From the BmoreArt Print Journal Issue 06: Ten Baltimore-Based Artists Explain the Relevance of Home on their Work by Justin Tsucalas and Cara Ober
Home is a luxury that many of us take for granted. A secure and spacious place to live is not equally available to everyone, as it should be. For some, home is a safe space and for others it is hell.
For those of us who choose to call Baltimore our home, we acknowledge the authenticity our city offers, both in cultural wealth and history and also in opportunities to give back and make a significant difference. As a creative home, Baltimore is simultaneously brutal and nurturing, wild and ecstatic, and the arts are a way for individuals and groups, previously divided by geography and design, to come together. Baltimore is certainly not perfect, but it’s our home. We love it here.
For our latest print issue, we invited ten artists to be photographed by Justin Tsucalas for our ongoing Live/Work photo series and to talk about the impact of Home, as a reality and a concept, on their work. Since we did not have editorial space for their quotes about home in print, we created an online space for them here. (Cara Ober)
Jermaine Bell, Graphic Designer and Visual Artist
Station North Live-Work Space
Image details: Painting: Stephen Towns, “Create & Resist” Pennant: Rayo & Honey, Character is power poster: moi, Obama Pillow & coffee table / bench: xNasozi, Laptop sleeve: NicholasJames, Coffee mug: Doucet Collectables™
James Baldwin wrote “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” As children we engage with the world by using emotion, but as adults we’re conditioned to be more egalitarian in our work, but home is the one place where you can authentically do what feels right for you!
Erin Fitzpatrick, Painter
My home is a quiet space where I can work on my ideas and it’s one of my favorite places to be. I used to want to be out all the time, worrying that I was missing something, but now I’d rather be home creating. I feel so lucky to have found, this large, light-filled space in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon to make my art and live in.
I like the my space to be inspiring and beautiful, to smell good. It’s full of plants and small objects that I’ve collected, books, paintings and textiles. I don’t like to accumulate a lot of stuff and try to have a place for each item that I own, on display or composed like altars around my space. When I was younger, surfaces (chairs, tabletops, mantles, counters) were for piling things that I didn’t feel like putting away. Now, the items on each surface are intentional.
Growing up, my home was chaotic and stressful. My room was my safe space and it was covered with inspiring images, kind of like my studio area now. For the first decade or so that I lived on my own, as I let myself into my apartment, I would think, this is my own space. I am on my own.
Having a home studio makes it easier for me to work all the hours that I want. I can work early in the morning and late into the night.
I don’t know that my concept of home is different from the mainstream. I think everyone wants home to be a safe space, however that is relative to them. I don’t do a lot of thinking in terms of myself verses the mainstream because that feels like an us verses them mentality, like one may be better than the other. As an artist, maybe I pay more attention to the beauty of things in my home, the form verses the function. I think about how things are placed and spaced and composed.
Hamida Katri, Artist, Art Activist, Arts Educator, Entrepreneur, Business Administrator, Marketer
Fells Point (Now in Philadelphia)
For me, home used to be a special place, a place of serenity, peace, and belonging. In Urdu, my native country (Pakistan) language, it is called ‘Ghar.’ I come from a very traditional joint-family system where the sons and daughters live with the parents—in some cases even after marriage or at least close to where the parents live. Before coming to Baltimore, I lived in Karachi, Pakistan—the city of lights. It was all very magical, you had your parents and siblings looking after you and it seemed you had no worries at all. But as time passed, I came to the United States and landed in Baltimore, things changed for me. My family is not very keen on women being independent, so me—being the rebellious one or the black sheep of the family— pursuing a path of independence is still very unacceptable by them. Therefore, my concept of home has completely shifted. It has become more of a smaller space where struggle breeds motivation and keeps me awake.
Politically, it is very hard for me to accept the concept of home in the United States. I have witnessed so much of homelessness here than I did in my country, Pakistan. We have poverty and people work to make the ends meet by being a nanny or house cleaners, drivers etc. But here, in America, I never expected to see a large percentage of homelessness. It is very sad knowing that the most advanced country in the world, America, has issues still at the grassroots level. I hope that this issue gets serious attention and the level of homelessness is lowered in the upcoming years.
Before coming to Baltimore, I had my own studio space. Since I moved to the United States, I created drawings, quilts, puppets, and also shot my very first stop-motion animation work in Baltimore. Now that I have temporarily shifted to Philadelphia, PA, my idea of having a home studio has just become the use of my laptop. It is a place of idea generation, building connections, working on various smaller projects, and trying to find more gigs so I could have some money in my pocket at the end of the day.
I do hope for a day to come where I have my own huge studio space. I could have an assigned room for doing studio photography, a small space for making drawings, and some for my stop-motion animation work. ‘Never give up on your dreams’, is what they say. So I am very positive that it’ll happen someday.
Jeffrey Kent, Visual Artist and Arts Advocate
Station North Arts District
To get good, you gotta do a lot of paintings, and you gotta have somewhere to do it. There’s no doubt about that. And that’s why I’m very fortunate that I’ve had really great studio spaces.
