Visual Arts

Studio Visit

Carrie Bloomston is an accomplished artist, a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Her beautiful paintings have left random, empty frames of green-gray-purple-peach paint on the walls of her Tempe studio, where Bloomston stands, on a recent Friday morning, flipping carefully through a drawer of older work. She passes intricate self-portraits in ink, collages and small paintings made with ink and watercolor on paper, then covered with acrylic, inspired by landscapes and love. She lands on a stunning piece -- multi-hued shapes scattered across a piece of sketch paper, the colors of the round images melting into one another.

How'd she do it?

Um, okra.

Bloomston admits that the masterpiece in question was made with stamps devised by cutting okra in half and dipping the pieces in paint.

"I'm out of the closet on Martha," she says.

With her pixie hair and hip pink slides ("Pink is the new black," Bloomston says, echoing the current crop of fashion magazines, but with a giggle), to look at her, the Martha thing's totally believable. She also knits and cans peaches. But with the exception of a bouquet of artfully unarranged paintbrushes in a jar on a shelf, Bloomston's studio is far too authentic for Stewart's tastes.

The space is delightfully grungy, tucked into an old icehouse behind Four Peaks Brewery.

Sometimes the place reeks of rancid barley, from the remains of the brewing process. "I kind of like it," Bloomston says. "It gives the place some character. And then we go drink the beer."

"We" is her husband, artist Kris Keul, who shares the tiny space with Bloomston. Until recently, she painted in the master bedroom of her Phoenix home (lucky girl, she lives in the shadow of Postino, near 40th Street and Campbell).

The walls of this space -- one of several under the umbrella of another local artist named Max Hammond -- are thick and well-insulated, but they don't reach the ceiling. Which limits privacy somewhat. Bloomston has had to abandon her previous method for finding inspiration, which involved dancing to Björk.

So what is a Jew (her blue Weimaraner, Solace, is nicknamed Saul, a nod to her roots) from Alabama doing in a place like this?

Making a nice living with her husband, running a faux finishing business, thank you very much.

But also finding her muse. Bloomston focuses on the desert and landscapes for inspiration, although her large-scale paintings are abstract enough that you can lose yourself in them, and find whatever you want. Bloomston says her favorite paintings are the ones Solace makes on her door with his nose prints. Or the crazy lines the tar makes on freshly fixed streets.

She has mixed feelings about sharing her work. She craves the attention, the feedback, the sale, but she says showing makes you vulnerable for a while. With a show coming up in November (Bloomston is a member of eye lounge -- you can get information about upcoming exhibits at eyelounge.com), Bloomston is seriously considering ripping out the garden she's nurtured for three years in her backyard and dumping rosemary, eucalyptus, broccoli and cilantro in the middle of the gallery, to symbolize "the almost violent dislocation of showing."

Or maybe she'll just show her paintings again.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.