Where do I start? What do I do? I need a guide. I need a map. I need a drink.
This past weekend was my first time checking out the Bushwick Open Studios, and I had a pretty rocky start to say the least. In its 11th year, with over 1,200 artists participating, and spread out in various studios and commercial spaces around Brooklyn, this is easily one of the largest art events in the city. And I had no idea how to navigate my way through it.
Once I got over my moments of panic and bewilderment, I decided to just focus on one neighborhood, an area I was quite familiar with for the abundance of street art, The Bushwick Collective.
Before venturing into the studio spaces though, I explored the art on the streets, part of what is known as the Bushwick Wyckoff Art Crawl. The first works I saw were live body paintings of Megan Slawkawski and "Bella" by none other than Uta Brauser:
I had a chance to chat with her about the Art Crawl and her role in it.
"I organized it. I have organized events for artists, artist "markets". It is a special mission of mine to promote art in all forms and to see artists be able to do business with their work and even possibly be self-sustained.I run an art non-profit, Arts in Action."
"The Bushwick Wyckoff Art Crawl happens on a fairly regular basis and we coordinated this one to align with Bushwick Open Studios. The aim with this initiative is to create regular events that grow the viable and financially-rewarding aspect for artists in the direct neighborhood at the Jefferson L stop."
"I realized and accepted that I am an artist very early. It is a divine energy we artists pick up and translate. It flows through us, a blessing and a curse at the same time. Not an easy life. We contribute to evolution and the human agenda. My particular work is about people, our identity and our interrelations. I am a multidisciplinary artist: I draw, paint, sculpt and create social sculptures with the events I have produced and keep putting together. Plus I do some performance work."
"Art is my life."
Elsewhere in the Collective, mostly centered around Wyckoff between Starr and Jefferson, were all sorts of visual works, from the crafted birds of Mother Pigeon to colorful art trucks (and a car by Andy Golub) doing their best to add a bit of whimsy to the festivities.
Now it was time to go inside and explore works by new and emerging artists, as well as more seasoned ones. One of the first artists I had the pleasure of meeting was Boogie, one half of the art duo known as boogieREZ. Working on a mural outside the Daya Yoga Studio, which was also serving as a gallery space for several artists, I was impressed by the diversity of pieces on offer, from woodcuts to giant coloring pages, which visitors could also contribute their own creativity.
I got to know a little bit about boogie and her experience at the BOS.
"I am ambitious, optimistic, curious, imaginative, and a goofball. I keep it fun, lively and active. I’m clumsy, always itching to move and make something. I am pretty ADD…no, I am ADD!!! (My friends call me Dory from the Pixar Movie Dory. My eyes are everywhere for ideas!)."
"I like to dabble with different types of media: paper, plywood, canvas, fabric, walls for those large fun murals. I appreciate the process and the experience. It's the best part of the work. The mistakes that turn into something super amazing, things I could have not imagined while brainstorming/sketching, fun niches and techniques I learn from each piece I make."
"I like the challenges of each medium and how each one pushes me to go deep and further to fully utilize the characteristics of each medium. I LOVE my creative challenges!!! I thrive on ambitious, optimistic, imaginative, silly, loving, caring energy. Such a mush for that feel. I try to duplicate this energy through my work and share this good vibe feel with others."
"This year was our first year and what an incredible time we had. It was a blur of activity, full of art and great people, which ALWAYS equals a great time. We are grateful and blessed. This opportunity came to us two weeks before the Bushwick Open Studios weekend. We were pretty full in our schedule, but we couldn’t pass on such a festive weekend, so we took it and ran with it! AND SOOOO HAPPY WE DID!"
"Thanks to Alex Robayo and the power family of Absurd Conclave BK for making this possible. And rocking with our SUNAWOG family (Gowanus spelled backwards), nothing but LOVE and FUN times. The more creative energy the merrier. The tingly good vibes are still lingering from the weekend. Our boogieREZ coloring wall was part of our newly-launched interactive series. It was a total hit! We can always use some coloring time-out from our nutty schedules. It can be fun and pretty meditative. The positive feedback and comments were so impactful. I am already brainstorming for the next coloring session. Stay tuned for the next coloring event happening around BK and beyond!"
