05/21/2013 02:21 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Studio 34: Long Island City Open Studio Weekend

Artists enjoy their most private moments in their studios, where the creative energies flow and the demons emerge in full force. These rooms are messy and paint-splattered, often furnished with shabby, second hand couches and chairs, or spare and clinical with a MacBook Air or a tidy sketchpad sitting atop a metal desk. Artist studios--backstage to the galleries, museums and other places of public art displays--are sadly, so little explored by the public.


Petra Vargova with her minimalist creations


Miguel Benavides in his studio with a view

While I am a kid in a candy store in a gallery or museum, as a gallerist and an art dealer, I find my most exhalative moments in artist studios in the company of their inhabitants. It is here where I meet the artists in their spaces, on their terms, revealing their work in an intimate setting. The artwork--finished or in process, sitting on ledges and floors, professionally hung or stacked in racks--is displayed just as the artist envisions.


Bruce E. Medeiros in his studio's living area


Sara Abalan has work from many periods lining the walls

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Studio 34 during its inaugural Open Studio.This was part of the larger LIC Open Studios weekend (May 15-19), organized by Richard Mazda and Matt Grecco. An Open Studio is just that, usually a weekend when artists in one building or community collectively open their studios to the public. Wine and crackers are usually on offer, excellent fuel for the walk through dozens of open doors and into many fabulous, unexpected encounters.


Marla Lipkin's studio is bright and spacious

Studio 34 is a suite of 58 studios (53 rented in the first 5 months after opening in September 2012) along a brighty-lit, u-shaped corridor in a warehouse in the commercial section of LIC. Owned by Olympic Building Associates and managed by the dynamic duo of artist Kim Luttrell and D. Salamone, the team has spared no expense to create a fantastic environment for art to be made.


Elizabeth Polish with some of her lighting designs

"This is the best studio I have ever rented," says Petra Vargova from the Czech Republic. "The artists are great and friendly and the room comfortable." The studios range in size and price from the ones just bigger than a walk in closet, to the sprawling corner office model, with expansive views of Manhattan and the East River. Well-lit, and replete with transom windows that face the corridor, each room has been custom built to make the most of the architecture, but always keeping the artist's needs out front. Luttrell should know, as she has inhabited perhaps a dozen artist studios during her 16-year career. "I know what artists want and I know what makes them happy in their work spaces," she says.


Amy Tenenouser combines storage and work space in her studio


Jeanne Mischo at work in her studio

54 painters, sculptors, photographers, digital artists, a lighting designer and a weaver, share common spaces of a kitchen, living room, as nice as the set of a sitcom, and state of the art bathroom (trust me---that matters a lot. I've been to one artist studio where I had to bring my own toilet paper). But perhaps the jewel in the Studio 34 Crown is the gallery in the front, which will be open to all the artists for group and solo exhibitions.


Objects to collect and inspire in Dr. Bill Blahd's studio


Currently on view for another 3 weeks is a group show curated by first time curator Luttrell to celebrate this LIC Open Studio weekend. She has gathered a roster of some of the finest artists at Studio 34 and in other studios in LIC, to present an exciting display of paintings, photographs, a video installation and sculpture.


Curator Kim Luttrell at the group show in Gallery Studio 34

Among the work is Dean Ebben's suite of enamel, Mylar and wood wall hangings; video artist Sofia Hager's mind-blowing animated video of a fantasy landscape, made from 1,000 drawings; and installation artist Michelle Kaufman's hot pink, plush sculpture that reads "Power," evoking ideas of Feminism. Painter Jongwang Lee, who owns the nearby Space Womb gallery, is represented by a signature resin and pigment painting of swirling, layered colors, reflecting his deep interest in the spiritual. The center of the exhibit is an installation by Miguel Benavides of a suspended female figure, draped in a white cloth, and hovering above a puddle of shell cases from bullets spent.


Miguel Benavide's dramatic installation of a figure above a puddle of bullets

Luttrell has jumped into the realm of curation boldly, showing no caution, no fear, but simply trusting her consummate aesthetic and wide-ranging taste for beautifully crafted art that pushes technical and thematic boundaries. "That's a real chicken heart," she says matter-of-factly to a viewer peering at Stacy Williams' curious corner installation of a female figure, split down the front, whose torso holds a cup of liquid that houses said chicken heart. As wild and varied as it is, this exhibition works. It is pleasing to the senses and provocative, not for the sake of being provocative and shocking, but because Luttrell appreciates what the artists do and wants to share that with us.


Michelle Kaufman's "Ode to Michael Mann" is a highlight of the exhibition

On the way out, I returned to Petra Vargova's studio to purchase an artwork that I had my mind on all afternoon. It's a thrill to buy directly from an artist--something I do little of, as I am in the business of selling art I consign, not buying it. But once in awhile, something does hit and nags till I relent. Hearing from Petra about why and how she made this piece was my magic encounter for the day, filled with many other lovely moments in these sacred and private studios.

To learn more about Studio 34 and other artist studios in LIC, go to: