These works were created during the COVID pandemic, a time when the news presented one nightmare after the next across the nations of the world. Interestingly, because I was so used to staying at home, and working in my studio, the pandemic-mandated quarantine had only a small effect on my daily life. The only risk my husband and I took was to spend time with our son (the businessman son, Eli) who lived not far from us with his wife, and their two little boys. It was a risk we all found necessary for sanity’s sake.
The world “wondered” in a kind of group-think: what remains intact when everyday habits of mobility and association are interrupted for an unknown amount of time? What affiliations reassert themselves if social expectations are dissolved? What do we choose to spend our time and attention doing? To me, it felt as if the entire world had been put on a forced sabbatical. It became the task of each household to establish its own sense of time markers. And nearly all gatherings became virtual, mediated by computer screens and cell phone lines. The good aspect to this was that everyone was “available” because there were no other appointments or jobs outside the home. Online groups developed among old friends who now lived in entirely different places, entirely different countries, even.
But during most closed-off days of the COVID epidemic, the ordinary fabric of world life was dissolved. It appeared as if each of us humans was a separate sphere of life, fearful of one another, carefully maintaining a physical distance. The question hung over everyone: when proximity is not possible, how can we manifest connection and intimacy, and create shared new experiences?
During this time, I took an online course on Bach’s vocal music. As I learned about the theme, variations, and fugues from an esteemed professor situated in his home office across the country, with twenty other students in various locales, the individual spheres of my new artwork seemed to pull themselves together into “musical staves.” In a way, the pandemic was an incredible time for at-home education that only could have happened after the progression of internet development. Not only could we take a course on Bach, but sitting in our living room surrounded by audio speakers, we could listen to some of the most glorious music ever, beautifully played and wonderfully produced. Concerts from around the world were heard and seen via YouTube. Strangely, out of this isolation, I felt a new optimism about order. Previously unseen artistic relationships emerged, and with it a delight in color explorations.
After my black-and-white sgraffito Dissecting Tools and Restringing series, I just let color burst into this new work, likely as an antidote to the dreary pandemic. All around me, I sensed the freezing of the accustomed sense of social connection, and then the reassertion of bonds by observing the habits of behavior, dissolving, and then re-forming bit by bit, as if a struggle to find a new meaning was taking place. Just as in a physical state change, one pattern in my paintings superimposed over another, disrupting the initial conditions and enabling the perception of a new pattern. For me, it was a heady time of ecstatic isolation as I discovered one linkage after another among the free-floating spheres. For me, the world was very noisy, even during the pandemic. To reach a state of calm required me to see clearly; I needed to withdraw from the distractions and seductive alternatives to the consuming work of my creative inspiration, analysis, and execution. Then, I had to avoid interruptions until the image was completely revealed to me.
As I developed these watercolors, each new level on each artwork overwrote the prior level, obscuring its original relationships and at the same time revealing previously unremarked patterns. I was building visual layers using alignment, linkages, shared hues, and hinted patterns in order to keep the viewer’s eye moving from one level to another. Hidden pictures that were obscured by the next successive layer were revealed, if only the viewer would spend time examining the work. How a chunk of color became faded or bright or almost invisible depended upon the adjacent colors as I laid them down together.