In another studio space on Cypress, I met first-timer Lauren G. West, whose use of animals in her oil paintings was quite unique and intriguing. I talked with her about her work and first impressions as a newbie to the Open Studios.
"I am a visual artist from Oxford, Mississippi now residing in Brooklyn, NY. I received my MFA degree from the New York Academy of Art after obtaining my BFA from the University of Mississippi. My work centers around my anxieties about death while at the same time making fun of those parts of myself. The majority of the work consists of a half fantastical, half realist approach to oil paint which involves parable-like narratives that poke fun at the comical notion of the importance of our own mortality. Animals replace humans in scenes so as to focus directly on the narrative rather than an individual’s qualities. The result is typically tragically comical."
"Participating in the Bushwick Open Studios was such a great experience. I did not know how big this event would be. Seriously, it’s huge. There are so many galleries and artist spaces in Bushwick, many of which are just little holes in the wall that you would either never see or never suspect were filled with artists at work. So that was really cool - just to see that community exposed, and to see the huge amount of interest that community generates. Being able to talk about my work while bringing others into the comfort of my own studio made the event so much more intimate. I had no idea what to initially expect. But everyone was so involved and willing to be part of the discussion. I will definitely be participating next year with even more work ready to share so I can contribute more to the community in the area."
"For me, I think the best part of the event was seeing everyone’s absolute eagerness to discuss art. I felt as if I didn’t stop talking for the entire two days. The amount of insight that I gained from such a wide variety of people was so refreshing. I featured a number of paintings involving whales and the sheer amount of whale facts that I obtained from everyone who walked in my studio was an amazing aspect that I didn’t expect to walk away with."
Finally, I saw some pieces from Resa Piece, who just returned from the CRUSH mural event in Denver, where I had the opportunity to watch her and Menace Two paint. It was cool to see her studio work for the first time and find out about her vision:
"This is the first time I have participated in BOS. Gabe of Graff Tours allowed me to use his studio space to showcase my artwork for the weekend. This was a positive experience and it was interesting for me to watch people examine my paintings. The foot traffic was great. It was awesome for me to see that some people connected to my artwork. I hope to participate in BOS in the future."
"The imagery I use for my paintings is based on years of studying sacred occult knowledge and experiencing how that knowledge applies to our society today. I've never been very good at explaining these so-called conspiracy theories. So my paintings are my way of expressing the way I view the things going on in our world. My series of Illuminati paintings are bizarre and convoluted- which reflects the way my mind works. My studio work is very different from my street art. The street art I've been doing lately is representative of my understanding of our spiritual connection to the universe. I recently discovered the power of unconditional love so the subject matter of my work has shifted from a mindset that sees all the ugliness in the world to one that has hope for a better tomorrow.
"I've been painting murals for the past two years. Before that, I was working as a fine art researcher for a private art collector. I worked with inarguably the best private collection of Surrealist Art in the world. It was a true privilege, but I felt stuck in a 9-5 job with little room for personal growth. I was working in a gallery/office space in SoHo for two years before I left my job to pursue a career in art. I fell in love with graffiti when I saw Menace Two's Hopeless Romantic tags in SoHo. I was always drawn to Graff from a young age, but when I started doing in-depth research on the subject matter as an adult, I became obsessed with learning everything there is to know about Graff. I read about Meres and his legacy at 5 Pointz and bought books about subway art and piecing. At first, I wanted to be someone who collected graffiti art, but eventually decided that I had to learn how to do this shit myself. It was the best decision I ever made- a path that put me through many trials and tribulations, but one I would never take back."
At the end of the day, and a cocktail later to quench my thirst in the unseasonably warm Autumn sun, I had a really good experience with the Bushwick Open Studios. I saw work from artists I had never known before, saw new work from artists whose work I have enjoyed and respected in the past, and I had a lot of fun exploring along the way. Im already looking forward to checking out another neighborhood next year, now that I've popped my BOS cherry.
To find out more about the work of artists mentioned in this story, check out their info below.