Artists create in a visual language.
An artist may be like a poet, a journalist, a biographer or fiction writer. Some artists creating in the midst of global pandemic provide a record of the times like a journalist. Like a poet, artists often use their work as a healing process or a record of deeper feelings during stressful periods of life. There will be artists making work like a biographer or historian, celebrating the hero’s and the victims.
Like a fiction writer, I considered myself a visual storyteller.
My project ideas are wrapped in a family story, a cherished place, a day dream, an interesting idea, a memory or a person I love.
My image files of future projects are large and although I try to separate them into categories (landscape, vintage portraits, camera phone, etc..) they are random. I don’t second guess the impulse to save an image or to take a photo. This happened as I cleaned out my closets recently.
Cleaning Out Closets
I found a pair of jeans that my husband's sister had hand embroidered. They were the jeans he wore to Woodstock. In the same closet I also found a family quilt top that had been left to me. It was probably made by a distant cousin on my father’s side somewhere in West Virginia or Ohio. I pinned the top to my design wall as a background and hung the jeans with pins. I took several photographs.
The pictures were saved to my computer until I was ready for another project. As I looked through the files this image spoke to me. It was not just the Woodstock jeans, the memory of my sister in law and quilt top from the mystery relative. What sparked my imagination was cleaning out the closets during the first days of the shelter in place orders. Although this would not seem to fit the category of “art during the pandemic” it is a product of this period of time. I will connect this quilt with the pandemic.
My current project would be something that might be recognized as “pandemic art” but in fact it was an image I have had on file for a couple of years. The picture is of my mother in law in an open bathrobe showing her legs. The photograph was taken during WWII. On the back is a caption “like the view!”. I took this photograph and merged it with a picture of the Brooklyn bridge. I used a filter to make the figure look as if it were dissipating like a fading memory.
With the pandemic epicenter being in New York, this quilt takes on new meaning. A viewer might assume it’s a tribute to a life lost. It might look like the dissipating filter is the virus spreading around the city. It could be seen as a portrait of the city itself and it’s outer Boroughs as the victims of this deadly virus. This image's story began as a love story during a war. It has morphed into a homage.
As I am working on this quilt, the story I am telling has changed. I am thinking not only of my in-laws but of the family that still lives in Brooklyn. I am missing the trip we planned to take to NYC. Just before starting the quilt I sent out masks that are now required in public. The news is filled with death tolls and infection rates. Now I see this quilt with a new perspective.
My art, like most art changes with the extraordinary times we are living through. It is helpful to keep working and to find a healthy outlet until this is over.
Stay safe and stay creative.
Until next time......