Artists at Work: Studios as Laboratories


If a man’s home is his castle, an artist’s studio is his or her laboratory—a place of experimentation, trial-and-error, research and development. Cooking metaphors come to mind: throwing things at the wall to see what (literally!) sticks; the shrouded mystery of sausage-making. Far from the pristine galleries where their finished pieces are displayed, some artists labor in smudged, messy spaces crammed with works-in-progress, materials and tools arrayed in minimally organized chaos; others are more compartmentalized and precise. 

Here’s a glimpse into eight such environments, occupied by leading Chicago artists Nick Cave, William Conger, Dzine (a k a Carlos Rolon), Tony Fitzpatrick, Wesley Kimler, Sarah Krepp, Riva Lehrer and Joyce Owens. 

Fascinatingly, the level of neatness (or its opposite) of his or her workspace is typically reflected in the artist’s creative process and, to a remarkable degree, the work itself. There’s also often a correlation between the scale of the studio and that of the work created there. Kimler’s vast paintings are produced in a cavernous West Side warehouse, for example, while Fitzpatrick’s small drawing-collages are cooked up at his kitchen table in Ukrainian Village. Some of these artists, including Cave and Dzine—who both work in large industrial buildings on the South Side—employ substantial teams of assistants and fabricators, while others (including Conger, Krepp, Lehrer and Owens, all on the North Side or Evanston) largely go solo.  

We hope our readers enjoy this first installment of “Artists at Work,” which we plan to augment and expand over time here online. Below are eight images of the artists in their studios.