Torrance Art Museum’s residency project immerses visitors into the creative process
By Karen Robes Meeks
June 14, 2018
The Torrance Art Museum is hosting the group residency project Studio Systems II, which brings the dynamics of the artists' studio into the Museum. The main gallery at TAM is divided into studio spaces for 13 artists. The artists will be working in the museum studio spaces all month long on a piece for exhibit in the Museum while they interact with visitors.
Studio Systems II, the artists’ residency program happening this month at the Torrance Art Museum, is anything but typical.
When visitors enter the main gallery, they are met with the smell of hay, paint and tea, scents of simultaneous art works in progress. At least a half dozen artists are creating in their spaces, sometimes gathering at a table full of food and drinks in the center of the room when they want a quick break.
“It’s a real treat to have the space welcoming and in place,” said Canoga Park figurative artist Jodi Bonassi, who’s been exhibiting for 25 years. “I’ve spent many years creating the space in my mind to work but here it’s ideal. We all respect each other. There’s a space here where we all dialogue, and we bring things to share – I brought fruit; one artist brings his own pickles.”
That organic, creative interaction among artists and the public was what head curator and museum director Max Presneill envisioned when he first conceptualized Studio Systems more than three years ago.
“We invite artists to come in and use it as an actual studio,” Presneill said. “Unlike other artists in residencies where someone might go into a museum and see a single artist, look at a collection and select things from the collection for an exhibition, here we asked them to make the work here in front of people with other artists. The public can chat with the artists, find out what their approach is, whatever they want. They are completely open to chatting about everything.”
Each artist had to submit a proposal and chosen artists receive a stipend and free space in the main gallery to create their art during open museum hours. At the end of the program on June 30, there will be a closing ceremony where everything the artists made will be presented to the public.
“People like seeing the creative process and people like having the opportunity to talk one on one with somebody – why are you doing this? What influences you?” Presneill said. “It’s exciting to watch. Each one has a different way of doing their art.”
This year’s Studio Systems II, which will run until June 30, features 13 artists who create in various art forms from performance art and photography to paint and sculpture. In one corner of the gallery, artist Huo You Feng is shaping 15 pounds of hay with shears. In another corner, artist Feng Ling is conducting a performance art centered around the tradition of drinking tea.
“It’s the art of bringing people together,” she said. “We talk about anything – the world, our family. Drinking tea could heal people’s hearts and heal the world.”
The program is especially advantageous for Bonassi, whose works are shaped by interaction.
“Each painting changes depending on who visits me,” she said, adding that she invites people to take part in the painting and creates patterns inspired by her visitors. “I take the energy of whatever the person is and I sketch it. My piece is very dependent on the stories I hear.”
The program also features artists Chenhung Chen, Tom Dunn, Anna Garner, Lawrence Gipe, Debby and Larry Kline, Hagop Najarian, Khang Nguyen, Samuelle Richardson and Tyler Waxman.