5 Brooklyn artists you need to meet: The best of Bushwick Open Studios (PHOTOS)

Behind the scenes with Brooklyn’s hottest emerging artists

Bushwick Open Studios is an annual arts and culture festival typically held during the first weekend in June. The lineup includes music, dance and interdisciplinary performances, but the core of the festival is the open studio. Artists living and working in Bushwick, one of New York’s most vibrant artistic communities, invite the general public to visit their creative homes and learn more about their work.

This year, over 600 Brooklyn artists welcomed visitors to their studios on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2. Having religiously attended the event for the past several years, I was eager to see what this year’s artists had been working on behind the scenes.

Here are five artists to look for the next time you find yourself in Bushwick! Make sure to contact the artists ahead of time to arrange your visit.


Kristen Schiele 1

1717 Troutman Street, #326

Between the vivid color palette of her paintings and the adorable baby she was toting, I couldn’t resist entering Kristen’s studio. Flashes of neon mingle on her canvasses with hard geometric edges, printed text, faint imagery and, at times, a graffiti feel. Exploring her studio also reminded me precisely of why I love open studio events in the first place: to fully immerse myself in the in the raw, sometimes unkempt environment of the artist and her creative process. Kristen’s work appears to have been arranged just so by her deeply curious yet organized mind, with a structure alternating between architectural and haphazard.


Tim Okamura with work

1717 Troutman, #303

I was thrilled to stumble into Tim’s studio after having followed him on Twitter and never having had a chance to see his gorgeous portraiture up close and personal. Who knew artists could still paint like this, these days? He’s the youngest Old Master you’ll ever meet! His larger-than-life portraits of women of color are arresting to say the least. Stunning, formidable and unabashedly contemporary, his figures draw the viewer into their space and match your gaze with unshakable confidence and rigor. The views from his palatial studio weren’t bad either!


Aaron Williams 2

1717 Troutman St., #330

Less is more (at least in the case of Aaron’s Williams’ thoughtfully “curated” studio space). During my visit, the artist hung just three of his large scale manipulated photographic landscapes; as a result, everyone who wandered into the studio soaked up the details and textures of each image. I couldn’t help but associate them with the grandeur of the Hudson Valley painting tradition. However, Aaron offers a fresh take on the genre with his crumpled, folded and torn compositions. Sourced from found stock imagery, the photos are cleverly enhanced by his handling and layering techniques.


Esther Ruiz 1

117 Grattan

Maybe it was the neon tube lights or her studio mate’s fragrant cedar sculptures, but I was immediately enchanted by Esther’s beautiful space and compelling sculptures. Her studio was populated with an eclectic collection of concrete geometric forms, which she further enhanced with dainty combinations of plexiglass, neon and natural minerals. The whole feel was earthy yet modern with a distinct pop appeal. I had never seen anything like it and I need to see more! Plus, she’s pretty adorable, isn’t she?


Gustavo Rizerio

146 Jefferson Street

While its arguably more efficient to stick to the big warehouse spaces chock full o’ artists on each floor, it also pays to stray into some of the solitary studios off the beaten path. That is certainly the case with Gustavo’s studio on Jefferson Street. His in-home studio space is virtually covered in work ranging from mounted Snapple bottle cap messages to vibrant abstract paintings and a glow-in-the-dark bathroom sink-turned-pedestal. I was most excited about his newest project: a collection of free-standing and wall-mounted plastic cable tie sculptures. He managed to transform the most mundane, utilitarian throwaway into a seemingly mystical object from a bygone era.

About the Writer

Krista Saunders is an independent curator based in Brooklyn, NY.

She has worked for the ICA in Philadelphia, the Queens Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art and New Museum of Contemporary Art in various capacities. Krista is also a 2010-11 Lori Ledis Curatorial Fellow and served on the Momenta Art Advisory Board from 2011-2012.

In addition to exhibitions at BRIC Rotunda Gallery, NURTUREart and Lesley Heller Workspace, her curatorial portfolio also includes site-specific exhibitions in alternative forums such as Urban Alchemist Design Collective, The Old Stone House and Vax Moto motorcycle garage.

Krista is the Co-founder and Director of Ground Floor Gallery, a new space for emerging artists in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Follow her art-world adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@groundfloorbk).

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