Sawyer Yards Open Studios and The Market at Sawyer Yards reopens this Saturday, June 13 after having been closed the past three months due to COVID-19. The open studios run from noon-5 p.m., and market opens an hour earlier at 11 a.m.
A couple of weeks ago I visited Studio #C-6 in Winter Street Studios to check on the progress of an art installation that caught my attention.
When artists Stacy Gresell and Lisa Morales looked up at their ceiling in their new studio space, they saw something ugly and decided to cover it up, in an artistic way.
“Leave it to artists to find a very difficult and time-consuming alternative to … painting … the … ceiling,” Gresell said.
When I visited their studio last month, the studio mates were busy writing notes on book pages, rolling them up and stuffing them into a large framed chicken wire panel. Seen from below, the entire piece looks like a giant beehive.
Gresell and Morales attached chicken wire to a heavy metal frame, the entire contraption was hoisted on a pulley system so they could lower it to work on and pull it out of the way when done. Considering both artists use collage and assemblage techniques to create their art, I should not have been so astounded by this mechanical curiosity.
They call it “The Thought Hive.”
Their difficult and time-consuming idea gave people hope and something to look forward to as a months-long worldwide pandemic kept people locked inside their homes.
Gresell and Morales share Winter Street Studio #C-6 with Holly Nowak and Chrissy Doolen. All four artists have been featured in my column over the years, most recently Nowak and Gresell. The four artists were looking forward to a busy spring at the popular Second Saturday Open Studios event when they opened in January.
I asked the duo how they came up with the idea.
“The idea came first and we were trying to figure out how to build the project when we quite literally stumbled upon the frame,” Morales said. “It’s funny how that works sometimes, I had the chicken wire already. Stacy rigged the pulley on our ceiling and attached the wire grid frame. We attached the chicken wire to that to create all the tiny cells of the hive.”
What started as a fun project for visitors to their studio turned into a thought-provoking collaborative art piece between two artists and the public.
“One thing at the top of our list was to build a community art installation – something visitors to the studio could participate in building,” Morales said. “We both love insects and decided to build a hive out of a metal grid and chicken wire where each ‘cell’ of the wire could be filled with a thought that was written on book pages and other papers, rolled up, and then inserted into the hive.”
The original idea was to have guests write out positive thoughts or something they were grateful for in the spirit of good energy and wellbeing.
“Then COVID-19 hit and flipped the art community on its head,” Morales said. “We decided to pivot and make the first thoughts to go into the hive about how people were handling sheltering at home.”
They put a call out on social media and the thoughts began to pour in. Since the studio was not open to the public, the artists wrote the thoughts down that were being sent in from across the country and began to insert them into the hive. Thoughts included mantras, concerns, gratitude for friends and family and ways people were keeping themselves busy.
“With over 1,000 cells to fill there is still plenty of room left in the hive for visitors to participate,” Morales said.
Winter Street Studios is located at 2101 Winter St. Studio #C-6 can be accessed from the southeast corner of the building by the parking lot. More details can be found at SawyerYards.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com for additional highlights and artist’s stories.