Be Their Guest

Be Their Guest

The “open” in City-Wide Open Studios this year may simply entail opening your laptop, but it’s still possible to visit a few local artists in their natural habitats if you plan ahead. Artspace’s annual monthlong celebration of local and regional artists invited art lovers into nearly two dozen Erector Square studios earlier this month by appointment, and visits to farther-flung spaces continue through October 30, both virtually and in person. All you have to do is claim your spot. If you’re not up for a one-on-one conversation, you can also browse and purchase the work of more than 200 artists on the CWOS website.

Painter and printmaker Karleen Loughran has been on the CWOS map for over 20 years, as well as participating in alternative space weekends at locations throughout New Haven. “It’s been a great experience meeting people, getting to know artists in the area,” she says, adding that she’s often invited those acquaintances to visit her art students at Cheshire Academy. This year, she’s entertaining guests both virtually and in person at her home studio in Hamden’s Spring Glen neighborhood.

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In a converted garage with one cozy brick wall, a slice of afternoon light cuts across Loughran’s desk and illuminates a small etching press behind her as she talks about her work—most recently, a series of solar plate prints titled Knotted Up. Layered images in rich hues of blue and green are etched with Loughran’s trademark curved lines of script—improvisational writing that can only be read abstractly, like a tangle of thread across a field of color. “My work uses line in a very calligraphic way,” she says. “I see the beauty in just the lines themselves… Any kind of script really fascinates me.”

Meanwhile, at home on a rural lane in Woodbridge, potter Amanda Duchen moves easily between a study in the eaves, where she works on architectural projects, and a lofty studio full of natural light, where she works with clay. The two pursuits are complementary, she says, because “nothing can be rushed in ceramics… You do it, you have to let it dry. You have to trim, you have to let it dry. Glaze, you have to let it dry. Then you have to fire it.” During those breaks in the action, Duchen turns to architecture.

She talks me through the firing process for her shimmering, distressed raku pots. Using a Japanese process that’s been Americanized, Duchen moves from bisque firing to glazing to refiring outside in a cooler kiln, to “shocking” the red-hot pots by setting them in an old metal trash can half full of sawdust, where they reignite before she closes the lid. There, smoke is introduced into the clay, and the painted glaze crackles into delicate patterns. The resulting finish is exquisite. Or not. “You hope it comes out one way,” Duchen says, but “there’s always this surprise.”

In West Haven, Ellen Hoverkamp, too, is home in her studio, once the parlor of her 1900 house. The tools of her trade include two computers, a scanner and a large-format printer. The work is “digital imagery from my neighbor’s garden”—once literally true, though today, Hoverkamp sources the botanicals and found objects from nature featured in her prints through a legion of gardeners and experts. A dahlia, a cluster of cherry tomatoes still on their vine and jars of gomphrena with colorful balled flowers sit on a side table with a small pair of scissors. Hoverkamp demonstrates the process of composing her distinctive, high-resolution digital scans. She arranges the tomatoes near a corner of the scanner’s glass surface, and the bar of light passes under them. Hoverkamp checks the image on her laptop screen, then begins building it out with the flowers.

A storage room off Hoverkamp’s main studio holds dozens of prints, many of them on a black background that makes them pop: a beach-themed piece with shells, seaweed, a feather, parts of netting and a buoy; a portrait of a sprouting amaryllis bulb with glass marbles, stones and the excelsior in which it was packed; a still life of water lilies, cattails and other delicate water-loving plants. Hoverkamp works on “flower time,” collecting whatever is fresh and in season. COVID provided her with one gift: an early morning beam of light through her studio window that, because of her schedule, she wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It lit up her scanner, and she rushed to use it in a composition. “I feel like I’m innovating again,” she says of the resulting light and depth. “It just enlivens everything.”

Many of CWOS’s artists depend on sales to carry them through the year, and the mostly virtual format has helped in some ways, says Artspace executive director Lisa Dent, who started her job mid-pandemic. On the new CWOS platform—built by Artlogic, a company specializing in online services for galleries and artists—buttons for purchases appear beside artists’ work. A “View on a Wall” link offers a sense of the size of each piece, and viewers can zoom in on images for a closer look. The site has created “a steady stream of engagement during the month” as opposed to one big, busy weekend, Dent says. As always, the festival has connected artists with new viewers and, in a few cases, curators and programmers interested in their work.

Would-be purchasers might imagine buying art is out of their price range, but that’s not necessarily true. For example, Hoverkamp sells smaller items like packs of note cards ($22) and printed silk scarves ($135). Her smallest signed matted prints (approximately 7 x 10 inches) go for $60, while an unframed 18 x 24 print sells for $300. Duchen’s smaller pieces start at $60; larger pieces go up to around $500. One of Loughran’s smaller etchings (20 x 13) goes for $400; a triptych of prints is $500.

Artists and visitors who’ve been able to adapt to the new normal have been getting the most out of CWOS this year, Dent says. “If you were really hoping for things to be the same or to feel like they did last year, there’s disappointment,” she says. But “people who were so thrilled that we were able to do something this year and didn’t just cancel it completely” have enjoyed interacting with local art and artists in a new and more scheduled way.

As for those who absolutely must have their art in a gallery setting? A new show opens at Artspace October 30.

City-Wide Open Studios
through October 30
(203) 772-2709 |

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image 1 features Amanda Duchen. Image 2 features Karleen Loughran. Image 3 features Ellen Hoverkamp.

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