When most people imagine an artist’s studio, it is merely the trappings that come to mind: jars of paint and drawers of chisels, racks of canvases, maybe a drafting table. But Sarah Trigg, a painter herself, knows that there is far more that surrounds, inspires, and sustains an artist.

Armed with her camera and pen, Trigg set off to uncover the unexpected objects that artists keep close, a project that started online and blossomed into a four-year anthropological expedition. The culmination of her efforts is the beautiful new book Studio Life: Rituals, Collections, Tools, and Observations On the Artistic Practice, out this month by Princeton Architectural Press. Through it Trigg affords us entry into the closets, drawers, and back rooms of 238 artists, ranging from marquee names like John Baldassari, William Wegman, and Tony Oursler to dozens of important lesser-known makers across the country.

There are no portraits or artworks pictured here. Rather, Trigg describes each artist through his or her belongings. Trenton Doyle Hancock of Houston has a massive collection of kitschy faux-alabaster figurines and handmade pottery, while Brooklyn-based performance artist Jen Denike keeps homemade oils and semiprecious stones around for ritualistic purposes. Oursler has a collection of antique masks and 19th-century photographs related to hypnotism; Rob Pruitt an exhibition-like arrangement of little works created by his studio assistants, largely incorporating take-out containers and condiment packets.  

“Often they’d say they didn’t have anything interesting around,” says Trigg, “but then I’d find the gem.”

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