Still Sheltering in PlaceFebruary 22, 2023
The Influence of SIP on My Art Practice
The easiest comparison I can make to experiencing a pandemic with state and federal mandates to shelter in place is first to a canon, and then to a powder keg. The restrictions imposed upon me a forced self reflection, congested with the needs and wants of my family, and day to life, in a vastly different style of living.
My studio in East Oakland sat empty until the fires reached the Bay, turning the sky a hazy orange, that was the first day I returned to my Fruitvale Studio. The air was crisp, the space was silent. I remember sneaking into my private space, hoping not to be caught by another soul escaping from the confinement of SIP.
The lines of socially acceptable behaviors began to blur, and everyone become a critic, skeptic, or an authority. I never knew at what point I might be quietly, but sternly judged by a dear friend, or publicly ridiculed by a stranger or cop driving by with a megaphone.
I am not the type of person who has always done the exact thing expected of me, but it was during this time my perceived parameters of self completely dissolved into a puddle of intimacy, consisting of myself, my husband and my to daughters, anxieties and fears, hopes, and stagnation, all stewed together into one hot mess.
It is not surprising that I felt urgency to resume my practice. A needed to return to some time of normalcy, routine and ritual. Career goals thwarted by the lack of work time, opportunities to show and less people buying art created a sense of a vacuum of nothingness. Paradoxically, it also created a sense of complete upheaval that was exhilarating.
I always believed an artist’s purpose in the community is to speak to the happenings of the community, in the voice of the community. Expressed through imagery, song or words, collective ideas and themes, being felt at a particular moment. It was during the pandemic many artists created albums and wrote novels, I did nothing but exist and try my hardest not to panic or disappear.
In doing so I felt ALOT. I experienced everything. I lost my solitaire existence and was fully forced into intimacy, which I was swallowed into and up by.
It has been a slow start, a year of signing on a new studio space, stretching canvases, drawing and finally beginning to convey ideas. But the things I feel came out of the pandemic for me as an artist, what was the most impactful, was the urgency to create. I truly think it set a fire in me that is akin to trying to outrun the devil. Death and life have never felt self much like two sides of the same coin before. That the veil of those two human conditions seemed to be thinning before my very eyes, created a feeling of urgency, to create something that is true to me. That might, because it is honest, speak to others. So, the pandemic also pushed me into becoming a collector of human things, and creating narratives that speak on particular issues like death and motherhood, control and overstimulation. Issues I tended to abstract or avoid because they could be too personal or literal. Now I feel like I could make 10 paintings a day, where as before I would wait and ponder, work atmospherically or abstractly because my point of view was so vague and inclusive. Now I have an idea, I paint it. I feel like I create stories within each work, packed with moments and details they convey aspects of the narrative.