Making creative work means forging a divide within one’s self that necessarily complicates the meaning of home. James Baldwin wrote that “the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone.”
The thing is, when I read Baldwin on this, I don’t think of this aloneness as solitary. I think of a writer like Lucille Clifton, who made her house into a refuge for civil-rights organizers and artists but also set up her typewriter on her dining-room table so that she could slip away from the chaos of the abundant, vibrant home she had created for herself to compose her poetry. She was both there and not there, at home in the world but also at home in her mind.
The question of how to live within this tension—of the need to create a home and safe space in which you can be artistically liberated and even reckless—is a fascinating one, perhaps the primary one, always drumming beneath the song of an artist’s life. The trick, I suspect, is to know that the tension doesn’t have to be tortured; it can be a kind of sweetness of its own.
That sweetness is found in disparate places. For the writers Katie Kitamura and Hari Kunzru, home becomes real whenever they walk in the door after time away and see their children reclaim their space. “If we’ve been away for work for a while and the kids come home—just watching them kind of burrow in,” Kitamura says. “They just go around doing their things. They just go upstairs in their rooms, and they’re just checking in with their little things.”
Artist Jordan Casteel, whose latest group of paintings includes portraits of people she has come to know near the new house she shares with her partner in the Catskills, says that “making a home is much more of an intentional practice around ‘What is it that I want? What is it that gives me joy? Where can I feel safe? Where can I feel freedom?’ The thing that I think about a lot is the word freedom,” she explains. “And home is a place where I feel the most free to be myself, most free to exercise my joys, my fears, my anxieties, my pleasures, all the things that really encompass a life—a human life in existence. I could be across the world [someplace], but if it has those things, I could feel at home.”
Prolific choreographer and director Fatima Robinson brings a palpable joy to the project of homemaking, focusing on the gardens, tables, and play spaces that make her home come alive. “I’m always just trying to make [a home] from every part of it: the smell of it when I walk in, the candles that I choose, and the incense that I burn to the art that I have on the walls to the way the wallpaper makes me feel and the joy of it,” she explains. “I just always try and do things that make me feel good.”
For anyone who makes a living creating things, the question of home is one to continually turn over. Home becomes a place where one’s imagination can be truly free.
The artist in the garden of the home she shares with her partner,
David Schulze, in the Catskills in upstate New York
“When we found this property, it was an accident. We weren’t supposed to be seeing this place on that day; we didn’t even have an appointment. It was at the beginning of Covid, and there were a lot of strict rules around viewing houses. But our real estate agent called us and said that it was just becoming available and we should try going by to see if anybody would let us in. When we got here, the two of us split off because we were both aware that maybe we weren’t supposed to be here. We were running around the property like kids. But there was this immediate sense that I could see myself here, that David could see himself here—that we could see ourselves together here. We could see a space to build a studio. We could see a way of expanding and making it our own.
When we first moved here from Harlem, I felt isolated—especially as a person of color. But I also knew I was not the only one who has made this transition. I knew that I was not alone. I could see on social media that other people had made similar moves, but I just didn’t know where to find those people. Then I had this lightning-bolt moment where I was like, ‘I have a lot of followers. I have a community already connected to me. I wonder if there’s a way that I can reach out to that community and find the other people who are doing similar things.’ I put a call out on Instagram, and then I started a Discord community where there were all these different groups that started coming together.… That is ultimately where I met the people that I ended up painting for this show [‘In Bloom,’ at New York’s Casey Kaplan gallery].
I did not grow up around gardens. My partner grew up gardening with his dad all the time, but he’s not allowed in the garden with me. He would totally want to, but it’s my domain and has just become my thing. I think it’s about putting my creative energy into a space where I get to nurture the plant, and then that plant gets to nurture other people. Every time we have dinner with our neighbors, I tend to take them bouquets of flowers or tomatoes from the garden. The abundance that the garden can give brings me great joy because it has a whole life cycle. I love the idea of nourishment coming in such a cyclical way, that I can put my energy into something like this and it brings so many people joy. And it’s the perfect breaking point from this painting practice. When I was making the work for the show, I would often take breaks and just walk up the hill and spend an hour in the garden and then come back down and work on painting. I love that I could step from inside outside. When I’m painting, it’s very insular. It’s very me in my head. And when I’m in the garden, it’s me out of my head in so many ways. I’m just playing in dirt. I love the tactile nature of it.
A lot of my work has grown out of my interactions with people I’d meet on the street or my students, where there is one degree of separation because I’m going into their homes and I’m seeing their lives. Although I am the facilitator of those relationships, it is entirely representative of their worlds. This new body of work is very explicitly about my home and my shoes and my relationship and my relationships with people in my search to find friends. It is deeply vulnerable for me.… It’s about the freedom of finding home and creating a home for myself and then sharing my home with others. I’m a pretty private person, but it is liberating. I’m showing you my landscape. I’m showing you my story.”
THE MARDEN FAMILY
Painters Brice Marden (far right) and Helen Marden (second from left) with their daughters, Melia (left), a chef and restaurateur, and Mirabelle (second from right), an artist and curator, in Helen’s studio in the family home in Tivoli, New York
“We all lived together near each other in Tivoli for a year during Covid, so I think this house became an important family meeting point. My husband, Frankie, and I got married at the house 15 years ago, and I feel like it represents coming together again and reflecting on time passing.
Growing up around creative people made me value the act of making things. I became a chef because I like the process of being hands-on—making something and watching someone enjoy it.
My parents were collectors and made a very colorful home overflowing with interesting objects, but nothing that felt too precious. I definitely fill everywhere I live with things that make me happy.
