In the June issue of Chronogram Beth Wilson writes about the artists’ shantytown where I’ll be working this summer. “Down in Beacon, and running through the rest of the summer, master shed builder Simon Draper has come up with a brilliant extension of his ecologically-inspired ‘right-sizing’ aesthetic with ‘Habitat for Artists,’ taking place in the parking lot of Spire Studios and sponsored by Ecoartspace. Draper has been making physically and metaphorically rich work for some time, creating modest, site-sensitive structures out of reclaimed materials (often including his own paintings). He’d reached a point with the work, as he told me, where he could ‘see [him]self going on, building sheds occasionally here or there, or I could get back to the immediacy, the point of the idea, by opening the concept up to other artists.’ Working with the motto ‘How much/how little/the space to create,’ and thinking explicitly of the toll taken by the wave of real estate speculation in Beacon in the wake of Dia:Beacon, he’s built a group of small sheds that will serve as improvised studio spaces for himself and 10 other artists over the summer. Small enough that they slide under the radar of local zoning and permitting requirements, each artist is personalizing and using the sheds to reflect his/her own interests and needs. Dar Williams will be writing and occasionally performing music in one, Kathy Feighery will focus on making drawings (to get away from toxic solvents used in oil painting during her pregnancy) in another, and so on.
“With limited amenities, the artists are restricting/rethinking their use of media, resorting to battery-powered hand tools, or even depending on the illumination provided by local street lamps passing through the translucent corrugated plastic panels of the roof to do their work by. Recognizing the limited nature of our resources, Draper’s project emphasizes the importance of resourcefulness instead. The compelling aesthetic (and ultimately, political/economic/ecological) question raised here is: How much can you go a long way with? In this extraordinary project, sustainability is transformed into a visionary aesthetic in its own right—as it must be, if we are to cope with the challenges ahead. “