In the Studio: Shared Space

Our shared studio space at Dartmouth Avenue is crowded for the First Year part-time students. While I am certainly grateful to even have studio space there, we are elbow-to-elbow and vying for every square centimeter of wall.

 Dartmouth Avenue MA Fine Art part time Year 1 studio. Image: Kelly M. O'Brien, 9 December 2017.

Dartmouth Avenue MA Fine Art part time Year 1 studio. Image: Kelly M. O'Brien, 9 December 2017.

A few weeks ago I started to feel really hemmed-in and actually encroached-upon by my neighbor to the left. I responded by drawing a pencil grid right up to, up over, and beneath sheets of sketch paper she had taped on top of my own work. Each time I returned to the studio, there was another small act of passive aggression by her work, to which I responded in kind. It felt like a bit of a dance or game, but also an act of self-preservation.

 Dartmouth Avenue MA Fine Art part time Year 1 studio. Image: Kelly M. O'Brien, 9 December 2017.

Dartmouth Avenue MA Fine Art part time Year 1 studio. Image: Kelly M. O'Brien, 9 December 2017.

A colleague revealed the artist's identity to me last week. My intention was to playfully call both of us out and explore the dynamic emerging through our work. Since I hadn't run into her at Dartmouth, I was hoping we could start the conversation during Open Studios. She didn't attend, but when I walked into the studio to finish my preparations midday Wednesday, her work declared its presence boldly and emphatically right next to mine.

It was then that my growing instinct to occupy the studio crystallized. I now have the urge to creep my installation up walls, across the ceiling, and into spaces that others have not claimed. Will this be a friendly occupation or hostile? Can torn paper fragments and thread even be aggressive? And what does this say about my desire to connect when my actions are to claim presence?

 Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress during Open Studios. Bath Spa MA Fine Art Program, Dartmouth Avenue studio, 6-7 December, 2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress during Open Studios. Bath Spa MA Fine Art Program, Dartmouth Avenue studio, 6-7 December, 2017.

The response from viewers during Open Studios was fascinating and informative. Some found my work to be quietly thoughtful, delicate and vulnerable. Others read it as map-like, colonizing and even encroaching. The most consistent and surprising response? How well my neighbor's work to the left and mine worked together and that there seemed to be a real dialogue happening between them. A few people even thought the combined work was by one artist.

 Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress during Open Studios. Bath Spa MA Fine Art Program, Dartmouth Avenue studio, 6-7 December, 2017.

Kelly M. O'Brien, work in progress during Open Studios. Bath Spa MA Fine Art Program, Dartmouth Avenue studio, 6-7 December, 2017.