Grace Hopkins doesn’t maintain an artist studio in the traditional sense. It is more of a processing center where she uploads digital photographs before printing them on squares of canvas mounted on aluminum or wood. Where a painter might have a palette and an easel, Hopkins has an iMac and large-format printer.
“I can’t stand drawing, or working with my hands, ever,” says Hopkins, who prefers the clean efficiency of digital media. She spent two years at Hampshire College in Amherst studying art history and women’s studies before switching to photography. Hopkins graduated from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1996.
Hopkins is the daughter of the late abstract painter Budd Hopkins, a founding member of the historic Long Point Gallery in Provincetown. In addition to making art, she teaches courses at the Open University of Wellfleet and is director of Berta Walker Gallery, where she also shows her work.
When her father died in 2011, Hopkins inherited his Wellfleet house, designed in 1977 by Charlie Zehnder.
With three levels that catch the sun, it’s a modernist throwback of poured cement walls and bunker-like windows.
Her father’s studio was on the ground floor. Other than adding some exercise equipment, a bed, and a few furnishings, Hopkins has kept it untouched. It’s now an ad hoc gallery space with large paintings from various stages of Budd’s career. The space leads outside; down a short embankment is Hopkins’s own studio, separate from the main house.
Hopkins asked Charlie Zehnder’s son Tony to design her studio in 2015. “It’s based on squares,” she explains. As you approach the studio from the back, the clatter of wind chimes permeates the air. Inside, four small square windows face west towards the treetops and bay.
The design is fitting, as Hopkins also works mostly with squares, though she has made a handful of circular photographs — a nod to her father, who was “a big circle guy,” she says.
Most of Hopkins’s work happens not in the studio but in the field, shooting photographs on her iPhone 13. “I do all my photography at the wrong time of day — high noon,” she says. “It’s really intense, with a lot of really dark darks.” She sources abstraction from signs and graffitied walls, editing her photographs only minimally.
“My work depends on not being here to take them,” she says. “I can’t really take pictures on the Cape.” Hopkins is instead drawn to the color and grit of the city. “Even Boston is too clean,” she says, preferring cities such as Miami and Copenhagen — and Italy, where the colors are hot and punchy. “The light is different in each place,” she says. “New York has a very black and white kind of light, so you have to look harder for color.”
Hopkins’s studio — private, pragmatic, and to the point — reflects her artistic process. Next to her computer is a photograph of a bunch of balloons being released. “When I was 14, we went on a cruise and I took that picture,” says Hopkins. “That was sort of the beginning of everything. It’s not a typical picture.” Like her later photographs, it shows reality as colors and shapes rather than recognizable objects.
There is also a modest bookcase with art books inherited from her parents. Along the west wall is a minimalist kitchen with mugs, bowls, a small sink, and a mini fridge. That same countertop extends the length of the wall, with storage below and space to lay out work.
There’s nothing in the middle of the room; it’s an open-plan think tank for making art. “I’m a Virgo, so it’s going to be neat that way,” she says. “The furniture is all on wheels so it can move around.” Besides a few small African carvings, the only art on the walls is her own, arranged into lines and grids.
Even though her art is purely digital, “It’s all about painting,” says Hopkins. She thinks of herself as an abstract painter keeping her hands clean by using photography. And indeed, her father’s generation of abstract expressionists and color field painters are touchstones.
By focusing on a refined detail, Hopkins places her work firmly in the imagination. “They’re all a closer look at a larger something,” she says of her photographs. Sometimes the viewer is unsure what she’s looking at, but that’s precisely the point.