This is the 169th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. This week, for a special World Emoji Day edition, we’ve invited artists who work with emojis to reflect on quarantining from their studios. In light of COVID-19, we’ve been asking participants to reflect on how the pandemic has changed their studio space and/or if they are focusing on particular projects while quarantining. Want to take part in a future edition? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.
Happy World Emoji Day! Welcome to my studio, which also serves as my apartment, my art storage facility, and, lately, as an educator, my classroom. Sharing the space with me are Boschie the Bushwick Cat; my virtual avatar C.A.R.L.A. G.A.N., Crossplatform Avatar for Recursive Life Action Generative Adversarial Network (both are pictured); and my partner Cleveland. C.A.R.L.A. wears a “physical reality” headset so that she can interact with me in what is often referred to as grounded reality. As we deal with two pandemics, Systemic Racism and COVID-19, this reality doesn’t feel very grounded. Hanging on the walls are “The Garden of Emoji Delights” and a few portraits from the After Arcimboldo series. The “emojified” characters you see in these works also exist in augmented and virtual reality. Ava, Oliver, and Moira you’ll find standing, as AR embodiments, on my drawing desk. I have returned to drawing quite a bit these past four months. I find it, as a direct brain-to-substrate process, an immediate way to express my responses to this moment in history. The drawings feed into a multi-reality project that I have been working on for over two years entitled wwwunderkammer. It is founded upon decolonizing, feminist, and post-human archives.
Claudia Hart, Staten Island, New York
My life is one of screens. My studio is actually inside of my computer. I can’t see out my windows because my screens are too big! The COVID-19 quarantine multiplied this. Until recently I taught full-time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on Zoom, and hung out with my friends on FaceTime (more “intimate”). To combat this madness, I hang out in our Staten Island backyard with my husband, media artist Kurt Hentschlager, whose way of combating it is to single-handedly transform our backyard from a 100-year-old trash site into an organic urban farm. I must admit, I don’t help him. I just admire. But I am still responding to the collapse of our world. Inside my studio there is also transformation. I’ve dropped production of XR worlds covered by flickering emojis — the iconographies of casino capitalism — instead producing memento mori — animated nature at very low polygon — poor copies! My audio is all text. I’m reading from the manifestos of failed utopias in the voices of their patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson, Walter Gropius, Henry Ford, and Jim Jones. As for the Outside, I do miss it! When this is all over, I’m going camping 😊.
Yatika Fields, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
This painting (to the left) is a part of a series of works that I painted in studio quarantine during the first heights and scare of COVID-19, from mid-March to June. I wanted to elaborate on certain aspects that revealed themselves in this time of uncertainty, transition, and tension. One event that stood out during the COVID-19 outbreak was the removal of the “Land O Lakes” Indian maiden. The Indian maiden follows a grouping of images that are rooted in American Culture — it carries with it a presentation of Native Women being pure and sexually available and yet another object to take and conquer. As an indigenous person, I’m an advocate for the removal of all mascots and usages of stereotypes that inaccurately represent us and culture. In studies and research, these images and misrepresentations harm native young people’s self-esteem and social identity. We are still fighting to this day for the removal of mascots and abolish the erasure measures that follow a deeply rooted systematic oppression and racism in the United States. This is a step forward, having the maiden removed — and with it you have the voices that want to keep it, white Americans saying we are going too far, “it’s just an image”; these are the same people who want to continue to harm rather than fix the narrative.
Without our agency and continued voice, we are easily forgotten. The stories we see, the images we take in, are now within a digital age of time frame. Social media allows us to take in as we see fit and interact with emojis to fill the gaps where personal touch and conversations ensued.
I’ve gone full bedroom artist and moved most of my gadgets into my bed because I got a mattress that is more comfortable than my desk chair. And I like naps. I produce electronic music with my laptop and MIDI keyboard. I also make self portraits and looping graphics. I like to project them onto walls, ceilings, furniture, anything.
I went on a book buying rampage a few weeks ago, my current favorite is Paul B. Preciado’s Pornotopia, about Playboy and biopolitics. I’m also working on these ‘characters’ I use for performances. All of my personas are pretty intuitive so I always keep a ton of wigs and accessories, like denim bodysuits and press-on nails, all over my room. I’m into objects & archetypes and how they are interpreted depending on a viewer’s cultural reference points, so I’m loving being able to indulge in trash tv like the Real Housewives franchise — franchises in general are mind blowing. On my desktop I’m re-working a video of a performance I made in the fall about the internet meme ‘The Yeehaw Agenda,” aka Black cowboy culture but make it sexy. I’m performing from my window in the near future and messing with different photo features on the iPhone. It’s cute.
My studio expands and contracts based on whether or not I have a residency. Most of my work fits in Google Drive, or at most a package with a lot of DIY instructions. But almost a year ago, after the birth of my daughter Hildy, [my studio] majorly contracted (as did I): my partner gave up his office so it could become a nursery — he got my desk — and my studio shrunk to just a laptop. Then, after quarantine, we all shut down and my already very online life and practice became that much more online. (When asked my physical therapy goals for recovery from a pinched nerve in my neck, my answer was to be able to use my computer for 12-14 hours a day without pain.)
And so, in lieu of an easel, I offer you a GIF screenshot of the works coming from my “studio” lately — collaborations with other artists via USPS and YouTube, a rotting vanitas livestream at TRANSFER across the country from me in LA, an “online viewing room” on PornHub, my steadfast companion Photoshop, and an old friend I’ve recently reconnected with, WFMU. Not pictured are the hundreds of other screenshots that crowd my desktop, the eight other Chrome windows and the approximately 100 tabs that populate them, my empty calendar and my bursting inbox, and, of course, the DMs.