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Joanne Greenbaum

Despite the ever-soaring cost of living in the Big Apple, painter and ceramist Joanne Greenbaum still lives and works in New York City.

Article By Lauren Smith, September 17, 2013

Studio photos by Fargo Ashland

We should remind ourselves it's not easy being an artist in NYC these days, nor has it been for twenty-some odd years. Finding fit spaces to create and live in are just as hard as finding those special creatives in a city full of everyone after the same thing. But when we step back and think of an artist's relationship to the space they work in, we all know a few of those people who live and breathe their craft in a manner that is passionately intense and privately admired. NYC-based artist Joanne Greenbaum happens to be one of those people. 

Greenbaum lives and works out of her Tribeca loft, a space with massive ceilings, white-on-white walls and floors, and windows that flood light onto ballpoint pen scribbles and aggressive neon colored lines. She is an artist of many colors (painter, ceramist, watercolorist, teacher) in mediums well-dispersed across the art world. Represented by the likes of Greengrassi in London, Nicolas Krupp in Basel, and Shane Campbell in Chicago, Greenbaum has built a career that has withstood the trends that have befallen other abstractionists. Her attitude and discipline in regards to "studio time" has paid off in attention for her often large paintings. She is brave enough to work alone and quietly, where it's not about seeking certain processes or art schmoozing or gaudy image-obsessed identities. Instead, she engages in the no-bullshit act of simply making.

We recently got the chance to visit Greenbaum's home studio just before she headed off on a trip to Europe. 

Glimpses of works in progress depict the nature of her pace where, slowly, layers upon layers of mark making seem to be natural, not forced. Her collection of ceramics occupies window sills, tables, and the tops of flat files or hug the butcher paper in a pile neatly behind an eight-foot canvas. Her three-dimensional sculptures play just as hard as her paintings, where geometric shapes, patterns, and intentional layering form objects both decorative and functional.

The energy of Greenbaum in her studio is contagious. There's a bond between the artist and her home. The cozy isolation of living with one's own art generates an outcome that feels at once durable and personal. 

We asked Greenbaum about her space, art practice, and living in NYC.

How do you regard your space, and how much time do you spend there a week on average?
I live in the same space at my studio, meaning that I have a loft in Tribeca that I have lived in for 25 years. It is mostly the studio and there is a small living area in the back, so I am there full time. My studio area also functions as my living room, so I spend a good part of every day in the studio. Even if I am not actually physically working, I am in there and surrounded with my work all of the time. 

What do you like about it particularly? The light? The size of the space?
I love the size, although one gets spoiled and always wants more space. I love the feel of the studio, the high ceilings and the whiteness of the floors and walls. I work with a lot of color and with everything white all one sees is color. The large windows also bring in a lot of light. This will change when the HUGE monstrosity Herzog and De Meuron building (55 flights) is finished in a few years across the street from me. I will lose a lot of my light.

Do you live there? What amenities does it have?
Since I do live there as well, all the amenities of home are there: TV, kitchen, Internet. I live and work as one piece. I don't distinguish living and working; I do everything simultaneously. I can be watching a movie and painting all at the same time, doesn't mean I am not totally in the work or thinking, in fact, it's the opposite. I work best when there is a total immersion with making art and the involvement of everyday life.

What's your philosophy regarding doing your work? Do it even when you're not inspired? Keep regular hours or work until a piece is done?
I don't have a real philosophy but I am a worker. I work when I am not inspired. Inspiration is not a real word for serious artists, they don't get "inspired," they just work. Ideas come from actually working for me, so even if I have an upcoming show, my work may be more intense but all in all, I keep regular hours each day, working until I am tired. I know that I am not working up against the clock because I always seem to have time to do everything, and more. Making art is not something one does just because one has a "show" coming up. For me I just work all of the time and there is usually more than enough. I am one of those people that likes to work with no goal or specific ideas in mind, I like to just play with my materials and something always interesting comes of that. I am somewhat a loner, so for me working is my life. I don't think of it as work, per se, just what I do each and every day. This is not [to say] that my artwork is all intuition, exactly the opposite. What I mean is that work and life are one and the same. Also I live alone so I don't have any other person to deal with, except a nice dog. 

See Joanne Greenbaum's work online at joannegreenbaum.com