Ever since I started the program Design and Decorative Arts in NYC, I have had a strong desire to visit the SoHo-based studio of Michele Oka Doner. Because to me, she embody what I think of the New York art scene, and even though she is so global today, represented by David Gill Gallery in London, and her work has been collected across the globe, to me, she is almost the personification of this city. I will never forget seeing her at a gallery opening when I first moved here three decades ago, beautiful, slender, graceful, wearing stylish white gown, like a Greek goddess. Oka Doner’s precious objects in glass, bronze, porcelain, wood, wax, silver, can be regularly seen in museums, galleries, and auction houses, her public art installations, including the Radiant Site at New York’s Herald Square subway (blow), all have been a part of New York’s visual world for decades. This morning I finally fulfilled the dream and entered the breathtaking studio, together with a group of my students, as the personal guests of Michele Oka Doner. We came out different. In her articulated, elegant style, she has presented the story of her life, the philosophy of integrating art, life, and creation, all under the same roof, the way she has ‘crafted’ her life and her art in the most organic, natural way. When you walk into the spacious, airy studio, in a cast iron building, located just a few steps from the former house of Donald Judd, you are walking into a different sphere. It is like entering an atelier of a Renaissance man who is in an eternal quest for the secrets of nature, and I am talking about such true naturalists as painter Albrecht Dürer, fascinated with specimens, and convinced that nature, being God’s creation, was the very source of art. “If it I did not live in this city,” Oka Doner concluded, “I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do,” and I was thinking that if I was not living in this city, I wouldn’t have been able to have this uplifting experience that I had this morning. Photos that were not taken in the studio are curtesy of David Gill.
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