Mind the Gap: Creating Art in 2020
2020 will most certainly be reviewed and dissected for decades to come. As an artist, it is my job to show up and reflect on the experience, ideas, and vision of what I see and feel. As an artist new to sharing my work, I have struggled with that responsibility, feeling the tear between giving what society wants and needs and what I want and need.
In the scramble to manage our daily lives, many of us never give those who allow our safety a second thought. Mired in our circumstances and attachment to our American exceptionalism psyche, we avoid reflecting on how people with less access to resources are the sacrificial lambs to keep the economy moving forward, the more fortunate safe, and society "orderly" during this pandemic. In Iowa, an anonymous brown man risks his life at his meatpacking plant job to ensure your steak makes it to your plate during this pandemic. A woman at Amazon works long hours to make sure your holiday shopping gets to you, so you don't have to go into a store. Another man has begged for his life and lost at the hands of police and then had people outraged there was civil unrest in the wake of it. Some have struggled to feel safe from a devastating virus, others from economic collapse, some from over-policing, others from civil unrest. Some of us have been unable to be with ourselves and honestly see what we have and what we believe we need to be "safely" in the world. While our experience of 2020 has been our unique storms in our individual bottles, we have all shared the struggle to feel safe.
How does an artist step into the gap between what collectors want and and an artist needs? How to make art that will allow one to earn a living, provide inspiration, and encourage others to think about what they believe they know? What are my obligations as an artist? Can I live with myself if I chose safety over truth? I am most certainly butting up against ages-old questions.
I created "The Unattainables "collection during the pandemic period when people began hoarding toilet paper, and supply chains broke down. Initially humored and then horrified by the pandemic's evolution, I started painting items that became difficult to find during the pandemic. These paintings are oil painted on canvas panels and are between 8x10 and 6x 8 in size. They are a simple catalog of the items that went missing. I encourage you to see the paintings and think about what the collection is saying about us as a society. What are we chasing?
The second collection is titled, 'When We Were Birds." It is my gift to you, my tiny prayers for us, in a time when, as a country, we are deeply divided politically by rights, responsibilities, science, and conspiracy. This collection of tiny bird portraits is inspired by Terry Tempest Williams' quote about birds and our nature, "Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated." We need this reminder as we watch our country grapple with the pandemic, our politics, our civil rights, and our civil responsibilities. There is so much work to do. To do it effectively, we must become intimate with suffering. We must rest in compassion rather than empathy; we must remember our essential nature, "we are intertwined," and in that knowing can be joyful, like the birds. These paintings are meant to be gifts. Each comes with a small wooden easel and is oil on canvas between 2 x 2 and 4 x 4. These paintings will likely sell out, but you can commission me to paint your favorite birds, your own set of small prayers.
I want to wish each of you a safe and peaceful holiday season. I encourage each of you to be kind but truthful. Have hard conversations, show up emotionally, be courageous. We can do hard things. We can be joyful, even while we are sorrowful. Sending each of you many bows of gratitude.