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STUDIO STORIES 2020

STUDIO STORIES 2020 is a collection of short interviews with artists who have been making contemporary work during the Covid 19 pandemic. It introduces readers to the ways in which artists continue to create and adapt their practice today.
curated BY Lilach Schrag

ABOUT STUDIO STORIES 2020 - As the global health pandemic changed artists' lives and practice, Chicago-based artist Lilach Schrag found herself drawn to stories of how artists were adapting to lockdown and the new reality. The result is Lilach's curated presentation "Studio Stories 2020", hosted by Kol HaOt. "When I realized it would be impossible to have my scheduled June residency at Kol HaOt's gallery in Jerusalem, I reached out instead to colleagues and friends around the world who make contemporary art and started collecting their stories. I asked them to provide a glimpse into their mission, their methods, and their hearts. They spoke about their work, altered daily routines, challenging moments, uplifting realizations, and the ways in which they continue to create and adjust their practice during the pandemic. Individually, from their homes and their studios, they tell fascinating stories with thoughtful words and beautiful artwork. Collectively, they offer a snapshot of artists responding to the unprecedented reality of our time.” – Lilach Schrag, 2020

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Judith Roston FREILICH

JUDITH ROSTON FREILICH IS A CHICAGO ARTIST WORKING WITH PAPER, TEXTILES, AND INDUSTRIAL AND ORGANIC MATERIALS TO CREATE DRAWINGS, SCULPTURES, AND INSTALLATIONS IN VARIOUS SIZES AND CONFIGURATIONS. WITH A BFA DEGREE FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, AND AN MFA IN PRINTMAKING FROM THE IIT, CHICAGO, SHE EXHIBITS HER WORK NATIONALLY.

I have a whole world hidden inside my head, a world full of organisms with their own rhythm and their own way of relating to each other. Seeing life forms triggers them to morph and evolve inside my thoughts, making all organic species into my springboard for artmaking.
These organisms reveal both devastating, fierce, uncontrolled energy and overwhelming swells of serenely floating calm that is inside each of us.
AT TIMES, MY ART PIECES SEEM TO REPRESENT AN UNFINISHED PROCESS WITH TRACES OF PAST JOURNEYS AND PATHWAYS FOR FUTURE EXPLORATION. MY WORK ASKS US TO FIND THAT PLACE IN OURSELVES.
Hidden Things - steel, textiles, Hosta leaves, gorilla glue, moss. H32" x L120" x W14", 2015

I USED TO BELIEVE THAT EACH PIECE OF ARTWORK I MADE BEGAN THE MINUTE I STEPPED INTO THE PROCESS. NOW I REALIZE THAT MY ART MAKING HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN ME AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER.

EACH PIECE COMES FROM INSIDE OF ME, LEADING CONTINUOUSLY INTO THE NEXT ONE.

IT’S A LIFELONG, SPONTANEOUS EVOLUTION THAT GIVES A VOICE TO WHATEVER I FEEL AND THINK AT A GIVEN MOMENT IN TIME, JUST LIKE THE UNIQUE JOURNEY INSIDE EACH OF US THROUGH LIFE’S EXPERIENCES.

Coverings, detail - silk, thread, wool roving, beads, and gorilla glue, 24" x 24", 2013

WORKING WITH FABRICS, DRAWING, AND FOCUSING ON THE BIOLOGIC WORLD, I HAVE COME TO REALIZE THAT – UNKNOWINGLY - IT WAS MY FAMILY HERITAGE THAT FED MY ART MAKING IN THE SAME WAY WE BRING THE PAST WITH US WHILE LIVING A JEWISH LIFE: LEARNING, GROWING, AND BECOMING GROUNDED FOR THE FUTURE.

OUR FAMILY LIFE WAS CYCLICAL AND ENRICHED BY PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS WHO HAD PASSION FOR MUSIC, BOOKS, AND BEAUTIFUL HOLIDAYS. TEXTILES REEMERGED FROM THE PAST, PASSED ON BY MY GRANDFATHER WHO LEARNED TAILORING AFTER FLEEING FROM THE POGROMS. MY OTHER GRANDFATHER LOVED TO DRAW, AND MY FATHER LOVED TO GARDEN.

I AM NOT SURPRISED THAT THE BIOLOGIC WORLD OPENED UP TO ME, SINCE I HAD SPENT MY CHILDHOOD WALKING WITH MY FATHER IN HIS GARDEN, POLLENATING DAYLILIES, AND CUTTING OPEN STRANGE VEGETABLES. I HAVE DEVELOPED A NEED TO HOLD AND FEEL THESE ORGANISMS.

Hidden Things Installation - steel, textiles, hosta leaves, gorilla glue, moss, H32" x L120" x W14" (variable), Individual pieces 12" x 5" (variable)

Rose of Sharon - sanded paper, joint compound, crackle paint, fabric, acrylic paint, metallic glue, and powder, 70”x 56.5”, 2019

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When visiting the acidic, boiling springs at Yellowstone National Park, I was overwhelmed realizing that all living things on earth, including humans, share elements of life.
Hidden in Storms I - Mixed media on weathered paper, 18"x 18", 2020
THE EXPERIENCE HEIGHTENED MY SENSE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP INSIDE OURSELVES, TO EACH OTHER, AND TO ALL LIFE ON OUR PLANET—FROM GIGANTIC TREES TO MICROSCOPIC MOLD AND FUNGI AND, YES, TO VIRUSES.
Storm, May 24, 2020, detail - mixed media with PVA adhesive on weathered paper, 51"x 47"
I got myself a digital microscope. It enables a whole world of imaginary organisms to flourish in my mind.

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When COVID-19 became part of our lives, spending more time inside myself was a silver lining. But this novel virus took me to a place I’d never been before.
All of a sudden, it became excruciating to think that all living things, including this deadly virus, share the same ecosystem, a system that we’ve failed to preserve.

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I looked at the series of drawings I had been working on called "Hidden Things Evolving."
Hidden Things Evolving II - graphite and colored pencil on sanded paper, 8.5"x 11", 2020
The organisms in these drawings reflect growth and decay along with beautiful molds and fungi, but they’re drawn on paper that doesn’t address the excruciating feelings of immediacy I had as the virus and climate change invaded my thoughts full time.
Hidden Things Evolving I - graphite and colored pencil on sanded paper, 8.5"x 11", 2020 on left: Hidden Things Evolving VI - graphite and colored pencil on sanded paper, 14"x 18", 2020

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Hidden in Storms II - mixed media on weathered paper, 9"x 24", 2020

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The paper was dictating the boundaries of the images, rather than the images dictating the form of the paper.
I decided to leave the paper outside for a month. Being left outside for all that time, it became a diary of flooding and storms, and demanded that we not turn away from its reality
As the ravaged paper became unbearable to work with, I beautified it by adding elements of "silver lining," to remind us how precious life is, and that protecting it is vital.
Storm, May 24, 2020 - mixed media with PVA adhesive on weathered paper, 51"x 47"
TIME ALONE ENABLES US TO UNDERSTAND OURSELVES, BUT SHARING THOSE THOUGHTS WILL HELP US REPAIR THE WORLD. THE ARTS ACT AS A VEHICLE THROUGH WHICH SCIENCE WORKS TO HEAL OUR PLANET.

JUDITH ROSTON FREILICH

you can see more of Judith's work by visiting:

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Created By
Lilach Schrag
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All images are courtesy of the artist