Alessandra Torres, Visual and Performance Artist
The Sculpture Palace, Southwest Baltimore
My work centers around body and the way that I use my body to interact with the built environment, so it felt like part of the natural progression of my work to purchase a building, in order to be able to shape its interior to my liking. So many of my favorite sculptors and body artists eventually started designing spaces or buildings: Vito Acconci, James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, and Anish Kapoor to name a few. Many of my photographs take place in the spaces that I’ve inhabited documenting my physio-emotional response to the intimate spaces that have housed me.
It fascinates me that the entire man-made environment was built to house and transport the human body, everything is built to the scale of the human body. Spaces have a profound emotional effect on me: large open vaulted ceiling spaces, like churches, museums, and galleries, help to clear my mind and provide quiet and space for inspiration. Small hidden spaces provide comfort, like curling up in a secret. From the time I was small I loved exploring the ways that the interior spaces can affect our emotions and internal feelings. I would regularly rearrange the furniture in my bedroom because I loved waking up feeling disoriented – that spinning sensation when you realize that everything is in a totally different place from what you had imagined your head.
My idea of home was shaped by my childhood home in Puerto Rico. I grew up in a large concrete home full of hidden rooms, porches, and secret hallways surrounded by gardens, and a large back yard with a pool and my dad’s workshop in the back. There was no central air conditioning, the windows and doors all had shutters so I could always feel and hear what the weather was like outside. The floors were all tile and all the walls were white. In so many ways I’ve replicated that memory of home with The Sculpture Palace. But perhaps the most magical thing of all is how much The Sculpture Palace resembles a “self-portrait in a box” assignment that I made my freshman year at MICA. I built a long rectangular white building that was full of artwork and surrounded by gardens and little ponds and magical spaces, it was eerily similar the property I now own – we truly do create our reality.
Home for me has become a place where art is being made, and where community is created when artists come together to make – perhaps this is because of all of the time I’ve spent at artist residencies. I love being around other artists who are making, creative energy is inspiring and contagious. I love helping other artists to bring their art into existence, and when my space can help make that happen it brings me joy. Large Open spaces allow for magic to happen, they allow for art to happen. Since purchasing The Sculpture Palace in 2014, I’ve hosted brainstorming sessions, fundraisers, photoshoots, and countless parties – and fellow artists have been able to use my wood and metal shops in order to create: paintings, countless stretcher bars, props and puppets for theatrical productions, original designs for furniture, even a float for Baltimore’s Light City.
I was very fortunate to have the support of my family both emotionally and financially when I purchased The Sculpture Palace, it would’ve been an impossible and daunting task without them. It helped me to justify purchasing it, knowing that I was helping to keep this beautiful acre and a half property within the art community of Baltimore. The Sculpture Palace was originally a wrought-iron factory, then an awning factory, before being discovered and purchased by Ledelle Moe (former Chair of MICA’s Sculpture Department) and Jesse Burroughs. The large yard and open interior space allowed Ledelle to make her large 20’+ long concrete reclining figures. Many of her sculptures are still being stored on the property where they wait to be included in exhibitions.
I wish that spaces that have been lived-in by artist, and that have served as their studios, should be preserved and protected somehow. These magical spaces should remain within the artist community in order to prevent artists from being thrown out/priced out of their own homes and neighborhoods. It should also be easier to convert formerly commercial spaces into mixed-use spaces for artists. It is well known that artists bring new energy, life, and community into cities and artists should be supported and rewarded for that.
Nicoletta Darita de la Brown, Visual Artist, Healer, Performing Artist
Bromo Arts District
My concept of home is unique because I live in a way that makes me feel good, and not based on external concepts. I use spaces in ways that make me happy. I invite others in who fully understand that my space is about being yourself unapologetically always. My home is me. I am my home. The walls around me, and what is within, are created for me, by me, and on my own terms.
My concept of home impacts the way that I see the world because I believe that we all must love ourselves first. “Always keep your cup full. Only give out, with love, from the overflow” This concept is one that I had to learn and create space for in my life. A black latinx , Negrita of Panamanian decent (first generation in this country), mother of 4, and woman the society does not always empower us to create spaces for us. The spaces where we live inform us of our value, our worth, remind us that we matter. Therefore I take pride in creating space for myself within the city that reminds me that I am beautiful, powerful, magical, whole, amazing… all before I step foot outside of my door. I inform the world of who I am. I choose to be a proud Queen in an urban castle.
My idea of home is the place that I hav created as a personal sanctuary. A space for respite. A space to refill my cup. A space filled with love, designed for self love in every corner. When I was a kid I believed in magic. I still do. Home was not always a place that was safe for me growing up, yet I created space within it where I could be myself, create, and dream. As a kid I believed that one day I would be able to have a home that always felt safe, always made me feel whole, a space where I would be free to be me out loud. As an adult, I have created a home that that little girl always wanted. It’s open, bright, happy, filled with whimsy, treasures, gold, softness, and sparkle. I use my home like a womb, to return to and retreat from the world. It is a sanctuary, a place for personal healing and wholeness, where I can make beautiful things. Dress in gowns just because. Have dance parties to celebrate the beauty of life. Love myself first.
