On Spaces and Practice


An image of my last studio <3

After almost a year out of grad school I have begun to go back and revisit and rework some of the short essays I wrote for my thesis paper. The following is an excerpt from my thesis where I was thinking about studio spaces and my practice.


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Robert’s space in Sommerville was the first artists’ studio I had ever been in and I fell in love with it almost as fast as I fell in love with him. A foam company owned the building and rented half of it out as studio spaces and late at night when all the employees had gone home you could sneak into their storage area and climb on top of huge stacks of foam like it was an adult sized PlayPlace at McDonalds. That first night we kissed we worked on a painting together, haphazardly pouring house paint on a large panel, drawing back into it and smearing things around as we drank cheap beer, smoked cigarettes and stomped our butts out on the hardwood floor. The floor was always an activated mess covered in paint and the cigarette filters he would rip off his Marlboro Reds. He spit on the ground with pride and rubbed it into the floorboards with his foot in the same manner we would snuff out our cigarettes.


Sitting on the floor surrounded by tables that are covered in things.


I was using a system where I put a sheet of ¼” birch plywood that I had bought for some project but never used on top of my existing desk. At first it acted as a table extender, clamped down on one side so it wouldn’t tip over and making my workspace a few feet longer. I quickly realized that once this new surface was cluttered with things, I could simply pick it up and place it on my couch or on rest it on top of the trash can and underneath I had an empty surface that could begin to cover with tiny parts, pieces and tools. Everything has a place in the studio but most times its place is to be not in its place.


I work better on the floor. I sit on faux oriental rug I found in the garbage and it allows me to be closer, and more intimate with whatever I am making. I was sitting on my rug, working on a mosaic, cutting sheets of mirror into hundreds of tiny squares and allowing handfuls of them to scatter across my rug. I like to work barefoot and knew there was a danger of stepping on something sharp, most times there is, but sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours is better when you are barefoot. I shifted my body several times to keep my feet from falling asleep and to stretch out my creaky knees, each time my joints popping in little outbursts like firecrackers. I uncrossed and crossed my legs and as I set them down something sharp stung the bone of my ankle. I lifted my leg expecting to see a tiny mirror square below but instead found an inch-long crescent shaped sliver of transparent glass with a long razor-sharp edge that had a gentle curve that mimicked a sine wave. My ankle began to bleed, and I used scraps of paper from my activated floor to soak up the blood, dabbing it occasionally as I continued working and laughed to myself about how I managed to cut myself on a random piece of glass whose origins were unknown as I was nestled amongst all the tiny mirror squares I had intentionally cut.


Kate Testa, 2019