Art Beat: The Artist's Studio | WMUK

Art Beat: The Artist's Studio

Apr 1, 2021

Intaglio print of Lowell Nesbitt's New York studio by Ken Freed
Credit Courtesy of the artist

Back in 1976, then-graduate art student Ken Freed won a Ford Foundation grant to create a series of ten intaglio prints.


Mentored by Western Michigan University professor Curtis Rhodes, who founded the university's print collection, Freed took the subject of the artist’s studio as his muse. He went to New York City to visit the studios of ten well-known artists, captured them in his prints, then added textual elements, small images, and Egyptian symbols to their borders.

“I was a student of printmaking, and there was a French artist, Félix Hilaire Buhot (1847-1898). He started this thing of making these gorgeous prints,” Freed says. “Then he did all kinds of little drawings and things in the margin. I really liked the informality that it brings to prints, having margins in the plate itself that you can write on or draw pictures on. And so I adopted that for this series.”Freed visited the New York studios of Lowell Nesbitt, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Philip Pearlstein, Louise Nevelson, Richard J. Haas, William S. Haney, Stephen Woodburn, Hiroshi Murata, and Robert Indiana. Their studios ranged from the modest to the luxurious. The grandest of all belonged to Nesbitt.

Self-portrait of Ken Freed
Credit Courtesy of the artist

“Nesbitt was an extremely successful painter in 1976, the time of my visit," Freed says." When I rang the bell and as I went into the atrium, there was a swimming pool, which I later found out was the largest private swimming pool in New York City. He had purchased the former mounted police stable, so it had four floors. It had a four-story atrium, a rooftop entertainment area, his studio, and living space. It was named 'The Old Stable.'”

As one artist introduced Freed to the next, he accumulated images of the ten studios. Later, over a year, he spent time adding images, symbols, and other markings in the margins. In March 2020, Freed donated the prints to WMU’s Art Collection.

Ken Freed moved from Ohio to Battle Creek, Michigan, when he was 14. He started painting a year later and was the youngest artist to have a one-person show at the Battle Creek Art Center. Freed earned a BA in art from Davidson College, an MA from SUNY Oswego, and an MFA from Western Michigan University. As a professional artist, Freed has had exhibitions in many parts of the country and has won more than thirty awards in competitions. He has taught at the Kirk Newman School at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art for three decades.

Ten of Ken Freed’s prints of artist studios are on exhibit at the Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery at Western Michigan University through May 22, 2021.

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