By Lindsey Taylor
Walking up to the white brick house nestled in an East Austin neighborhood, fellow art admirers flow in and out of the home-turned-art-studio. A banner draped across the front door sports black letters on an orange background, welcoming guests to Studio Yo. Inside, photographer Cecily Johnson and artist Rebecca Klier display their works of art.
Along with Johnson and Klier, many local artist participate in the East Austin Studio Tour (EAST), which allows Austin residents to capture a more intimate sense of the art community by exploring local artists’ studios — many of which are located in their homes. The self-guided tour’s portion of Artists & Studios and Exhibitions were free and open to the public for two weekends in November.
While this November marked the 13th semi-annual EAST tour, Johnson and Klier were newcomers to the event. “I have been surprised how many people I know in the art community and just how big it is,” Klier says.
Although there are a variety of artistic mediums offered in EAST, Klier focuses on painting, drawing and mixed media. Her vision for art stems from nature, texture and things that grow. “I love looking at nature and even at a smaller scale of what makes up a plant and the patterns,” Klier says.
When describing her artistic process, Klier finds creation to flow naturally — aside from her portraits that often reflect a more definitive idea. “When I’m thinking about putting something on a canvas or a piece of paper, I just start drawing,” Klier says. “I think my work varies a lot, but it mostly comes back to nature and sort of just the way everything looks together. I don’t like to be really philosophical about it because a lot of is, ‘Wow, I really like the way that looks,’ or a happy accident.”
While Klier’s pieces often reflect nature, Johnson draws inspiration from a deeper source: her family.
For the “sentimental” person that Johnson is, photography has been a way to connect with her family. She was first drawn to the medium at age 12 when her uncle was dying. With the video camera that her grandpa bought, Johnson catalogued the last moments of her uncle’s life at family gatherings. Through the process, Johnson says she was glad she was able to see her family through the camera lens while her grandpa spent time with her uncle.
The experience with her uncle is just one way Johnson expresses her artistic philosophy of preserving the present for the future. This theme of preservation is even displayed in the City of Austin. In 2004, Johnson bought an Austin Then & Now book, which, 10 years later, is vastly varied. “Austin is completely different than it was in 2004,” Johnson says. “At the time we thought ‘Hey, we are in the now, we are in the future, this is it,’ but things change all the time.”
Johnson first came to Austin at age 15 when she left her hometown in Louisiana. While attending Bowie High School, Johnson enrolled in photography as an elective. When her family moved away at age 19, Johnson stayed in Austin and called photography her “grounding.”
Since she never had the opportunity to explore her Louisiana roots, her recent photography series allows Johnson to go back to the place where she grew up. One of her favorite photographs from the collection portrays her dad’s neighborhood in New Orleans. Johnson captured the image while rain poured overhead, people ducked for dry spaces and rain slid along the sidewalk. Johnson continued to walk around the neighborhood, and — despite the rainy conditions — had fun while photographing a meaningful setting.
As evident by Klier and Johnson, each artist has various motivations propelling his or her creations. While these are just two local artists, Austin hosts a supportive artistic community, and EAST is just one of the ways to catch a glimpse into the creative sphere. “Austin has turned me into a photographer,” Johnson says.