My home is my workspace, because I am an artist and everything I do is about expressing myself as a creative being. My space is organized in a non-tradtional way. I use the “living-room” as a rehearsal, performance, dance space. The “dining-room” to as a village for my bunny Lunarverse. My bedroom as my is like a life-size jewelry-box. Throughout my home I display objects and treasures that are important to me. My arts and healing practice is visible in every corner. I use my home to live in, sleep, eat, and also to make garments, sculptural objects, fabricate installations, create headdresses, plan performances, for photo shoots, capturing video. My home is also used for my creative work that compliments my arts practice. I live in a building with a conference room, fitness center, community space. I am able to hold conference calls, negotiate contracts, work on proposals submissions all in the comfort of the sanctuary that I’ve created for myself. I have an LLC and am able to operate as an artist creative from my home.
David Hess, Sculptor,
I am standing on a steel and concrete staircase built in 1999. Behind me are ceremonial African masks and Christine Wolfe Strong’s crocheted sculpture, Intertwined, 2017.
When I graduated from College in 1986, I was drawn back to Baltimore for its supportive arts community, its affordable cost of living and the life-long bonds of friends and family. Growing up, I always felt very fortunate that my parents had created a home that was a safe place, where I was free to experiment making anything and everything: treehouses, costumes, train gardens, go-karts, obstacle courses, stage sets, and laughter.
I think my wife Sally and I have always tried to create a similar environment, where our family and friends can explore, gather, share and recharge. We have been very lucky to live on the same property for the last 25 years, where I built my sculpture studio in a 1850’s bank barn and constructed our house around a log cabin from the 1770’s. Without a doubt, these spaces have fostered my sense self-determination, providing ample room to think, collect, spread out, assemble and invent.
Jordan Tierney, Sculptor
I was raised by parents who made things and fixed things. Mom was an artist. Dad was a tinkerer and sailor in his spare time. We felt safe and nurtured by them. We crafted adventures out at sea and beautiful objects together. Now that I am a parent, I intend to pass on those feelings of peace, curiosity, and capability to Delilah.
Since having a family means my first priority is our child, it is helpful to have my wood shop where I live. Even small windows of time can be used, since my work is so interwoven into our lives. I consider being observant to be part of my art-making. Our walks Herring Run provide lots of inspiration for my work.
We spend most of our home time out in nature with our dogs or at home making things. I feel sad for a future filled with people who live life through a computer screen.
Ruri Yi, Painter and Director of MONO Practice (Art Gallery)
Station North Arts District
My definition of “home” definitely has changed over the years. In my experience, as a kid and even as an adult artist in my early career, a traditional house cruelly separated “work” from “home.” Once at home, you are supposed to not to bring work into, just rest, eat, pay bills, mingle with neighbors, etc. Simply put, home disconnects you from the ideas and inspirations the moment you step in.
As an artist, this concept never worked. To me, the space called “home” must be as productive as work space for ideas and inspirations come from anywhere and anytime.
My current space could be a little different than other traditional home studios. The traditional version of this could be just a home with a workspace (studio) in it—whether it is separated or shared. In many cases, it still separates home from work, and all the negative aspects (in my perspective) could still be there. The home side of my space is also a work space with no walls, no divided rooms, and no doors. It’s just an extension of the studio, the work space where I continue working, exercising ideas, and producing works. For this reason, I am not sure I would fit into the Baltimore tradition of home studios, but if viewed from a distance—conceptually, I may well fit.
My paintings depict static, abstract images of landscapes through the use of hard-edged lines, minimalist compositions, symbolic figures, and balanced color–producing a simplified version of how I see the world. I often take the landscapes from home through the windows, beautifully framed. Summing up, my “Home” is a continuously inspiring and productive space, and I am happy in it for what it is. I couldn’t agree more what Goethe said: “No one is happier than the one who has his world in his own home.”
Krystal Mack, Visual Artist, Chef, and Entrepreneur
I love how food can be a vessel for so many things. Culture, memories, emotions, stories. We all need to eat to survive but personally I like to think of each meal as a celebration.
Krystal Mack is a culinary artist, creative consultant, entrepreneur, writer, self-taught baker, and activist who uses food as a vehicle for storytelling, cultural exchange, and community building. Based in Baltimore, she’s launched multiple brands and concepts over the years, including KarmaPop, an experimental frozen dessert concept; PieCycle, Baltimore’s first-ever food-vending tricycle; BLK//MARKET, an artisan collective for creatives of color; and BLK//SUGAR, a food and lifestyle concept known for sweet treats such as Toasted Coconut & Ube Croissants and Purple Sweet Potato Pie.