provide platforms for all the canceled exhibitions and projects, ” says Bogle. “Other spaces online are providing critique groups — like the artist mother podcast.”

Cancellations affecting her mood are the student exhibitions, now captured on Facebook. “It’s a big change, but hopefully lots of people who normally wouldn’t get to see the work will get a chance to do so.”

 

Kate Santucci admits she's reeling from the sudden and scary changes happening to everyone. She's rebuilding her "stay-at-home-mom-mentality" after spending two years trying to do the opposite. "My kids had moved out, I went back to work, I built a studio practice in a beautiful space outside my home," she explains.

Because she primarily works in encaustic, or hot wax, painting, it wasn’t practical to move hot plates, tables and torches back into her home. “I’ve decided to focus on some different mediums while this is going on,” she says. “I’ll be doing a lot of drawing, mixed media, and some cold-wax and oil painting. I’m re-establishing a daily sketchbook practice and doing some writing.”

“Social media has been hugely helpful for me,” Santucci says. “”Friends have been setting up Google chats and Zoom meetings where we can actually see one another and make art while chatting. Everyone is doing whatever creative thing they want. Being alone together helps.”

Michele BonDurant has always viewed the third-floor studio in her home as a wonderful refuge. These days she's being more contemplative about her work and is learning to appreciate the present moment.

“There is less pressure, more experimentation,” she says. “I’ve had one exhibition end physically halfway through but fortunately the images can be seen online. Social media has been a great aid for staying in touch with my fellow artists.

BonDurant is helping a young artist to create a virtual solo exhibition and supporting an art blogger/writer create a platform for online exhibitions. “As most venues are closed at this time, I am finding some relief from the pressure of creating art that an audience will appreciate,” she says. “I am painting subject matter that has personal meaning — religious themes, my family, my dog, and everyday things I am grateful for. I am painting for myself. I do not have deadlines. I am am less worried that no one else will like my painting.”

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Mikee Huber creates swirling abstract oil paintings in her home studio. CONTRIBUTED
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Mikee Huber creates swirling abstract oil paintings in her home studio. CONTRIBUTED

Mikee Huber says at first she felt edgy and worried about how long the outbreak will last. She felt overwhelmed, not knowing what art to work on and not feeling creative. "I organized my basement studio, which helped just by touching my art supplies and feeling that connection," she says. "Smelling the paints, I couldn't resist the urge to paint."

She now has a painting in “Amplify,” a group art show at the Dayton Society of Artists. Patrons can take a virtual tour and purchase art online. Other good news? Huber has received two new commissions since social distancing took effect: one for paintings for a new client in New York, the second for a new local client. “Both of these were a very happy surprise.”

Marsha Pippinger is a collage artist who says she's fortunate to be isolated in her studio location. She says it's eerily quiet these days with no one else coming and going. "My concentration has fluctuated from normal involvement to not being able to focus for long periods," she says. "I think that is passing, however, as I adjust to this new — hopefully short-lived — normal. I am trying to keep a routine, which helps."

Pippinger, who teaches art at Kettering College, has switched to online teaching, relaxed due dates and adjusted certain requirements. “I really, really miss my students! Not being with them is saddening. I have continued working, reading more art-related articles, and planning future projects.”

Katie Clark Gabbard is an emerging artist, producing work from a home studio. Pre-virus, she was excited to see opportunities forming — a solo show and exhibits were planned. But like most artists, those opportunities were postponed.

“Though I am disappointed at the temporary loss of momentum, I’ve found happiness through an unexpected by-product that only isolation could have created for me,” she says. “Since I am unable to network and have strong conversations through exhibits, I made the decision to reach out to established area artists through social media. I didn’t want to simply build a friends list, I wanted to get some actual conversations going so that I wasn’t creating artwork in a vacuum and losing the value of outside perspectives.”

That idea has proven to be the start of some wonderful, enriching, friendships and mentorships. “I have generously been given critiques and insight, encouragement and suggestions,” she says, adding that she would have been otherwise reluctant to have attempted contact with many of these artists, due to her newness to the art scene in Dayton. “I believe that these newly formed friendships may have eventually formed, but not at this perfect moment in my artistic development. Thanks to the virus and isolation, I was sparked into action.”

“I am trying to use this time to produce more work, flesh out ideas, and foster new friendships,” she concludes.”I think I will be a better artist on the other side.”

Want to learn more about the artists mentioned in this article? Here’s how to get in touch with them: 

Sandra & David Brand, jewelry/metal artists & educators, www.mythicsilver.com

Mychaelyn Michalec, painter, rug drawings, www.mychaelynmichalec.com

Barb Stork, painter & adjunct instructor, Sinclair Community College, www.barbstork.com

Bridgette Bogle, painter, fabric constructionist, associate professor, Sinclair Community College, www.bridgettebogle.com

Kate Santucci, sculptor, painter, mixed media, www.katehusersantucci.com

Mikee Huber, multi-media abstract paintings, www.mikeehuber.com

Michele BonDurant, painting an paper, www.michelebondurant.net

Bill Franz, photographer, billfranz17.com; facebook.com/DaytonAtWorkAndPlay/
Marcia Pippinger, collage artist, pippengerart.com