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T.O.A.S.T. with the Most

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Here at The Charles, we do things differently. We’re not comprised of all-black-wearing design clones, gawking over the same inspo links again and again. We’re not a team that operates in a vacuum. We’re a team that encourages individual members to shine and allow their personal passions drive their creativity. Naturally, as creatives, we have a need to represent our truest selves in our workstations. Whether it’s customizing our desktop backgrounds or personalizing our desks, freely expressing our individuality allows us to think clearer and create better in the workplace.

This week a few team members and I participated in T.O.A.S.T. — the artist-run, non-profit, Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour. We got a chance to explore the studios of local creatives, pick their brains, grab some summer inspiration, and quench our thirst for some much needed #ArtTalk. Get the complete rundown below.

Our studio tour began at Franta Nedved’s Art Atelier located right down the street from our office. We were greeted with smiles and Italian cookies as Franta explained his roots from growing up in the Czech Republic — the biggest inspiration behind his art. Using a unique encaustic painting technique (burning pigment into wood with a blowtorch), Nedved’s work ranges from depicting his homeland (symbolized by landscapes of wheat) to portraits of Jesus & Judas. Nedved and his wife (who soon joined us) had a certain carefree aura to them. After every word was a hearty, rambunctious laugh that put smiles on everyone’s face. In addition, their passion for each other and for Nedved’s art was evident as they pulled out painting after painting from storage to show us.

Our next stop on the T.O.A.S.T. Artwalk was with pop artist Sam Wagner, just down the hall from Franta Nedved. Wagner’s flamboyant style was the complete opposite of Nedved’s historical, traditional paintings. His studio was small and full of massive paintings. For Wagner, every aspect of his work had a motive and a background story crazier than the next. Be it the dog he loved (and won in a legal battle) or a fighter jet silhouette he obsessively printed on shirts in the 90’s (hey, it was cool enough for JFK Jr.). Wagner’s high-energy personality was so remarkable and one-of-a-kind that it was so easy to re-reflect on his presence later on that day.

We stepped out of the first stop on our T.O.A.S.T. walk and made our way down Church Street to CJ Collins’ art studio.  From the moment we stepped in, we could feel her positive energy radiate in the space. An older lady, CJ Collins explained that at an early age she knew she’d be an artist, despite living on a small farm in Oklahoma. Upon visiting New York City with her students, Collins fell in love with the “sketchiness” of Tribeca, making it her “forever home”.

Collins mainly focuses on large scale abstract paintings that rely on primary colors and intersecting lines. Her stunning compositions start off as paper sketches, and then applied to transparency film. She then uses an old-school projector (think Elementary school) to spin, flip, cut, and move the transparency film around the projector. The forms are casted onto a canvas until she finds a composition she finds striking. She then traces the lines in thick black paint and adds touches of color to her satisfaction.

The multimedia artist Robert Mango’s studio was next on our list, and we were not disappointed. He lead us through his high-ceiling live-in-studio explaining the background behind his most notable pieces and even granting us a sneak peak of his latest work. All in all, Mango’s works ranged from 1970’s icons to interactive sculptures dedicated to legendary Dada artists.  His time spent creating relief sculptures led him to writing a book, 100 Paintings: An Artist Life in New York, which was then turned into a documentary (debuting this summer!). His live-in studio situation was unique to see because it really spoke to us about his dedication to his practice; he’s truly living his dream (and in it!).

Lastly, we visited a shared studio space where purple-haired artist Regina Silvers operates. Silvers had two series on view, showcasing her artistic range and devoted messages. In the center of the room were dozens of sketchbooks that portrayed the same vantage point view from the window in her apartment, page after page. Surprisingly, the drawings differed from each other than one might think, embodying the saying that “NYC is an ever-changing city”.  Along the perimeter of her space were colorful depictions of the recent Women’s March and Anti-Trump rallies. These images resonated with me, and my favorite aspect of this series were the blurred out faces against the crystal clear words on the protest signs. The ambiguity of the faces allowed viewers like me to put themselves directly into the work feel the exact message of the series.

The T.O.A.S.T. Artwalk was a great experience. These artists we met proved to us that our passions can be different, look different, and most importantly, work differently from the status quo. As individuals, we all have the need to let our feelings out into the world and we should be uninhibited by the molds society has placed on us. Go out, be unique, but most importantly, be yourself.