CJ Lori has her own paintings on the walls of her apartment. The paintings are hung in the hallway, starting from the front door and leading into her living room and work studio. Nearly every year around this time, Lori sets up her home, welcoming guests to view her paintings of trees and nature.
Lori will show her work as part of this year’s Brookline Open Studios, a three-day event where Brookline artists display and sell their work to art enthusiasts. This is the 30th anniversary of this event, and Lori will be one of 120 artists participating, displaying her best and latest art pieces from April 30 to May 1.
“It’s getting to know what artists are like,” Lori said. “That is what Brookline Studios is all about.”
Lori plans on showing about 45 pieces this year from 11 a.m. To 5 p.m. each day of that weekend. She puts oil paint on canvasses to illuminate her inspirations and imagination. She would come home from her frequent trips to Ireland with pictures of beaches, rocks, cliffs, waves, and where the sun sits. She’d walk around Brookline, absorbing the scene, and taking pictures or mental notes of many simple things, especially of trees.
Among many objects she paints, it’s through painting trees that she expresses her fascination with anthropomorphism, or ascribing objects with human traits. She’s painted trees with sad faces, branches as arms, and the leaves as hair. Some trees resemble the process of aging, happiness, or a state of bliss or zen. One of her paintings, “Conversation in Birch,” feeds one’s imagination on what talking trees look like.
“I’m inspired by the natural world and our relationship to it,” Lori said.
Like Lori, who has participated in Brookline Open Studios for 25 years, there are many other artists who participate year after year. But unlike Lori, many of them don’t show their art out of their own homes. Many of them share space at locations offered as venues for the weekend.
Lola Baltzell, an encaustic painter and mixed media artist, will display her artwork at The Inner Space yoga studio, located in Brookline Village. It’s also where she does her yoga. Other such venues used every year are the Pierce School, the Brookline Police Station, the Brookline Public Library, the Town Hall, and anywhere around town. Brochures mapping out all of the art venues will be available online, and like past years, many dotted venues happen to be in clusters around Brookline’s commercial areas.
For instance, Lori’s apartment is located near the Green Line’s St. Mary’s stop. Other artists who do not live by the T or Brookline’s Commercial area have found it more beneficial to share walls or space at places located at visitors’ convenience.
At the Brookline Art Center about 15 artists will showcase their art this year.
“It brings awareness of how many artists Brookline has, and a lot of people aren’t aware of that,” said Lauren Riviello, assistant director of the Brookline Art Center. “It’s hard to find good walls in Brookline.”
For Baltzell, the walls in the yoga studio are where she will share space with three other artists.
“I think for artists, it’s more fun because you’re with other people all day,” she said. “It’s also a way for artists to meet each other.”
Jewelry artist Hanne Berstein said almost everything on her walls at home are from Brookline artists. She’s been a Brookline Open Studios participant for seven years. She will showcase her work at a friend’s house, which the location will soon be announced.
Berstein said that it’s through art events like these that she has built and maintained friendships with other artists, as well as buying and trading each others’ art.
“I think it’s really nice to connect with the same people again,” she said, explaining that people tend to be faithful art buyers when they’re looking to collect more art pieces.
Although Brookline events like First Light and the Coolidge Corner Art Festival offer a platform for artists to showcase their work and meet others, an event like Brookline Open Studios doesn’t have the platform to show too many studios; even though the main purpose is to offer viewers the opportunity to see the space where artists work.
Baltzell, who is also on the steering committee of Brookline Open Studios, said that there are not many good studio spaces in Brookline to work in, and even if there was, “To rent a studio is crazy expensive,” she said. “Most people I know in Brookline work in their house or outside of Brookline,”
Baltzell explained that it’s in vibrant art communities like Jamaica Plain, South End, and East Boston where artists can find work studio space. Lola, who’s been an artist for 16 years now, use to work out of a studio in East Boston, but now she works out of her home in Brookline.
“It would be interesting for people to see exactly where I work,” Baltzell said. She explained that having one-on-one and longer conversations with patrons deepens the experience for both parties. However, she notes that the fast visitor traffic in commercial areas gives visitors a chance to talk to multiple artists and see a variety of art in one place. Because of this, she continues to show her work at the Inner Space yoga studio for the last three years instead of at her home.
Photographer and director of Brookline Art Studios Peg O’Connell shows her art everywhere.
“I move around a lot,” she said.
Her black and white photographs are displayed at the Brookline Senior Center right now, and for this year’s Brookline Open Studios, she will show her photos at the R.E.S Gallery on Beacon Street at Coolidge Corner. Often times, O’Connell also shows out of her own home. She said it’s easier for one to imagine an art piece in their life when they see it hanging on a living room wall. Also, it’s the longer, deep conversations in a home where one would learn that her photos are film-based; that she hasn’t done digital yet; that she’s addicted to the chemicals from what’s called a liquid developer and liquid fixer.
“What I like about the dark room is that it still gives me that sense of magic,” she said. “Watching the pictures slowly appear is an element of surprise.”
Lori has shown her work out of her apartment every year. For any art enthusiasts who go to Lori’s home at this year, they’ll see paintings of trees that are suspended in mid air with their roots exposed, and leaving the ground. Through in-depth conversations with her, visitors will find out that those paintings were part of her past series called “Tree Leaving.”
Visitors will learn that it stemmed from her admiration for Belgium painter René Magritte, who painted thought-provoking images using objects placed in unusual context. One of his paintings called “Golconda,” painted in 1953, is an oil painting that showed men who were wearing black raincoats and bowler hats, and they were suspended in the air, as if the sky was “raining men.”
Also, when visitors sees her work studio, they’d notice that Lori uses a thin paintbrush that measures at 20/0 in size to make dots of the leaves on trees. “People are fascinated by what brush I use to make a tiny dots,” she said.
In her Artists Statement she states: “The desire to have another see through my eyes is a compelling motivation.”