Studio Stories

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Brian Kapernekas
How does space dictate practice? Practice space? The Elusive Studio...

Judy Ledgerwood
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Vanessa Shinmoto
The Home Gallery Space, A Cautionary Tale

Lee Tracy
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Dan Zamudio and Julie Sulzen
Alternative Spaces: Turning your home into a gallery

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Brian Kapernekas: How does space dictate practice? Practice space? The Elusive Studio: A studio practice on the move.

For artists traveling abroad or in residency programs, the reality of the studio in constant flux is always being addressed. For some, a studio practice is non-existent or manifests in ways specific to the work. As a painter and sculptor, maintaining a studio practice is vital and inherent to my process. It has been a given for me—having a separate, physical space for my art work—of which no question has had to be asked about its necessity, until recently.

Three and a half years ago, I was the recipient of a 2004 grant from Artadia. Part of the grant went to funding my studio rent for the next two years, which was the longest duration that I have rented a space in the city. The studio proved integral for holding studio visits and gave me the extra space that was not possible in the one bedroom apartment I was living in at the time with my wife and my son, who had just been born.

The studio visits gave me the opportunity to meet with curators, establish gallery connections and interact with other artists. It helped tremendously in becoming a part of a community and granted me the opportunity to exhibit in both group and solo exhibitions. And furthermore, having a studio separate from my living environment helped me budget my time more carefully. This was crucial in developing a new strategy that involved setting agendas for myself, very important since I also maintained a full time job in the city and taught part-time whilst commuting.

But before all this (and before the concept of an elusive studio), my studio was essentially nomadic. Like everything else, I adapted it to my situation. Later, I learned that this adaptability would become an important part of my studio practice.

Before entering graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2002, my studio spaces ranged from extra rooms in apartments to co-op spaces, stair landings, barns, back porches, storage spaces, sheds and table tops in the corners of living rooms. They were either retro fitted into pre-existing spaces or built from scratch. These spaces, regardless of my constantly changing environment, remained for me a marker of sorts that demarcated my trajectory in both my work as well as my travels.

With graduate school behind me, and my son moving well beyond his first steps, encroaching thoughts of his future took precedence. We moved out of our one bedroom apartment, and consequently that city studio, and in return found ourselves once again on the move in various other spaces both inside and outside the city. The studio remained in tow, and at times our lives in tow of the studio.

It was during one of my many commutes between ‘here and there’, and ‘few and far between,’ that the notion of an elusive studio materialized conceptually. For me, having a physical space for a studio was never questioned. But what became an issue was the increasing amount of time I spent away from the space, away from the materials and the familiarity that it offered, so that my studio practice was being extended outside of the “studio space.” I began to view the studio itself as a practice in and of itself.

I found myself increasingly questioning what was informing what: at times the work dictated the space—where I worked—and other times the space dictated the work. Now the notion of where and how art is practiced was quickly expanding and needed to be addressed. Although this constant dialogue between space, travel, and time had always been intrinsic to my practice and the role of being an artist, it was never more apparent than now.

The extension from the studio and the familiar—the studio being an elusive space—was a concept that I had not encountered before and adapting it into uncharted territories was soon at the forefront of things. This concept reinforced a method of practice in which I allowed myself to adapt to works as they surfaced. I allowed for unplanned moments to take precedence over a predetermined idea, subject, etc. I found that a travel log of sorts composed of both written and documented images allowed me to extend my practice and observations to that other elusive part of our lives, our reality.

I took advantage of the Internet, and it became an integral tool for searching, sharing and informing my investigation, of which this artist story is an example. Recollections of the past, both immediate as well as distant, continue to help establish subjects for my own personal mythology and travels.

As I return from the far and few in between, I re-enter the studio, currently in the form of a basement of a home outside the city limits. No longer is the studio a hermetic space for me, as it once was in the past. Its role as a tether to my trajectories in which I can regroup my thoughts, observations, documentations, and memories has proved important for allowing my work to manifest in ways I had not considered. Regardless of its elusive state, I find and will continue to find along my future endeavors, the importance of having a studio in flux.

Brian Kapernekas was born and raised just outside Chicago. Currently he along with his family is on the move around the Chicago land area. He holds a B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999 and an M.F.A. from University of Illinois at Chicago 2004. Brian has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows throughout the area including a recent solo show at 65 Grand.

This story appears on the Studio Chicago site courtesy of Chicago Artists Resource. See more Artists Stories on CAR