acts of art 16 ~ Liz Magor

Studio Envy. I confess to it, and yet I have a perfectly viable creative space in my one bedroom condo. I can make most of what I like to make here in my living / working room, except the big things. And yet…

Over the years I’ve visited a lot of artist studios and haven’t needed a therapist to know why Studio Envy persists in my deepest caves, ready to rise like an H.P. Lovecraft entity whenever I enter another light filled, white walled, multi shelved, cathedral spaced studio.

It’s precisely because it’s not a ‘living room’, multi tasked studio. It’s simply there to serve as a working space. A rare and beautiful thing this huge volume of air and light, filled with art and the meditative focus of the artist. It can be felt as almost holy…

But let’s not forget it’s also real estate. Here in Vancouver, BC. J.Q. Public is considered blessed by the gods if he/she can find any decent living space at an affordable rent. And then, in addition, to be able to rent a studio!!! Almost inconceivable, unless you are very successful in your chosen field, or very rich.

folded message

Most art studio situations I know of in this city are shared by groups of artists, some of whom have recognized plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, and have gone with it and called themselves ‘Collectives’ and have even published manifestos.

Liz Magor is a successful Canadian artist and I admire her in every way. She was a mentor at U. Vic. when I was working through a B.F.A. degree. It is impossible to think of masters like her operating without a studio. But what about the rest of us? Ms. Magor believes “Everyone Should Have a Studio”. I agree metaphorically, but realistically, a snowball’s chance in hell…

What do you think about art studios? Do they contribute to the separation of the visual artist from the public? Are they an ivory tower, elitist concept when so many millions are homeless or are they a needed and necessary space for making art?

Do you have a studio? Celebrate it with us on Art Rat Cafe – send pics and tell us how you came by it and what it means to you. Or, if you dream of having a studio of your own, tell us why.


Above two photos from my own workspace.                 Portfolio Site          Instagram




19 thoughts on “acts of art 16 ~ Liz Magor

  1. What an incredible artist and video of her process you have shared with us here, John. So grateful. I have the urge to transcribe that whole video. I love what Liz Magor said, “Everyone should have a studio, you know, they should be issued by the government as health-mandated items.” Just perfect philosophy.

    I will tell you a bit about my own “studio” experiences. A few years ago I came across the bit of writing by Virginia Woolf, A Room of Her Own. I decided to try this idea. I was very lucky in that we had a trailer on our property (which of course we had manifested through years of hard work) that I could use for this purpose, to do my morning writing. I feel like I had the best experience with “self” there. This was because it was (albeit a very short walk) outside the home, where I had the feeling of so much demanding my attention. Later this place wore out for me somehow, especially in the winters, when it was very cold, so I moved to a closet in the house. Then a (dry, with blankets) bath (and locked door), and so on.

    When we lived in a rented house in Cambridge for a couple of years (following my husband’s new job) there were enough rooms that I could finangle a true room of my own again in it. I soon gave it up though, because it made me somehow feel so privileged and guilty, since I didn’t yet make any money for my “art.” However, I feel I did some of my best work there, as well. I do think it’s a great plan for everyone to have a studio. I love Liz Magor’s idea of making it part of the public system. That would reduce the “guilt” factor for me as well. When I was using my “studios” when I had them, I couldn’t stop thinking of the fact that the world’s problems could be solved if everyone were able to make the time and space for themselves to make art.

    Since it’s not part of official mandates yet, I do believe we have to have the balls to carve that time and space for ourselves. In my case, I usually do this in the very early morning, and because my principle “art” (besides mothering) seems to be writing, at the moment, I can make the space for it nearly anywhere there don’t happen to be people around.

    I really love this post John! Thanks a lot for sharing it (and your art!) with us. xo nadine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Nadine for your thoughts and studio stories. It’s fascinating how we all live with different concepts of ‘space’, personal and public. I understood what you said about feeling guilty when you’ve found a space for personal use, I’ve felt the same. However, I’ve found guilt to be an energy sucking vampire, giving nothing in return (not even a living dead eternity!). So I’m practicing gratitude instead. Despite my studio envy ( a game I play to amuse myself) I feel blessed, every day, for a roof, walls, warmth, a home in which I can make a space to make art.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so very right on Jo Nell. Perhaps “A room of one’s own’ can also refer to that sacred inner space inside. That place we go when we need to ‘reconnect’, ‘revive’, refresh and just be in silence and light for a bit.


  2. I have a small room in our house. It’s got a nice view of a tree for the cats to watch birds while I paint or draw. It’s a little crowded in my room, but it fits two desks (one computer and one drafting), a large easel, and a storage-and-drying-rack—plus the artist, me. I love my little ‘studio’ and rarely find myself dreaming of a bigger space.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. even simpler
      drawing in beach sand with
      that wind and water carved driftwood talking stick you found
      ‘yarn bombing’ lamp posts and park benches
      weaving willow wands into fences
      we could add more each night
      for a year

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was so interesting to me. I think what appeals is the idea that there’s a designated, uncluttered spot for materials. I appreciate the way she has kept it clean and simple, and also that she has chosen to meet her friends elsewhere! This is her creative space and I think any artist would love to have it. I don’t even have a spare room in which to do my sewing and quilting, and I think sometimes it would be just wonderful to have the room I once did before we seriously downsized. I think of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” and whether it be an art studio or a room just to think creative thoughts, we all need something. Some of us just have to start with the creative impulse to find the space within our existing boundaries. Meanwhile, I really think she’s amazingly interesting, so thank you for introducing Liz Magor to me, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always enjoy your thoughts and words Debra. ‘Serious downsizing’ by definition has to mean sacrificing space. We all have different needs. The writers and poets amongst us can often get by with not much more than a closet sized room as long as it has a table big enough to contain a computer, a wine glass, 25 half filled note/sketch books, a mountain of ideas, dreams, insights on paper. A cat and a window.
      Where do you do your sewing and quilting ? I really hope you haven’t had to give up your acts of art due to a lack of space?
      Absolutely craft and visual artists need more space than writers. We can settle for making 5x7in. if it’s that or nothing but our muses know we long to stretch…


  4. Another excellent post John. Like always you are challenging us on many levels. Liz’s studio fits her perfectly and that comes from the deep inner reflection. The outer reflects the inner.
    So whatever an artist needs to fulfill their vision will come to them providing they do not allow logic to get in the way. A kitchen table for some or massive warehouses for others. It is like clothes… what fits best for you.
    The quietness Liz refers to can be opposed by loud music some artists need to stimulate their art.
    I love to work in all ways at different times exploring where that takes my art. A spectrum of feelings and ideas.
    Current studio is an old large shed. It has been perfect for my recent works but I’m ready to move on. My work is ready to expand! If yours is you will too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly for your thoughtful response Robert, I’m inspired by your ideas and positivity. If you “move on” from your “old large shed” where will you go? Is it easy to find work space other than where you live? I guess your wonderful climate helps.


      1. Thanks John. My order is in for a big warehouse to do much larger works.
        Like our art we must trust the process and see where it leads us. Also we must not be limited to what we see about us. Imagination exceeds all boundaries!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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