I recently met up with Constance Scopelitis in her studio as she prepared for this weekend's 20th Annual Stutz Artists Open House. Scopelitis has been a working artist at the Stutz since 1993, and took part in the complex's first open house, then called an "open studio tour." She's putting together a retrospective of her work over the past twenty years for the event, though paintings featuring Barbie, an occasional subject of hers over the years (she still has her childhood Barbie), will be absent. I tried to hide my disappointment, though one of her Barbie-inspired pieces will make it into her show at the Conrad Hilton next month.
Those acquainted with the First Friday scene have probably seen Scopelitis' work in group shows, or hanging in the Conrad. But the Stutz Open House will offer fans and newcomers alike the first opportunity to get a sense of her career trajectory, including straight-ahead portraiture dating from the early '90s; collage-like narrative work executed in her signature oil-on-linen style; and an interactive multimedia painting, "The Whole World is Watching," that features a video image of the viewer's own face.
Scopelitis, who grew up in Irvington and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1977, is very fond of her studio. She told me that she credits the space with affording her the concentration and serenity that she needed in order to reach her current level of success on a national level.
NUVO: What's kept you in this space for so long?
Constance Scopelitis: The vibe in this space is so good. And at night the view from these windows goes straight down the alley to the Capitol. Because I tend to work large, I have room to really move around the space. I've started putting more and more things on wheels, which is awesome because then I can reconfigure where I put my stuff. I'm getting ready to do that with my worktable too. So I can just move stuff out of the way and then I can really have long vision of things.
NUVO: It's quite a view of downtown you have out these windows.
Scopelitis: Yeah. I see the sunset everyday in here. Even on cloudy days when the sun sinks below the cloud line I still have a beautiful view. You know, though, I'm not inspired by landscapes.
NUVO: Who are some of your favorite painters then?
Scopelitis: They're all figurative painters. I'm more into the figure and into psychology. I can tell stories about people on canvas. That interests me. I can do pseudo-landscapes if I feel like I have to create a setting. But they are very simplistic. I've tried to go out with friends who are plein air painters. I fall asleep in the fresh air.
NUVO: You have a studio in New York as well.
Scopelitis: I'm going there ten days a month. I'm straddling. I can't replace this fantastic studio. I just can't. But the mojo on the street is just fantastic. I'm a real urban kind of person. I love the energy in New York, and I soak it up, and I work in a very small studio there. And then I'll come back here and work larger. I've got just under 1200 square feet, whereas in New York it's more like 250.
NUVO: Can you tell me something about your formative experiences at IU Bloomington?
Scopelitis: In my freshman year at IU, I was able to study drawing. And I got recruited one day by Barry Gealt. He said, "You just have to paint. You can draw. So now let's get to painting." And I was so embarrassed at the time because I knew that I didn't have the money to buy the paints. So Barry Gealt said not to worry. He was going to give me all of his used scrub brushes, and if I just would go out and buy four colors, he would let me be in his painting class. And I could just do value studies by using cerulean blue, raw umber, burnt umber and white. So I did that for a whole semester, just painted in four colors. And then at Christmas I was able to get paint as gifts from family members and go into painting full color.