Creating During A Pandemic Year (March 2020-March 2021)
Sunday evening, March 8, 2020, saw the end of the art fair I had looked forward to exhibiting with in Manhattan. Following a packed opening night, because of concerns over the news of a rapidly spreading coronavirus, and with the March 7 Declaration of a State of Emergency for New York State, the weekend had been disappointingly quiet for all artists at the fair.
In quick succession, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by WHO on March 11, Broadway went dark on March 12, as museums, concert venues, and other public spaces also closed their doors. Gradually, all New Yorkers, included me, started sheltering in place.
A figurative painter, I was initially challenged to find new painting subjects. Most of my artwork had tapped into extended explorations of my Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Unsure of how long the lockdown would last, I decided I would assign myself a specific indoors creative project which would help keep me busy and focused.
Because most of the world was stuck at home, I pondered the role the ever increasing business and leisure travel had played in facilitating the spread of viruses across the globe. I was also concerned about the plight of migrants who take incredible risk leaving their home in search of a better life. I figured the Toile de Jouy technique with its repeated vignettes over one piece of canvas would be a most appropriate way to illustrate my reflection. This is how a voyage around my room began.
I was able to complete this journey in a few weeks. I then turned to painting from snapshots and rapid watercolors done during quick strolls. The view from my window was translated into multiple renderings showing different facets of the same cityscape.
During the summer, with restrictions lifted, I had to travel to France to visit aging relatives. A quarantine there led me to yet another introspective journey and a self-portrait. I used pictures of sixty-four fruit and yogurt breakfast plates I had prepared during the Manhattan lockdown to represent myself. In the tradition of vanitas paintings, one of the plates features the coronavirus crown, a reminder of the fragility of abundance.
Back in New York, anticipating the next wave of the outbreak, I sheltered in place again, slowly loosing a sense of time. I started another long-term project, and painted additional “Views from my Window”. And so went life in Manhattan and the world on pause, with art projects reaching completion, and no concrete prospects in sight.
On Sunday February 7, 2021, during a “freight train” snow storm, I ventured to the Bronx to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. To celebrate this liberating event, I took a picture from the Kingsbridge Road subway station and back home turned it into an oil painting. On Sunday March 7, I returned to the Bronx for the second dose, bringing my pandemic year to a full circle.