We are in a new world right now. Nothing feels quite real – in fact, it just feels weird. What was important two weeks ago now seems rather inconsequential. Suddenly, we hone in on the essentials of survival: home, safety, health, family, nourishment.
The world is in the grips of a pandemic, lives lost every day; it is tragic. To keep ourselves safe, we hunker down in our houses, bulk buy the pasta and the paper goods, and order pizza for delivery. We go online and read the endless scroll, the newsfeed that refreshes forever. We collectively panic, and ponder, when will this stop, and we can all just go back to our normal lives?
What will “normal” even look like after this?
This new world is in cataclysm, pure upheaval. To deal with it, we require deep reserves of strength from within ourselves, and as a society. We have to be strong, and calm, listen to the scientists, and be our best selves.
Those of us in the creative fields are reconsidering our purpose in this new world. We are at once trying to figure out how we will support ourselves, as well as how we make our work relevant and noticed above the din.
We ask, will people even be interested in what we do anymore? If everyone is worried about health and finances, does art and culture even matter anymore?
Yes. Yes, it does.
There are many who think that humans don’t need art, and it all is just a huge waste of money. And yet, what are many of us doing? Mourning the loss of all of the art in our lives. Musicians no longer touring; films pushing their release dates; art exhibitions on view online only; performances of plays, dances, operas, symphonies, rock concerts, musicals and more, all canceled. It feels like an empty world without art in it. We scramble to figure out how to connect with art in new ways: digitally, streaming, online.
For the past few days, I have tried to make art, but it hasn’t felt right. Much as it felt pointless after 9/11, I stare into space in the studio. Making little colorful abstract paintings right now seems so… silly.
But I started thinking about it differently today.
Art is a means to process what is happening to us. It is also a way to escape, to dream, to lift our spirits, to experience beauty, to engage in the nuance and the depth of our world. To go beyond those headlines dripping in red, all cases and death tolls and numbers, and into our souls. Who are we? What makes us feel human? How do we connect right now?
These are questions I have long engaged with in my work. My series of paintings, Analog, is my answer to these questions. It is a body of work that asks the viewer to slow down and engage and experience the world around them. I was asking them to do it with an actual painting in an actual space. Now, I must figure out how to create engagement in that same authentic way, but online, in the digital realm.
It will be something I work through over the next few weeks or months, while I am also caring for my children and keeping the house running.
So, let’s say it is a long term project.
This weekend, I am still in processing mode, trying to figure out how I am going to get through this new reality, what tools I already have in the toolbox to use, and what new ones I need to get.
It will all happen in good time.
Expect to see some things – I don’t even know what– emerge out of this time. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, all of it.
And I hope, wherever in the world you are, that you and yours are home, safe and in good health.