I love stuff, so a place feels like home when I fill it with the things I love—pieces that have traveled with me for years. Since I cook so much for my family, it also feels like home when the kitchen is full of all the things I use. Then I feel settled in a place.” —Melia Marden
The photographer and jewelry designer in the living room and garden of her Bel Air home in Los Angeles
“This house is like this fortress around the garden. It’s not just my studio. It’s everything. It’s my inspiration, my spirituality; it’s church. And the beauty of L.A. is that there’s something happening, even though we don’t have seasons; there’s flowering trees almost all year round.
The backyard is small enough that you can watch things happen. You see things growing, you see things dying, you can see the dragonflies and the hawks. Weird shit happens. There are great horned owls that nest. They look like Muppets!”
The dancer, music-video director, and choreographer in the fruit-tree-filled garden of her Ojai, California, home
“I bought my house in Ojai, California, in December 2019, right before the pandemic. I wanted to be out in nature. I travel a lot, so I wanted to create a space that was welcoming and comfortable. I’m always trying to make [a home] from every part of it: the smell of it when I walk in, the candles that I choose, and the incense that I burn to the art that I have on the walls to the way the wallpaper makes me feel and the joy of it. I hung a painting by Radcliff Bailey that I’ve owned for over 20 years over my couch and used the colors in it to accentuate everything else. For some reason, I gravitated toward oranges; they just naturally felt good.
The house has a very loft-like feeling, and I feel most at home and at peace when people come over and we light the fire and chill out. An impromptu dance party with the music blasting always starts with my friends.
When I first moved in, I engaged a landscaper to do the garden but quickly realized I wasn’t comfortable with someone else’s vision for it, so I took the job upon myself. I thought, ‘Wow, it’d be amazing to have a fruit forest back there.’ Since then, I’ve planted pomegranate, plum, peach, fig, mulberry, and pear trees. Tending to my garden is one of my favorite things to do. I have this amazing long table that seats 16 people out there, so it’s nice to sit under the pergola and eat. I love being surrounded by the bees and different birds that come out. It’s so lovely. Living in a place like Ojai, in this beautiful valley that nourishes us so much, it really makes you pay attention to the land and want to honor the people who were there before.”
KATIE KITAMURA AND HARI KUNZRU
The writers of Intimacies and Red Pill, respectively, in their office in their brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Katie Kitamura: “I’m often writing for people who are a little bit displaced, for people who feel like they don’t have a particularly strong sense of home. That dislocation is powerful to me; it really interests me creatively. I feel most at home in that terrain. It’s a great gift to feel that you come from multiple places. With our kids, we talk to them a lot about the fact that they have family in Japan, they have family in India, they have family in England, they have family here; they could potentially call any of those places home. How much I believe that’s true depends on how politically optimistic I am. When I’m not feeling politically optimistic, I feel like it’s a vulnerability rather than an asset.”
Hari Kunzru: “Home is where my people are and home is where the children are. We can have home in a motel room if they’re there. I think it’s something I probably didn’t feel when I was younger and a single man and wandering around the world.”
MIN JIN LEE
The author of Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires in her office in her Harlem home
“For me, my creative home always has to be in New York. New York figures as a mythical place for a lot of people, but for me, this is really where I feel very normal, because I grew up [here] in Queens and then my parents had a business in Koreatown in Manhattan. And I went to high school in the Bronx, and now I live in Harlem. When I’m in New York, I really feel like things make sense. I feel very bold in New York. I see all this striving. New York is filled with people who want to be here because it’s hard to be here. It tests you. And in a way, when I see all these people trying to be in New York, it gives me a lot of courage and I feel a sense of camaraderie. When I’m on the subway, I feel like ‘Oh, these are my people.’ Even the vulnerability of New York makes me feel that much more alive. It’s a tough place, but for me it’s very sexy.”
The jeweler in the suite at the Ritz in Paris that serves as her home base during work trips
“It’s very comforting for you to have a hotel pay attention and do these little touches. Even when they know that you like your coffee a certain way, and then they have the coffee in your room. It feels like a small family hotel, even though we know it’s not. It’s totally a place where I feel taken care of.
However you’re feeling inside yourself, you’re going to take it wherever you go. As long as you have a place where you can be to have a moment of awareness, to have your quiet place, or to be with yourself, you can have your own day-to-day and feel comfortable and feel that you are home, in a way.”
JACQUES GRANGE & PIERRE PASSEBON
The interior designer (left) and the antique dealer (right) in the living room of their Paris apartment, which once belonged to the writer Colette
“Home is the feeling of absolute comfort in armchairs, sofas, beds, chairs, the soft light, and the balance and harmony of art pieces. I modified twice the decoration, but when I decided to redecorate, I followed the same line. Then I was lucky enough to buy the apartment above and to add a staircase and win space.
The living room is the heart of the apartment, with a ‘Colette’ touch, including her daybed. I put love and passion in colors, furniture, and balance of art pieces in this room. The first version of this living room was with more Colette souvenirs, but she is still here now.” —Jacques Grange
For Lisa Eisner | Hair: Marina Migliaccio for Oribe; Makeup: Zara Kaplan; Production: Helena Martel Seward at Lolly Would.
For Fatima Robinson | Fashion Editor: Yashua Simmons; Hair: B. Thomas; Makeup: Hadia Kabir for Surratt Beauty; Production: Helena Martel Seward at Lolly Would.
For Katie Kitamura and Hari Kunzru | Fashion Editor: Haidee Findlay-Levin; Hair: Karla Serrano for Bumble and Bumble; Makeup: Charlotte Willer.
For Min Jin Lee | Fashion Editor: Haidee Findlay-Levin; Hair: Jerome Cultrera for Oribe; Makeup: Courtney Perkins for Shiseido.
For Ana Khouri | Hair: Olivier Noraz for Oribe; Makeup: Mélanie Sergeff.
This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, available on newsstands November 1.
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