Choctaw-Cherokee Artist Jeffrey Gibson Shows Us His Hudson Studio, Where He Riffs on Native American Iconography

The artist invited us into the former schoolhouse, where he and his team create electrically colorful works.

Jeffrey Gibson, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and his studio.

Jeffrey Gibson’s studio could be considered his biggest work of art. 

Just about a decade ago, Gibson undertook a major project, converting a former schoolhouse in Hudson, New York, into a 14,000-square-foot workshop and studio. Ten years later, the project is nearly complete. Located on four acres of rolling country land, the studio is, by all accounts, a place of beauty—filled with handwoven rugs, art Gibson admires, and music (always music). It is here, in relative isolation, that Gibson and his studio team plan, think, and make—but also dance, dine, and laugh. “I like to have everything in one place,” says Gibson. 

Jeffrey Gibson, The Many Worlds (2023). Courtesy of Art Market San Francisco Fort Mason Pavillion Drew Bird Photography San Francisco Bay Area Photographer Have Camera. Will Travel.

Jeffrey Gibson, The Many Worlds (2023). Courtesy of Art Market San Francisco Fort Mason Pavillion. Photograph by Drew Bird Photography San Francisco.

It’s been full days in the studio lately. The Choctaw-Cherokee artist, who is celebrated for his electrically colorful multimedia works that fuse Native American iconography with imagery from contemporary culture, has a busy few months ahead. Last weekend, Gibson presented The Many Worlds, a suspended mobile that models solar system presented at Art Market San Francisco fair in conjunction with ICA San Francisco—the exhibition “This Burning World” closed at the museum on Sunday. Now Gibson is gearing up for his next solo exhibition “Once More With Feeling” at Jessica Silverman in San Francisco in June, followed by solo shows at both Stephen Friedman, London, and Sikkema Jenkins, New York, in the fall.  

With this chock-full exhibition calendar ahead, we caught up with Gibson at his studio. He told us what is on his playlist, how he creates a comfortable studio space, and what he does right before he leaves the studio. 

Tell us about your studio. Where is it, how did you find it, what kind of space is it, etc.? 

I moved up to Hudson, New York, in 2012, with my partner. We were looking to leave the city and we said let’s give it a shot and see if we’re happy. The studio was a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse in the Hamlet of Claverack, just outside of Hudson. We saw it when we first moved up here. I wasn’t in a position to buy a studio then, but a few years later, it was still available. I’d never owned a building before. I’d never had to renovate a building, so I was naive. The renovation process has been doable but has been extensive. We’re still in the process of renovating to its ultimate form, but I’d say we’re about 75 percent there. I had never had this much space before. When you first move into a space this large, it feels overwhelming. And then over the years, it gets filled up!  

Courtesy of the artist and his studio.

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

Do you have studio assistants or other team members working with you? What do they do? 

We hover between 14 to 17 people. The studio’s broken up into basically two halves: one half focuses on paintings and the other half focuses on handwork, like beading, and sewing. We have someone who works primarily with welding armatures and creating structures for things. And I have two studio managers, a production manager and a painting manager. Many of these people have been here for some time, some coming up on nine years. One person has been here for 11 years. We have, what I call, a studio memory. We’re very close and I want everyone to be happy and to feel good about working here. We are a very functional space, and I don’t micromanage people. Everyone gets to direct their day to some degree.  

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

How many hours do you typically spend in the studio, what time of day do you feel most productive, and what activities fill the majority of that time? 

I have two small kids. Assembling the team came with the knowledge that I was going to start a family. My kids are four and about to turn seven. They’re both in school so getting them out of the door is my first priority. I get to the studio between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and my day wraps up at 5:00 p.m. My team makes that possible. Bill and Brian, who are the studio managers, are the people who I look to for meetings and what’s scheduled. The goal is that I can be working in the studio half the day with no real directive as to what I’m meant to be doing. 

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

What tool or art supply do you enjoy working with the most, and why?  

Recently, I’ve really gotten into rulers. There’s a lot of geometry in the painting. The rulers—when you get one that actually is made for what you’re doing are kind of incredible and keep everything in order. I also absolutely have to have music. Some people in the studio play really great music. 

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Is there anything you like to listen to/watch/read/look at etc. while in the studio for inspiration or as ambient culture? 

In my ideal world, we would have a resident DJ. We need access to good coffee, good tea. We have a food prep space where people can make their own food. I like a very laid-back environment. We have beautiful pink walls here and lots of sunlight. The challenge for me, like artists, including myself when I was younger, was working in whatever space was available. As I’ve been able to choose that space, I wanted it to be nice so that I enjoy coming here. We had real, hand-woven rugs. I’m a textile collector—there are lots of cushions. And art on the walls.  

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

What images or objects do you look at while you work? Do you have any other artist’s work in your studio?  

I have paintings that I’ve collected over the years. There’s photography in our lounge area. I have a sculpture and some works on paper by Rick Bartow. We have a painting by Danielle Norris, who works here. I have a Jaune Quick-to-See Smith that I get to look at every day. Also, a lot of Corita Kent. Corita Kent was probably the first artist that I started collecting. I’ve slowly collected her works whenever I could find one. 

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

Courtesy of the artist and his studio. Photo by: Brian Barlow.

What’s the last thing you do before you leave the studio at the end of the day (besides turning off the lights)? What do you do right after 

I like to have a cup of coffee so that I can have energy when I get home. When I get into the car, the first thing I do is choose my soundtrack for my drive home. Yesterday was The Communards. I’m always listening to music, partially to listen to lyrics. It takes me back to different eras—the music is the trigger to what was happening socially and politically at the time, as well as personally. With The Communards, in the late ’80s, well, I graduated high school in 1990. I just got thinking about what was happening during that time. That’s my alone time. Then I get home and the kids come running. 

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