A Strange White Box / by Naima Lowe

I have rented and currently inhabit a 520 sq foot studio in a converted warehouse in an industrial/residential neighborhood in NE Philadelphia. This is by no means a strange state of affairs. I am like many other young (and older) artists, craftspeople, filmmakers, t-shirt makers, musicians, and entrepreneurs who take up residence in these spaces, working to fulfill our creative dreams, to fulfill our landlords dreams of gentrification, to fill these weird empty boxes that once housed industry.

I like the imagine that they still house industry. I suppose in the case of some of my neighbors, this is true. There's the recording studio next door and the paper maker downstairs and the jewelry designer down the hall.

I do something else entirely, and I've somehow decided that the best thing to do with this THING that I do is house it in a big cube that I've painted white and filled with equipment and paper and paint and brushes and books and fabric and other shit that I've collected over the years.

That is the magic potion, right? Mix collected shit, good ideas, ambitious new MFA holder in a nice big asbestos filled container and WHAM, BANG POOF! You get art.

Not so much.
It is an interesting trick to train myself to to do my art in this space. My practice is so much in my head. I read books, I have conversations, I pace up and down, and watch TV. I apply to things, and then I read more books. And cull video footage on occasion, and then I hatch this gigantic plans that do, in fact, require space and junk... But in the meantime, its that other stuff. I'm making art RIGHT NOW (said the girl about to drink some Ting and watch Bravo), and I'm not in my studio. What does that mean? Will it be lost forever because I haven't hatched it in the place where it will be best nurtured? Will it die on the way to its nursery?

But, this is what discipline is shaped of, and I think that discipline isn't such a bad thing. I sit there for 2-3 hours at a time, and I read, write, apply for things, organize things, look at videos, and pace up and down. I give myself a break. I read some more. Those 2-3 hours started out as nothing but fear of even showing up in that place. And then it was 1 hour, and now its 2, and in a while I'll probably stand to be there for days and days at a time.

In my cauldron, my cube, my asbestos box, my obligatory art cubicle with its total lack of heat and shitty ventilation.