Brick Street Clay, May 2019
When Katie got an opportunity down in Florida, I knew despite how difficult it felt, that quitting my job in Boston and moving south was the obvious choice. I came to Florida with only a couple vague goals- in particular, I wanted to get representation and I wanted to paint full time. To meet these ends, I traveled down in October and quickly situated myself in a studio nearby to Katie’s work- this just happened to be Brick Street Clay. Valerie Scott-Knaust at the Morean Center for Clay called up Nancy Meyer at Brick Street Clay and in a day I had a new workshop.
In the absence of a particular goal at first, I quickly devised a methodology for painting after one of Henry Miller’s rules for writing: “When you can’t create, you can work”. I set about improving upon my core representational skills using my new surroundings as subjects and keeping my materials to a minimum. This isn’t some ‘arbeit macht frei’ bullshit: artificial material limitations is a neat trick that I earnestly stand by. When given infinite options, I might find myself paralyzed by indecision, but when faced with a very narrow framework I am free to invent. In other words, it’s like adding bumpers to my lanes when bowling until I’m satisfied the bowling ball is going in the right direction often enough to take them away. I returned to a modified roman palette: Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White, and Mars Black, but soon after I reduced my palette even further to simply Mars Black on white grounded cardboard for a pop-up show graciously hosted by Danny Dobrow and Emmett Freeman at the Dobrow-Freeman Gallery. These pieces allowed me to explore my surroundings- the character and personality of St. Pete treating my chosen locations as though each were a portrait. After the show, I added colors back into my approach, shifting until I got the ingredients right. For all of the pieces here, there are a maximum of 6 colors present, with a focus on 5: white or colored ground underneath the painting, Cobalt Violet to sketch in the scene, and a standardized RYBW palette of Ultramarine Blue, Alizerin Crimson, Golden Ochre, and Titanium White. With this combination, it’s feasible to recreate the entire color wheel.
Unfortunately, a previously looming shadow then swooped down upon our little community. Though we’d known that the property owner was interested in selling the land for quite some time. The sale of Brick Street Clay had always been on the backburner but now it was on the table: we received news that we were to vacate Brick Street Clay effective May 31st. With little other information and nowhere to go, I decided I must continue documenting my surroundings. What you see here is the end of Brick Street Clay, and in many ways, Saint Petersburg. This city is changing at a rapid pace and with it, the people and communities as well. In Saint Pete, studio space is already at a premium with official studio spaces in the Dome Park district at capacity and a waiting list a mile long. St Pete has good intentions, but like many other rapidly-expanding cities, these intentions do not materialize in a beneficial way for most artists. Artists generally need only two things to make art: time and space, both afforded by cheap studio space: how developers and city council members can’t figure this out is beyond me.
Exit Show is a eulogy for Brick Street Clay and a love letter to the community I was so fortunate to be apart of for just half of a year.