You’ve likely seen artists set up their easels outside to paint flowers, rivers and other bucolic scenes – but probably never a self-storage facility.

However, when New York City artist Adrianne Lobel needed an outdoor setting where she could create paintings for a fall show at the city’s Bowery Gallery, she thought of the bleak beauty of the self-storage facility in Hyde Park, NY, where she’s rented a unit for 10 years.

Unusual Spaces

The facility had just been bought by Great Value Storage, a company that operates 61 self-storage facilities across the United States.

“This is a new one to me,” said Great Value Storage division vice-president Robert Cerrone, who has worked in the self-storage industry for 18 years. “I’d never have assumed storage buildings would be an art form.”

But Lobel is known for painting spaces others might not immediately see as subjects for art. She’s drawn to places that, according to her website, are “imbued with a poetry which comes from being not noticed.” In the past, she’s painted service stations, parking lots full of trucks and even a dollar store.

 Painter Adrianne Lobel was inspired by the lines and shadow of the Hyde Park, NY facility where she keeps a unit.
Painter Adrianne Lobel was inspired by the lines and shadow of the Hyde Park, NY facility where she keeps a unit.

Setting the Scene

Because she’d been a tenant at the facility for so long, Lobel was able to get permission from the general manager to set up almost every morning over the late summer of 2015 to capture different exterior views of the storage space on canvas with oil paints.

Lobel settled right in and began to paint the works of art that ended up being featured in her show Storage/Spaces during the month of October. She painted 13 smaller paintings, and from those she created three huge ones – one of which is 11 feet long – for the show.

“There’s something very surreal and beautiful about it to me,” she said of the storage facility she painted. “There’s a stillness, a loneliness, an otherworldliness.”

 One of Lobel's self-storage paintings recently exhibited at the Bowery Gallery in NYC.
One of Lobel’s self-storage paintings recently exhibited at the Bowery Gallery in NYC.

Capturing the Essence

But far from being drab or gray, her paintings feature an array of colors – from greens to blues and turquoise to rich shades of yellow. Those are the colors she saw when the light hit the facility and the doors of the units in different ways while she was painting, Lobel said.

The facility changed with the light every minute, hour and day. “I’d go every day and set up and explore different aspects of the space,” she said.

The perspective of the setting also fascinated her, she said. “You have these long corridors of garage doors going off into the horizon,” she said, adding that this facility also has “mountains of greenery and trees” behind it.

 Lobel has kept a self-storage unit for 10 years, mostly packed with stage design models.
Lobel has kept a self-storage unit for 10 years, mostly packed with stage design models.

Inside an Artist’s Storage Unit

She also was drawn in by not knowing what items other tenants had stored. “There’s the mystery of what’s behind the doors,” she said.

So, what’s in her unit? Well, she stores stage design models from her long career as a theater designer, as well as her daughter’s old toys and stuffed animals and the archives of her late father, Arnold Lobel, the famous children’s book author best known for writing the “Frog and Toad” series.

But the weirdest item in her unit is a life-sized gorilla costume she made as a present for her father when she was 18 years old, while she was taking a mask and prop making class. He was a difficult man to buy for, but the one thing he always wanted was a gorilla suit, she said.

“I’ll never forget the expression on his face when he opened it. It was Christmas Day. He put it right on and went down to the local deli to get us all sandwiches,” she said. “It was the most successful present I’ve ever given.”

Even though her storage space is large, she’s outgrowing it, and her paintings are starting to take over her attic.

“I have a feeling another storage space is in my future,” she said.
You can view more of Lobel’s self-storage paintings on her website.

If you’re looking for a place to store your things, SpareFoot can help you find self-storage at a reasonable price. 

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Allie Johnson