During their seasonal tenure, artists resided in the studio court. For most of twenty years, a new set of artists arrived each winter at the Research Studio by Smith’s invitation. A few of the artists would serve more than one term, including Crozier Galloway, Harry Shaw, Milton Avery, and Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones.
Five separate studios surround this enclosed courtyard, with a nearby rectory as well as a dining room, garage, and a gatehouse. The studios were each equipped with a workroom, a bedroom alcove, and a bath. The series of rooms open directly to the outdoors and are connected by common passageways and courtyards. These, in turn, connected artists with nature as well as with each other.
By March, 1937, shortly after the unveiling of the initial plan for the site, Smith announced that the Research Studio would instead be expanded into a “Village of Studios,” with plans to “double the size of the original layout,” consisting of a group of studios adjoining the main building and forming a separate enclosed courtyard. The expansion was originally planned as a future development at the site, but Bok encouraged Smith to move forward immediately and finish the full construction at once.
Studio 5 stands out with the Mayan-inspired corbelled tower above the central door. The two distinct sculptures on the façade provide us with a clue as to how André developed his method of concrete carving over the years. The Medusa figure with snakes and cats has a more watery or liquid look, which indicates it was created while Smith was still working on the best mixture of sand and cement. The Mayan priest-like figure with outstretched arms, however, is more sharply articulated, with a carefully carved concrete screen. Smith perfected the process of incising the wet concrete as he worked through the creative process over the years.
Before you leave the Studio Court, don’t miss a creative depiction of daily life at the Research Studio. Smith painted a colorful mural in the loggia leading to Studio 4. This original painted mural features contemporary themes rendered in a series of small squares, resembling a line of children’s blocks. Each square depicts an item from the everyday, including a painter’s palette, a cup of coffee, a deck of cards, a crossed saw and hammer, a telephone, and a wine glass and pipe. Peter Banca and his toy train also make an appearance.
As you follow the path on your right to the former Garage and Gatehouse, take note of the many imbedded sculptures. Smith borrowed liberally from the cultures of ancient Mesoamerica, specifically the Mayas and the Aztecs. Can you identify the some of the common figures depicted?