One Artist’s Long Island Home: A Meditation in White
By Laura Neilson
“The moment I experienced the light here, I just knew that this was going to be a place — a really important place,” said the artist Lia Chavez, as we stepped out onto the back deck of the Long Island home she shares with her husband — and has transformed into a minimalist’s nirvana.
Situated on four acres of land overlooking a local, CSA-run organic garden, the 4,500-square-foot house, which the couple acquired last summer, was meant to be a part-time retreat from their home in Manhattan. But after a month of meditating in the Himalayas this winter, Chavez decided to craft the un-renovated 1955 space into a sleek, all-white sanctuary to work and meditate. And despite not having a background in architecture, Chavez oversaw the project herself, closely collaborating with a contractor to achieve her vision. “It was very improvisational. There were no drawings, no plans,” she explained, adding, “It was really about feeling the energy of the space and responding to the light.”
Indeed, the presence of light throughout the house is even that much more pronounced in the unapologetically bare, bold new space, which Chavez likened to a “massive life sculpture for studying the passage of light between sunrise and sunset.” With a spacious studio on the premises, also all-white, Chavez now spends more of her week out in the bucolic Brookhaven Hamlet, where the artists Hugo Guinness and Elliott Puckette, the fashion designer Francisco Costa and the artist Malcolm Morley also have homes. For the couple, it’s also a peaceful place to commune between their frequent travels. (Currently, Chavez is devoting a good deal of time to a work project in London, while her husband, David Shing, travels the globe the vast majority of the year.)
Ironically, the building’s one white feature before the renovation — its exterior — didn’t last. “There was a little pushback from painting the house black, which was expected,” Chavez laughed, referring to her neighbors.
Chavez has established a place for herself in the local arts community, too. One July evening, she presented “Light Body,” a performance art spectacle of light and color for an audience on Isabella Rossellini’s farm in nearby Bellport. “Relocating to this enchanting hamlet,” she says, “has opened a beautiful interweaving of life and art, nature and culture, community and contemplation.”