There’s typically a world of difference between the pristine, white-walled public galleries where art is exhibited and the cluttered, often decidedly un-pristine private studios where the sausage — sorry, the art — gets made.
Visiting an artist’s studio, with his or her tools and materials strewn about in all their chaotic glory, can be like stepping into another world, an alchemist’s laboratory of light and shadow speckled with paint, clay, sequins and sawdust. This is where the magic happens, where the man or woman behind the green curtain really is a wizard.
Open Studios Weekend, in which 64 Lexington visual artists will open their workspaces to the public on Oct. 18-20, offers a rare opportunity to see some of that magic unfold, closing the gap between those who make art and those who appreciate and/or collect it.
Sponsored by Arts Connect, a non-profit organization run by the British-born, Lexington-based art advocate Kate Savage, the program offers art lovers a chance for up-close-and-personal encounters with local artists on their home turf. It’s also a way for artists to introduce themselves directly to potential collectors.
“Lexington’s artistic community needs an upgrade — they need some oomph,” Savage says. “I’ve been to open studio programs in Louisville and Columbus for years, and from that I thought, gee whiz, Lexington needs to do this too. It’s time.”
Savage was well positioned to stage the Open Studios program because of her extensive network of contacts built in the process of organizing Arts Connect programs such as Mobile Gallery, in which a rotating lineup of work by Kentucky artists is exhibited in corporate spaces around town.
“Kate works so hard to help us artists get our work out there, which is tough around here,” says Willena Belden, one of several painters opening their studios this weekend. “We want to sell our work, and we want people to support all the arts — not just music and not just performance, but also visual art. Open Studios is a great idea.”
For Belden, whose mysterious, richly hued canvases evoke brooding landscapes in the Abstract Expressionist tradition of Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, the Open Studios Weekend will be a chance to reintroduce herself to the local art community after a lengthy hiatus taken while caring for her husband, who died recently after a long illness.
“I’m kind of getting my feet back under me — starting over, in a way,” she says. “I’ve done the Woodland Art Fair quite a few times and sold a lot of work there. But I didn’t do it last year, and I haven’t been out and about much lately. I just want to let more people know that I’m still around.”
Diane Kahlo, a mixed-media artist who recently established a workspace at LuigArt Studios, a new complex of studios and event spaces in a refurbished warehouse in North Lexington, also sees Open Studios Weekend as a way to reconnect with the local art scene after having moved from Lexington to Winchester a while back.
“I just haven’t shown here as much as I used to,” says Kahlo, a distant relative of the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo whose recent work includes colorful mandalas made of recycled Mardi Gras beads, plastic soft-drink bottles and other reclaimed materials. “I’ve been showing elsewhere, mostly, and I wanted to be part of the Lexington community a little bit more than I have been.”
Open Studios Weekend kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday with an opening reception and launch party for an exhibit of work by the participating artists co-hosted by New Editions Gallery and M S Rezny Studio/Gallery, Tickets ($15-$20) and the Open Studios Weekend directory (which includes maps and contact information for all the artists) are available at those galleries and online at artconnectslex.org.
“This is a great event for people who want to understand art, in particular the art that’s being made by their neighbors in their own community,” says Clay Wainscott, a figurative painter who also will be showing a large group of lithographs and other works on paper in his studio in one of the oldest buildings in downtown Lexington.
“It’s a connection between the artist and people that they don’t get when they go through a gallery, which is a very restricted kind of a turnstile,” Wainscott says. “There’s no way that people can understand art as easily and directly as by seeing how it’s made.”
If you go: Open Studios Weekend
When: Opening reception 5-7:30 p.m. Friday; studios open noon-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Friday opening reception at New Editions Gallery, 400 W. Short St., and M S Rezny Studio/Gallery, 903 Manchester St. Studio visits Saturday and Sunday throughout Lexington
Tickets: $15-$20 at New Editions and the Rezny Gallery or artconnectslex.org