By Trey Speegle
‘Upstate’ is a catchall word like ‘Manhattan,’ only much bigger and spread out. There’s no single version of what upstate is. Like New York City, it’s a state of mind as much as a place. It means different things to different people. To me, it’s a place I originally went to escape the city. But over the years, it’s become more personal.
My home is called ‘The Barn,’ because that’s what it is (I know, original huh?). I’ve had my converted red barn for nine years now and being here is always a new experience for me. Every season is radically different. Summer gets the most praise, fall is gorgeous and winter can be picture postcard pretty if a little long. Spring is magical: come April, 2,000 daffodils and a 200-foot forsythia hedge announce the thaw, adding primary yellow to the red of the barn, the greening of the lawn and the crisp blue sky.
When I purchased The Barn, the structure still had its original beams. Its main floor is essentially one big room with 25-foot ceilings, anchored by a giant field stone fireplace that divides the space in two. The upstairs hayloft was cut away (not by me) to create a bridge that connects three bedrooms and an upstairs bathroom. Since the original beams had already been painted brown, I felt free to white out the entire space with 100 gallons of paint and primer. I also stained the floors a glossy black and eventually added large front windows and big barn doors along the patio on the deck side. The giant openings frame my yard and a pond in the distance.
When people in the city ask what I do upstate, honestly, “as little as possible,” is my stock answer.
Years ago I came across a drawing I did as a child of maybe ten or twelve. It was a sketch of my ideal house that was a square with movable walls and had furniture on wheels. Although not exactly the same, I realized that I was now living in a version of a dream house of my childhood. It took over thirty years to get here but I found it.
I daydream a lot here. My artwork is based on vintage paint-by-number paintings. The front end of The Barn is devoted to my painting studio and a shelved entryway where I store my collection of 3,000+ paintings. I designed The Barn so that it would be multipurpose. It functions as an exhibition and storage space (for decades of collecting), a retreat and a creative lab for artwork. I also rent out the space on a short-term basis. Besides my own work, not much of which is on view, I have around 200 framed pieces throughout the space, as well as three big vintage glass display cases where I keep all of my sentimental items and odd bits in view without looking like a crazy pack rat. (Or maybe I still look like one – do I?)
Outside The Barn is a world of complete privacy. I can’t see a single neighbor. On any given day one or two cars at most travel down my road. Seclusion and solitude during these hectic times is priceless. So when people in the city ask what I do upstate, honestly, “as little as possible,” is my stock answer.
Trey Speegle is a New York artist who uses paint by number to create his signature pop style. His work has been shown in museums and galleries worldwide.
Photography by Michael Mundy