Glyndor Gallery might be a little quieter in the winter, but inside, soft music plays in the background as artists get to work during the colder months of the year.
A walk inside the gallery shows a transformed space of six small art studios divided by curtains for each artist. It’s all part of Wave Hill’s winter workspace program that runs between January and March.
Six artists are chosen for a six-week session to create art in their chosen medium, using Wave Hill as a backdrop — and a source of inspiration.
“They get to reflect on the environment here and really have Wave Hill influence some aspects of their work,” said Eileen Jeng Lynch, Glyndor Gallery’s curator.
This is the second six-week session of the season for the winter workspace, which currently features artists Ashton Agbomenou, Yelaine Rodriguez, Athena LaTocha, Maika’i Tubbs, Tamara Kostianovsky and Michele Brody.
Jennifer McGregor, Wave Hill’s senior arts and education director, developed the program nine years ago as a way to keep art flowing at the gallery in winter months, even if nothing is exactly on display.
Today, artists are doing just that, opening their spaces to visitors to learn all about their work during various workshops. They also open studio time allowing people to drop by and talk to the artists.
The winter workspace program also has grown to be a place where artists aren’t just working on honing their craft, but a space for them to interact with one another and the rest of Wave Hill’s staff.
“It’s an interesting synergy between artists, and between artists and the garden and those who work in the garden,” Wave Hill spokeswoman Martha Gellens said.
For artists like Athena LaTocha, it’s the buildings, the grounds, and the history of Wave Hill that have inspired her work so far.
“It’s fascinating because it’s a very cultivated space,” she said.
LaTocha is currently working on a project using sumi ink, a natural ink that comes from the soot of pine branches in Japan. But recently, a trip down to Wave Hill’s compost area helped her add another element: a root ball, a mass of roots at the base of a plant that has soil surrounding it.
Since then, LaTocha has experimented with the natural materials to see what kind of work she can create.
With a background in oil painting, LaTocha was once accustomed to working with brushes and having a clear sense of what she wanted to accomplish. But these days, she’s more inclined to let the materials do the talking and guide her into a more creative direction.
“Over the years, I started removing my hand more and removing brushes and all of the proper tools we’re trained with as painters,” LaTocha said. “It’s been years of finding other ways to look at the process, and other ways to look at (and interact) with materials.”
Meanwhile, other artists have utilized Wave Hill for its atmosphere.
The winter workspace gives Yelaine Rodriguez a chance to work with more room than she usually has at home. Rodriguez is a fashion-based artist who likes to incorporate weaving, sculpture and photography in her work.
She’s focusing her winter workspace project on exploring the Voodoo and Santería religions in the Dominican Republic. Between designing clothing and sculpting masks, she’s influenced by work from Charles James and Dior, but also brings attention to the ways these religions were covered up by Christianity.
“I very much am pulling inspiration from the culture,” Rodriguez said. “But at the end of the day, it’s my interpretation, so I try to just let myself work without being too influenced.”
Ashton Agbomenou draws inspiration from black musicians ranging from past favorites like James Brown to rappers of today like Kid Cudi and the changing urban environments in Harlem and Brooklyn.
In order to create, Agbomenou goes out with a camera and looks for different scenarios that could inspire him. And when he feels like he’s too much in his own head, working in a green-filled space like Wave Hill gives him a chance to relax.
“You’ve got a lot of moments to lose yourself in, which I certainly appreciate,” Agbomenou said.
While the winter workspace program is now a regular event at Wave Hill, it’s new to Lynch, who just joined the park’s team as a curator last month. But she’s already enjoying every minute of it.
“It’s one of my favorite things to see the artists working and what they want people to understand from their work,” Lynch said.
And as the artists’ work is exposed to Wave Hill visitors, there’s a lot they want to convey to them. Agbomenou, for instance, wants to expose people to the lives others lead in some urban spaces.
“I hope that my work allows people to feel inclined to learn a little bit more about communities of color,” he said.
As for LaTocha, she wants people to experience what it’s like to be in an artist’s space, showing them the benefits of being adventurous, curious and open-minded in creating art.
“I think we get caught up in the preparations” of making art, she said. “But part of life is (to) jump in.”