Artists on Coping: Julie Torres/LABspace

During the coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

gouache, acrylic, dried paint, collage on envelope, 2020

Julie Torres is a Hudson NY-based artist and co-director of LABspace gallery, a vibrant cultural hub in Hillsdale NY. She runs it with her partner, artist Ellen Letcher.

AS: How are you coping?

JT: I wasn’t. For the first few days I was just lying in bed with no idea what to do, frozen. The general anxiety of the virus itself—the sickness and death of so many, plus the thought of the gallery closing— was a weight pushing me down. I sunk deep under the covers for days. Then, like a revelation, I remembered that I’m not just a gallerist, I’m also an artist. Artmaking is the only coping mechanism that has ever worked for me in dark times. So I dove deep into this new project and it has helped me mentally, emotionally, and financially to get through. I’m painting all the envelopes that have come to the gallery over the past two years (for artwork sales, announcements, invitations) and selling them each for 50 bucks. I’m hoping to make and sell 100 envelopes. I’ve been painting and posting every day. This daily ritual has given me a sense of purpose. It has saved me, and it is saving the gallery.

gouache and acrylic on envelope, 2020

AS: Has your routine changed?

JT: All the energy I usually put into running the gallery, I now put into making these envelopes. It’s a bit of an obsession at this point. I tend to focus on one thing at a time and have a hard time redirecting myself, so this is what I’m “doing” right now. Once I finish, I can move forward and direct my energy back to the gallery so Ellen and I can figure out what to do next. I guess we’ll be moving the gallery online in some way, which is scary and overwhelming to think about.

gouache and acrylic on envelope, 2020

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

JT: Just pure dread. The news is upsetting, enraging, and exhausting. So I’m channeling the toxic sludge coursing through my veins into this project. Next, we have to figure out how to support our artists moving forward, long term. So far that looks like online exhibitions, which is terrifying because it means using the other side of my brain, which oftentimes doesn’t work very well, truth be told. Running the gallery has come quite naturally to both of us because Ellen and I work so well together. We love seeing new work, meeting new artists, installing shows, and sharing the work in our space. It’s a pure joy. Thinking about how to translate (and monetize) that online feels daunting, and a little counterintuitive. It’s not the way we normally think about things.

gouache, acrylic, collage on envelope, 2020

AS: What matters most right now?

JT: People. All the people. The young, the old, the healthy, and not so healthy. I am filled with rage at our current lack of leadership and utter disregard for human life. So I am trying to act in my own microscopic way to make our tiny corner of the world just a little bit less terrible, and to me that has come to mean having an art space. We need our health, we need each other, and we need art. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference.

gouache, acrylic, collage on envelope, 2020

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

JT: Everything is so uncertain. Sometimes I feel so useless, knowing that I’m not doing much to change anything or help anyone. But running an art space and supporting artists is what I can do, and what I will do. Once I finish these envelopes, LABspace will reopen—virtually for the time being. We will eventually host a closing in our physical space for our currently paused exhibition Space Case. We will officially reopen (summer/fall) with a solo exhibition of Susan Carr’s work, because that feels like what the world needs right now. A little beauty, and a lot of hope. Thank you for making this blog for all of us.

envelopes in progress, 2020

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: