Studio Time: Brian Reaume’s Birchwater Studios

By Columbus Alive
From the March 7, 2013 edition

There are few frivolous items in installation artist Brian Reaume’s studio. 

That suitcase on the chair?

He bought that at a flea market before he knew whether he’d be able to bust open the lock. Inside was a stack of blueprints for a house in Bexley, which he later used as canvases for paintings of colorful shacks in his Shelter Series.

Those paint-covered Nike high tops under the table?

Those are what he wears when painting. Every Reaume painting from the past seven years has been created in those kicks.

Those filthy welding masks on the wall?

He calls them inspiration pieces, reminders about the different masks we wear in the different spaces we inhabit — home, work, play.

The olden wooden chairs that speckle his 280-square-foot Junctionview space (which he pays 60 cents per square foot per month for) “are like my dogs,” he said. He used them to set up works and in works for years, having had to reinforce them regularly.

“I become really attached to objects,” Reaume admitted, “sometimes more than people.”

Particularly unintentionally ugly things.

“I want to take care of them, tell them they’re beautiful,” Reaume said, adding with a laugh, “Everyone gets a trophy.”

He also really connects with the idea of home and the role it plays in our interactions with ourselves and each other. This is more than evident in his latest bodies of work called The Shelter Series. “The Shelter Series: Coastal Refugees” — on which he is currently working for the Cultural Arts Center (opening March 24) — is composed of hanging “cocoons” made from re-salvaged materials from old homes. The cocoons will be titled after American cities that have lost populations because of bad economies or broken industries (Akron, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.). The series addresses the idea of taking pride in where we spend our time, our environments taking pride in themselves and forced migration due to the environmental impact of global warming.

One would think it would be particularly hard on a guy like Reaume that Junctionview, the place his studio has called home for eight years, will be demolished at the end of April so the space can be redeveloped for the Grandview Yard Project by Nationwide Realty Investors, the Junctionview landlord.

Instead, Reaume is focused on his CAC show and said the artists at Junctionview are feeling thankful for having had a place like this to create for as long as they did. 

“It’s not a bad thing for Columbus’ creative community that we [artists at Junctionview] be dispersed,” Reaume said. “We can bring our quality work elsewhere.”

He’s not sure where he’ll go after April, although he’s certain he will not thrive in a communal type of art space (note the messages on Studio 104’s door that say if the door’s shut, don’t come knocking). And it’s not so much the building Reaume will miss, but the solace a studio like this has given him and how it has helped his art grow faster than if, say, he had a studio at home. 

“I liked having this anchor, knowing that this was my sanctuary,” Reaume said. “It allowed me to feel like I could step out of my comfort zone. If I introduced an artwork and it wasn’t received like I hoped or I knew it wasn’t quite right, I knew I could bring it back to this place’s embrace and do surgery, an autopsy, tear it up and put it back together again.”

That kind of creative shelter Reaume cherishes.