We visited Nicole Mauser’s studio in the late winter of 2011, when all of Kansas City seemed to be washed in brown snowmelt, dried by the mauve and wintry sunlight of March. When I walked inside Nicole’s studio—located on the second floor of her and her husband’s shirtwaist home—I was reminded for the first time in months that pigment, sunlight, and my own eyes are capable of cooperating to produce flashes of visual opulence.

It was as though I had stumbled in on a gym, and witnessed a dancer stretching. My body articulates the slightest reflexive tic every time I see another body doing something mine cannot—or should not—do. Similarly, in the bright light of Nicole’s studio, my eyes recoiled at what they were not prepared to see. Of course, this phenomenon has less to do with Nicole’s paintings than it does the experience of entering a well-lit studio full of paint on a winter afternoon. Standing in opposition to the months I had spent marshaling through winter’s dead skies and sidewalks prior to that moment, Nicole’s studio stood as a pared and stout symbol of what any studio can be: a place apart.

Color was applied to the paintings on view with brevity and force. Similarly, these abstractions were surrounded by contextual passages of information—color wheels, notes to self etched in the wall, disposable palettes tacked along side them, and exhausted painting rags—that in the aggregate, add another layer of dynamism and abstraction. I asked Nicole if she brings any organizing principles to her workspace, and she noted that she tends to surround herself with “similar cues…psychological reminders of where my train of thought has been.” She professes that she is more interested in “states of being” than the expression of emotion. Rather than focusing on one composition, she works on as many as her studio can accommodate, and as a result the small space has a singular visual hum. Energy is reflected from one painting and its surrounding bits to the next, and back. Though chaotic, it isn’t a cacophony. It’s a mental state.

Nicole’s current studio is at PLUG Projects, located at 1613 Genessee Street, Kansas City, MO 64102