Culture- ART FEATURE- Inside eye: Crawford's studio studies

Ever since her art school days, painter Elizabeth Crawford has harbored a fascination for artists' studios, those intensely personal places where creative inspiration gets pushed into the physical realm. How does a studio reflect the intersection of an artist and his or her art? Are there commonalities between studios? What particular elements enable individual artists to conjure their mojo?

Crawford explores these questions in the innovative exhibition, "Studio Shots," currently on view upstairs at the McGuffey Art Center. The show combines Crawford's color photographs detailing the studios of six McGuffey members– Robin Braun, James Covert, Rose Csorba, Jim Respess, Rick Weaver, and Crawford herself– with samples of each artist's work. (Edith Arbaugh also contributes watercolor portraits of the artists, an extension of her "McGuffey Readers" series displayed downstairs.)

That Crawford relishes the odd arrangements of things she finds in each studio comes as no surprise considering that her own realistic still lifes– at once austere and humorous– offer unlikely juxtapositions, like a pyramid of canned goods standing next to a roll of duct tape ("The Scream"). 

Unlike her studied paintings, however, Crawford's photographs capture the spontaneous composition of each studio, recording their ever-shifting bits and pieces in natural light.

Each shot conveys subtle references to the particular artist's aesthetic. Her images of James Covert's studio, for example, include architectural details that call to mind Covert's structural multi-media paintings. Similarly, Crawford's photos of seascape painter Robin Braun's worktable feature snapshots of beaches drifting across swells of paint tubes near an inkwell filled with grey-green water.

Occasionally, the photos contain glimpses of artwork included in the show, such as Rick Weaver's sculptural studies of the human figure. Crawford's images unravel the gallery mystique, however, by pointing out how art emerges alongside the trappings of the artists' everyday. In contrast to their pristine presentation in the gallery, Weaver's clay figures stand amid Sharpie pens and a paint-flecked tape measure in Crawford's accompanying photograph.

Weaver, in particular, understands Crawford's project. Several pieces on display shock viewers by revealing what happens to work in process, as Weaver jaggedly hacks off the head of a female body beautifully rendered in wax (and seated for the time being on a Pampers container). Elsewhere in the gallery, he shows the removed bust stuck unceremoniously on top of a Bass Ale bottle.

Exactly how artists move from Point A to Point B, from idea to realization, remains elusive, but Crawford illuminates interesting points along the way.

Elizabeth Crawford's exhibition, "Studio Shots," is on view in the McGuffey Art Center's upstairs hall gallery through November 19. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.