Maria Calandra

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What is my work about?

I draw the studios and artworks of my contemporaries and the places these and other works exist beyond the studio: museums, artists’ homes, and collectors’ walls. I translate these interior spaces and the art that is in them into my own. The work acts like a portrait and homage to not only my historical influences and the institutes they exist in, but also to the work of my peers who are my constant inspiration and shape this moment in contemporary art. By employing a traditional, conceptual, and personal approach to making graphite drawings from direct observation, I am able to better see and understand what matters to me most: art.


Artist Statement

Several years ago I had the idea to make drawings of studio spaces and the artworks inside of them. I wasn’t sure at the time how this idea would manifest itself if it came to fruition. I could only hope that artists would be willing to have me work alongside of them in the sacred and intimate spaces of their studios. They not only invited me in, but they encouraged me, passed me along to others and shared incredible and humbling stories with me about their past, present and future as artists. This ultimately led me to making drawings of not only studios, but also museums and the homes of artists and collectors. I wanted to document where art lives beyond the studio. It is with great admiration and near obsession that I make this work, and it is a never-ending adventure.

My studio visits become an intimate look inside the artist’s space, both physically and psychologically. (You can see examples of these works in images 11-20). The drawings are a study of detail — from the build up of discarded painter’s tape on a studio floor to the hidden collaged elements found on the multi-layered surface of a canvas. I am made aware of the artists’ work and space layer by layer, giving the lengthy evaluation it takes to not only transform them both into grayscale, but also into my own sensibility of line, color, and space.

There is an intense sense of generosity I feel from the artists through the kind of sharing that happens throughout the day. I strive to return the generosity shown to me by way of my blog Pencil in the Studio. While we talk, making contact with my pencil and hand in lieu of their eyes, an unusual kind of collaboration begins to occur. A merging of their life stories and artworks begins to form on the paper in front of me and later on the pages of my blog. Through rooftop revelations at sunset to late afternoon bongo drum sessions I feel lucky to hold so many tales of their struggles and art world existences. As the project serves as an historical record of the artists of our time in NYC and beyond, it is a way for me to bring the human experience to the forefront of art and art making.

Sitting in front of three giant Manet paintings in the Met for a day — while simultaneously attempting to be invisible to the tourists, art students and museum eccentrics around me — I am transported into a whole other realm of seeing and experiencing art. (Examples of these drawings can be found in images 1-10). It is an intangible and transcendent feeling that I get from being at once crowded by people and paintings and at the same time alone in my own concentration. I begin to imagine things. As I become hypnotized by Manet’s bullfighter’s smug expression and contrapposto stance, the figures sometimes make their way out of the canvases, while remaining in the confines of my drawings. I revel in being cheered on by the museum guards that use my practice to get them through another day of watching while they joke with me about their silhouettes making it into the drawing. It becomes a game of tolerance as my eyes strain to see where one line begins and another ends in a painting such as Picasso’s Three Musicians. While I attempt to crack the code of one of the most important cubist paintings, a small child looks over my shoulder at my progress, nodding with approval. I believe that artists continue their life after death through their work. Sitting with a favorite Rothko and drawing it is the closest thing I can get to doing a studio visit with him. The process allows me to connect with their spirits in unimaginably satisfying ways.

Then there are the drawings of private collections and the domestic spaces they live in. When I am given permission to make a drawing of one of these spaces, be it in a peer’s apartment filled with traded works or a trusting connoisseur’s house adorned with their most beloved pieces, I start by getting a tour of each room before I decide where to set up. Inevitably during this tour I run into my artist friends in the form of their works, hung salon style next to one another as though they are longtime mates. I secretly wink at them, happy to see that they have made it out of the studio and into a place that allows daily admiration. These crowded drawings end up being a portrait of the collector’s expression. They are also made up of many smaller portraits of the artists with whom I have come in contact. This process brings my project full circle.


