COLUMN: In The Name of a Good Tradition
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 23:09
Much of my life is driven by a kind of hysteric nostalgia.
At home, I was always the one that forced the family to carve a pumpkin before Halloween, always the one who made sure the family Christmas tree went up right after Thanksgiving, one of many reasons for which I was always grateful to have a fake Christmas tree, regardless of what self-proclaimed Christmas culture critics have to say. (Easter eggs, though. Never really quite got into that. To this day I am irrationally mistrustful of families that are too aggressive about dyeing their Easter eggs—does that make me a critic?)
And all of these things are driven by my desire to keep tradition alive.
I am not the kind of person that fears progress, but I am the kind of person that fears the loss of good things, the fear that when good things are lost they do not come back.
This was the feeling I had when I walked into the South End’s 535 Albany St. this past weekend during the annual South End Open Studios, which has been an event for 27 years. The old warehouse building, which houses creative and artistic ventures, is like something out of the past.
A building with a distinctly bohemian feel, the large rooms with plenty of windows serve as the studios of several artists, some of whom have been working there since the 1980s.
I had trekked to the South End not to visit this building specifically. I had just been looking to cover South End Open Studios in general for a brief Heights article.
I certainly found an article, but, perhaps more importantly, I found a story.
I had the opportunity to chat with four female artists who make their artistic homes at 535 Albany St., right in their very studios. I learned about how they found their way there, about their lives. I found myself enjoying a chat in the bright studios of Jo Ann Rothschild, Nancy Simonds, Lisa Houck, and Jane Kamine, all of whom have active artistic careers in the city of Boston.
I knew that there were other galleries to be visited during the open studios event, as the women told me that there were more popular places on Harrison Ave. and Thayer St., but I was in no rush to leave. While an eventual visit to the other locations gave me the opportunity to see excellent artwork and other interesting artists, I was left cold by the more commercial vibe present in the newer studios.
All artists, of course, are striving to sell their art, but the congested, claustrophobic hallways led into far too many studios for my liking, leaving me feeling like I was in a shopping mall instead of an art studio.
On Albany St., however, I felt as if I were walking into the home of generous hosts.
Despite their expertise in the field, all four of the artists that I talked to were devoid of the pretentiousness often pervasive in younger artists. They felt like friends, comfortable in their own skins. Kamine, for example, showed me the view of Boston outside of her studio—an angle that I have rarely seen in photographs.
I do not know if my writing this will in any way assure that places like 535 Albany St. stay alive and well in this world—it is unlikely.
I know that the column of a 19-year-old student at a college newspaper will have little sway. And even if I had all of the influence of the world’s most famous art connoisseur, I know that words are often weaker than the tug of economic interests, of the natural changes that come to all societies.
But I hope that these final words, even if they cannot change the way in which art studios in the South End will change, will resonate.
Simonds, one of the artists to whom I spoke, described her art this way: “It’s like visual self-discovery. It goes on forever.”
I hope that places like 535 Albany St., in the name of tradition, do the same.