What I Saw This Summer, Part 1: Studio Visits with Grace DeGennaro, Richard Bottwin, Sharon Butler

Three recent paintings and a wall of paper templates in Grace De Gennaro's studio, Brunswick, Maine

One of the pleasures of being an artist is looking, constantly looking, at art. One of the frustrations of being an artist who blogs is that there's never enough time and space to blog about everything I've seen.

But I do want to show you as much as possible of what I've been seeing this summer, so I'm putting together a few roundup posts under the rubric of "What I Saw This Summer." It's an ongoing project that will encompass studios as far southwest as Dalton, Pennsylvania; as far northeast as Brunswick, Maine; and straight up the Northway all the way to Montreal.

In Part One: Studio Visits we stop in to see Richard Bottwin, Sharon Butler and Grace DeGennaro.
Richard Bottwin's Studio, Dumbo
Is Richard Bottwin a painter who works dimensionally, or a sculptor whose planar work is anchored to the wall? Either way, he's doing beautiful and impeccably crafted work that resolves issues of angles and edges, color and form, dimension and surface, solidity and shadow.
Bottwin's studio is on the fifth floor of an old industrial building in Dumbo. The cramped workspace, filled with a bandsaw and other woodworking equipment, as well as maquettes, sketches and a fully loaded work table, nevertheless makes room for a generous and well-lit viewing wall.
This is the view of the viewing wall from the entrance to the studio
Once inside I shot his scuptures from the opposite angle. For instance, the triangular wood-grain shape you see in the foreground, above, reveals itself as the brilliant cadmium-painted sculpture you see below:

Lush and edgy
The woodgrain is a veneer on birch ply. I love the interaction of the laminate grain, like the curly pattern above, against the laminate lines of the plywood, and the smooth lushness of the paint. By the way, see those angles? I don't have the right words, but they're angled and beveled. And they're perfectly joined. Even as someone who has no math or carpentry skills, I can see what a conceptual and constructional feat that is.
Wikipedia, is Dutch for little town in the woods. Things sure have changed since the 17th Century. Over the past few years without anyone (well, OK, me) realizing it, this gritty area of Brooklyn has become the new location for artists, what Williamsburg used to be. Farther out on the L-train line, it's still raggedly urban, a far cry from that bosky Dutch description, but the real estate prices have allowed artists to rent studios and even buy lofts.
Below: You're seeing it here first--planar and fully freestanding
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Sharon Butler's Studio Residency at Pocket Utopia, Bushwick
Bushwick, according to
This is where Pocket Utopia lived for a few years. On the last month of its existence in July, Sharon Butler settled in for a studio residency. Butler is a painter, art professor, and author of the blog, Two Coats of Paint. When I arrived she had been filling a series of sketchbooks with collages and graphite drawings. It was all very low tech and hands on, but an effective means of visual thinking. I'm eager to see how this month's work will affect her painting.
I stood over her shoulder and photographed as she showed me what she'd been up to:

Above: Butler paging through one of her notebooks
In the four images below: more pages


Below: You can see some of her raw materials: magazine pages and a copy of The New York Times. I'm hoping she'll post pages from these new sketchbooks as she has done with some others.

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Grace De Gennaro's Studio, Brunswick, Maine
About 20 miles north of Portland you come to Brunswick and what is probably its largest complex, the Fort Andross industrial building. It's an old mill that has evolved into one of those great mixed-use buldings: warehouse, light manufacturing, small businesses, a few medical offices, a restaurant--and artists' studios. Grace DeGennaro's studio is on the second floor, a generously proportioned rectangular space whose far end overlooks the rushing Androscoggin River.
The day I arrived DeGennaro was in the middle of a major work-on-paper project. (I wrote about an earlier body of work, Wellspring.) The series I was seeing in the studio consists of collaged and painted elements on a black ground. DeGennaro works with sacred geometry and elements that tap into the collective unconscious; that black ground creates a kind of mystical space in which the images float.
Two views of DeGennaro's large studio, illuminated this day entirely by the daylight flooding through a wall of windows overlooking the river. I love the simplicity of her plywood-on-sawhorses working setup, though there's a lovely old dining room table, below, which holds her oil paints. The dining table, set along the long axis of the space, has roughly the same proportions, a formal arrangement not unlike DeGennaro's own work

That's DeGennaro contemplating her work, above. Cut paper provides some of the compositional elements

Above: Bottwin in the hallway that's so ample, he can show his new work.


Hrag said...

I'd never seen Bottwin's work before (or at least I don't think I have)...what a lovely find. Thanks for sharing it.

YHBHS said...

this is all wonderful work. thanks for sharing these...

Stephanie Sachs said...

Great post glad to see you are not ageist or sexist. Envious of all the studio spaces especially Grace DeGennaro's. I have a crammed bedroom.

Unknown said...

This is an interesting project. Thanks for posting it.

phoning in the concrete said...

Interesting Hrag, that you were not aware of Richard before Joanne posted. His work is very good.
Looking into studios, Sharon's is kind of disheveled in its organized[ness]. Of course Richard's declares not a shaving in sight –– that part of the studio, no doubt, the showroom. And Grace's order would put me to disgrace. No pun intended.

Thanks Joanne.

Joanne Mattera said...


All may not be as it seems. I took a lot of pics of everyone's working spaces. I selected the clean wall on which Richard's work was installed, rather than the area that held all the tools and macquettes. Sharon was working in a space that is not normally her own, so she couldn't really spread out as we normally do in our own space.

As for Grace, it is everything you see and more--a fantastic studio. I guess the subtext here is that the moment you get out of New York, the spaces are larger, airier and less expensive.

Sophie Munns said...

Excellent seeing these studios and work in progress!

Jackie Griswold said...

I really enjoyed seeing Grace's studio space. Years ago, I lived in the Brunswick area, and know the building well. For years it sat essentially empty, so it's lovely to hear that it's now been renovated and is being used in so many wonderful ways. Her art work is wonderful as well.

Richard Bottwin said...

Thank you both, Hrag and Brent.
Hrag, I have shown at Metaphor on Atlantic at the same time as Don Voisine and Michael Brennan wrote something nice in the "Rail". It is possible that you saw it and it may be a memory that can be recovered... As for my Dumbo studio, it was licked clean for Joanne's visit. When I'm fabricating, the disorder can be daunting.

Karen Schifano said...

Thanks for the great studio visits, Joanne. Always great to look behind the scenes and see other people's process, unfinished work, lighting set-ups, etc. Richard, the new work looks really terrific - color is strong but the sculptural viewing-in-time thing captured in the photos make it look particularly subtle. Would love to see it in person sometime.

Marybeth Rothman said...

Thanks Joanne for bringing us along to the studio visits. I am endlessly fascinated to see an artist's work space and the creative process. I look forward to your next post for this terrific project.

Donna Dodson said...

Tis the season for studio visits, we caught a peek at Aviva Rhamani's studio in Vinalhaven Island Maine,, followed by John Van Alstine ( and Caroline Ramersdorfer ( in Wells, NY and Nina Levy,, in Brooklyn this summer as well as Stuart Williamson,, in Dumbo at Studio EIS,, who was in town from Ecuador working on a portrait commission of George Washington. I was also invited to the MacDowell Colony's Medal Day in Peterborough, NH and I caught their open studios for the first time this year(and I met Kiki Smith- oh my goodness)

Victoria Webb said...

Thanks for this post. I especially enjoy seeing fellow artists' spaces and works in progress.
The yellow sawhorses- I use the same setup for seed starting flats, but now have a new plan for them....

Donna Dodson said...

PS. I love Richard Bottwin's work. It reminds me of Greg Mencoff's work,