MFA 2006, Painting, Cornell University
BFA 1999, Painting, Ohio University

Solo Exhibitions/Performances
Maria Calandra – New Drawings, Sardine, Brooklyn, NY

SPACES, Sierra Nevada College, Incline Village, NV

Pencil in the Studio, Sardine, Brooklyn, NY

Enough to Know No Knowing, Tjaden Gallery, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

The House, drawing installation, Ithaca, NY
“Leg,” Performance in Corporealities, Schwartz Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Figuratively Speaking, Garfield Artworks, Pittsburgh, PA

Recent Paintings, Frank L Melaga Museum, Brownsville, PA

4 Sections, Moffit Cancer Center, Contemporary Art Museum of The University of South Florida, Tampa, FL !

Select Group Exhibitions
HOUSE, Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA (forthcoming)
Salon Society Edition 2, curated by Fabiola Alondra, Brooklyn, NY (forthcoming)
#FFFF2 (Fifteen Fragments For Feature), White Columns, New York
I am What I am Not Yet, Madelyn Jordon Fine Art, Scarsdale, NY
Mercury Rising, Mulherin New York, New York, NY
Wagers, Essex Flowers, New York, NY

Key Party, Orgy Park, Brooklyn, NY
Interchange, Moore College of Art Design, Philadelphia, PA
By Invitation Only, Kinz + Tillou Fine Art, Brooklyn, NY
SPRING/ BREAK Art Show, The Old School, New York, NY
HKJB: Genesis Forward Battery, Underdonk, Brooklyn, NY

Portraits of Fern, Norte Maar, Brooklyn, NY
Giacometti and Contemporary Drawing, Norte Maar, Brooklyn, NY

Peaces on Earth, Daily Operation/Sardine, Brooklyn, NY
Summer Group Show, DNA Gallery, Provincetown, MA
Can’t Stop Rock Lobster, Shoot The Lobster/Martos gallery, New York, NY
WAVERS, curated by EJ Hauser and Rob Nadeau, Brooklyn, NY

Haywire, STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY
Temporary Antumbra Zone, Janet Kurnatowski Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
New Year, New Work, New Faces, STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY

Painting Comes Alive, ArtJail, New York, NY
World’s Greatest, Daily Operation, Brooklyn, NY
Time Bandits 111, POI, Brooklyn, NY

Past, Present, and Future, Frank L Melega Museum, Brownsville, PA

Group Graduate Exhibition, State of the Art Gallery, Ithaca, NY

Emerging Artist of Pittsburgh, Modern Formations Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA

Off the Walls, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA
Burg(h), Boogaloo, Brooklyn, NY
Flux, painting installation, Allentown, Pittsburgh, PA

Residencies and Fellowships
2015, 2013 DNA Summer Residency, Provincetown, MA
2004-2006 Graduate Fellowship, Cornell University
1996-1998 The Francis M. Paulson Scholarship, Ohio University

2015: Fukt Magazine for Contemporary Drawing (forthcoming)

Jennifer Coates, Review, Time Out New York, June 19, 2015

Howard Halle. Critic’s Pic. Time Out New York, June 15, 2015

James Kalm. Pencil in the Studio at Sardine. June 29, 2013

Xico Greenwald. Inside the Artist’s Studio. New York Sun. May 23, 2013

Lizzie Simon. Absorbing Inspiration From Her Fellow Artists. Wall Street Journal. May 20, 2013

Sharon Butler. Giacometti in Bushwick: “Art, reality and the myth of life became one”. Two Coats of Paint. February 23, 2013

James Kalm. Giacometti and a Selection of Contemporary Drawings at NORTE MAAR. February 3, 2013

Bret Baker. Painters’ Table: Top 10 Best Posts: May 2012. Huffington Post. June 15, 2012

Bret Baker. Painters’ Table: Top 10 Best Posts, August 2011. Huffington Post. September 20, 2011

Guest Lecture
Sara Lawrence College, Bronxvillle, NY
Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Cuddle Works, Reno, Nevada
Hunter College, New York, New York
California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA