How is COVID-19 influencing your Work?
After moving here less than two years ago from a rural region, I applied for membership in Pro Arts Jersey City. The main connections I have made here in Jersey City are through my fellow artists in Pro Arts Jersey City.
They are soldiering on through gallery/exhibit cancellations /rescheduling to offer opportunities, words of reassurance and guidance to a bunch of skittish, normally, but now even more, solitary creative workers. By modeling such calm confidence, I have continued to paint and plan for a statement piece on this time and place.
May God bless Pro Arts and Jersey City. Stay safe and go create something!
Candy Le Sueur
I was thankful to be commissioned to create a series of paintings for the new Canopy Hotel in the Powerhouse district of Jersey City through Panepinto Fine Art, opening this summer.
The impending deadline was all-consuming and really made me focus on this work, routinely every day of the week. Notwithstanding, the pall of anxiety and uncertainty hangs over us constantly. And, like many others I feel very weary.
This week, I started on a new series of works on paper. These will be larger in scale than previously but will honoring nature as I have always done. I am preoccupied with the changes in the natural world around us, with environmental issues and want to present references to this in these new paintings. I intend the works to be filled with hope and light, as always, but with more subtle commentary.
I send positive thoughts to everyone, every day. Stay safe.
The first week was like having a very long snow day. The second week it started to get depressing. Once the third week kicked in, and the word came out that this would be life for the next month, I decided I better make good use of this time. I also wanted to find a way to give back. So I am doing a series of IGTV videos giving free lessons on how to work in encaustic wax. I also did a still life for an online thing…just a fun thing. I haven’t done a still life in over 20 years. It was good to work those muscles.
As my artwork usually deals with my inner psyche/world in combination with how I experience the outer landscape, it is a challenging time for me to create my art without increasing my anxiety and sadness.
I have dealt with this by first taking a break from such artwork to create a new art project for the students, families and teachers I normally work with in Paterson, New Jersey; doing so helps me to use my artistry and creativity in an emotionally “lighter” venue and gives me a sense of pride and other positive feelings that sustain me when I am back in my studio. I have created a blog for them.
Now that the new blog has launched, and is running smoothly, I have returned to my studio work in which I do find, unsurprisingly, that the image of Covid-19 is turning up in my drawings. Because I know this subject matter is emotionally loaded for me, I do meditation before creating and I take breaks when needed. When all else fails and my emotions start to overwhelm me, I simply stop working and take a longer break in my backyard- in Brooklyn.
This always cheers me up and I feel very fortunate to have such an outdoor place. When the weather gets warmer I plan to create my art out there while I can also hear the birds and smell the flowers even as I engage with
Covid-19 as a subject.
Liz & Ibou Ndoye
Ibou is spending way more time at his studio at Neumann Leather in Hoboken as he has been prevented from teaching his workshops in Newark schools through the Newark Museum as part of their residency program. He was also invited to be part of The Dakar Art Biennial in Senegal and that has been postponed because of the pandemic. He is even more prolific than usual making many beautiful pieces and has been making live videos on Facebook about his work that have attracted a lot of positive commentary.
I have opted out of going to my studio in JC and have been at this point limiting my work to small very detailed drawings of my doll creatures and their world. The drawings do not relate directly to Covid-19 but they are more controlled, intricate, and intense. I think this reflects my confinement at home. They stem from a desire to try and control my reactions to the disease. I have also been forced to teach many of my art classes online, and my classes for senior citizens and the homeless in Hoboken have been cancelled.
This is probably not what you had in mind, when you asked what I am doing during the corona virus, but I think it could be an interesting related story. Art lessons could save lives in Africa. Let me explain. I’ve been doing medical missions to Sierra Leone with the group International Surgical Health Initiative (my husband is a surgeon). As a non-medical volunteer, one of my “jobs” was to teach the students at the school for the blind how to make beads out of their local cloth. I brought back a large bag of beads which I then cut, coated with polyurethane and made into bracelets which are then sold for $10. During last December’s mission I gave $1,000 to the head of the school to start a vocational program. The blind students are learning how to make soap which they will sell in the local market. Now as I sit at home making more bracelets, I’m getting “WhatsApp” videos from Sierra Leone on the students’ progress. My art lessons turned into beads, which were made into bracelets, which raised the money to hire a teacher to teach the blind students to make soap which will kill Covid-19
Since the business side of my photography is mostly on hold, I’m using this time as an artistic retreat, photo printing up a storm from a recent, very provocative trip to the Colorado Plateau in the dead of winter, and deepening my reading on a subject on which I’ll be giving a talk (Geology & Surrealism). I’m discovering the very rich, very provocative art criticism of Andre Breton (1896–1966), the leader of the Surrealist movement. It’s giving many insights into my own work as I see Breton interacting intellectually and visually with some of my favorite and most influential artists: Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Matta, and Arshile Gorky. So I’m making a dent in my to-do and to-read lists that I was afraid I’d never complete before I died—and having a ball, hoping the money holds out!
In March I completed a mural project with some third graders at PS 15 through JCTC Greenville Stories. Just at the point when we were ready to install the mural, everything shut down. I’m looking forward to installing the piece with the kids when school opens again, but will school open again this year?
I am in my final year as a graduate student at SVA. Part of my thesis project involves creating sculptures to correspond with interviews with women; the topic being The Power of Quiet. Now I must re-imagine this installation piece into an online platform. Not only that, but the residency portion of my MFA will now be online this summer, which is quite a loss. Although I am saddened by this loss, I’m learning to readjust in order to help the situation.
I continue to create sculptures for the project and plan now to create an online thesis project with a physical exhibition when it is safe again. All interviews must now be done online. Yet I am not complaining because I know that things could be worse.
When the weather permits, I’ve been taking long walks around my beach town with my cameras. I distance myself significantly more than 6′ from others. I’ve been shooting and developing lot of film; some photographs documenting the times but not all of them. There is still a world out there, carrying-on as it usually does: changing weather, offshore storms, signs of spring…
Honestly for a few days I was shell shocked and decided not to make art. Then I thought I am also an art teacher and I need to assign my high school art students with a project they can do virtually. I asked them to take one aspect of the Coronavirus that is affecting them and describe it visually with whatever they have available to them at home. I decided that I would also do this project with them at home. I felt that this was a way we share our work on Zoom and also discuss in a healthy way how this crisis was affecting us. My project is one drawing done every day on one piece of 4×4 inch paper (a nod to toilet paper size) to document this crisis either emotionally, politically, scientifically etc. In the end of this crisis I would like to link each piece together to exhibit somewhere. For me this artwork will describe how we are all connected and document a moment in time for every day we are in this crisis.
I am a Hoboken resident in the ‘at-risk’ age category. During the coronavirus crisis, I have sequestered at my daughter’s house in Delaware away from the NYC surrounds and my studios. I left my home studio and bench space in midtown Manhattan along with all the tools, torches, kilns, and machines used to make my jewelry and small sculptures. As an artist/jeweler/metalsmith/enamalist, it has forced me to open up to other means of creating and discovery. However, this temporary move actually allows me to take a breath from some intense projects I’ve been focused on and provides me space to re-think work and approaches. I have set up at a small desk in a spare, empty room with some hand tools, a new small “creme brûlée” torch, and various materials my daughter has played with. While my usual work focuses on political and social issues, I brought with me some interesting, odd pieces I had put aside until I had ’time’ for another project. I am enjoying the newly found freedom in exploring different mediums and approaches. Dare I say even “play?” LOL. Not so surprisingly, I am seeing the Coronavirus appearing as some small, red, felted forms in a sterling silver framework. I know I am very lucky to not feel frozen in space with no focus as many others are. My college students are particularly feeling lost and non-motivated and I’m hoping a main part of our communication is support for them in our remote discussions.
E Jan Kounitz
As a photographer I’m drawn to the streets, documenting social activities and the oddities I see.
Now, as a retiree and cancer survivor, my world is smaller. Maintaining a vintage 1840’s house has kept me occupied and has me appreciating the restoration work I’ve done along with the wide assortment
of objets d’art I’ve collected over a lifetime.
Currently I’m sculpting a mini memorial “keepsake” and documenting the various tableaus around my house. I’ve asked 3 dozen other photographers to do the same via an email invitation I titled “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” so that we can enjoy each other’s work and possibly publish the results at some point in the future.
The memorial keepsake is a reminder of all my adventures and the fact that I’m grateful for all the people and places along the way. I don’t see it as macabre. Having had cancer has been a reality check. As my Grandmother would say, “May you never know.” What I do know is that the streets still captivate me.
C’est ma vie.