Art Making During a Pandemic
We’re sheltering in place during the pandemic; the current state order goes to the end of this month (May 2020), and I fully expect it to be extended, as the peak for the virus is currently predicted to be mid-June. First it was mid-April, then mid-May, now it’s mid-June. Life is lived in 30 day stretches.
We’ve been through the various stages, including baking, being too unfocused to make art and assorted levels of freaking out. We’ve baked bread, pita bread, naan, blackberry-tahini cake, lemonade bread, gluten free chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls, more chocolate chip cookies, homemade granola… Probably more that I’m forgetting.
Oh, and we’re growing alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts now. We cleaned and tuck-pointed the basement and found all kinds of funny old things.
Now we’re adjusted to wearing masks, we go on nearly daily walks and have set up a gym in the basement. We have pandemic journals and are writing our observations. Writing in those used to be daily, but as the days begin to blur into each other, there’s a bit less to report.
I hope you’re safe and doing well too, dear reader.
Art I’m Making Now
I take pictures on our daily walks, and I see it as an extension of my photo series, The View through the Windshield, which is a multi-year practice of taking pictures from the car (safely, while pulled over).
I finally got a good picture of this railroad bridge. The lighting is never right from the car, but on foot, it worked.
And this boarded up building, with its boards looking like a quilt:
We’re seeing lots of lovely spring flowers and other little things in alleys and yards that we’d never have noticed before.
As I’m looking through my photos to find the images I want to share here, I’m seeing pictures from conferences I attended in February. How odd – to go places! To be in groups! Glad I went when I could.
So, what art am I making?
Here’s my “Chaos Collage” of March 29th. Made using (almost exclusively) stickers from the swag bag from one of the conferences I went to. Not my usual style of collage work, but it captures the feeling.
Around that same time, I made this textile collage of found quilt blocks, a few that I made, and scraps of fabric as I found them. Zig zagged stitched. I’m particularly happy with this one in that I finally found a method to make everything come out nice and flat.
I’ve been experimenting with textile collage for a while, trying to find that spot where it’s clearly not a quilt, but is this other thing, this art form that is textile collage. It seems that perhaps some of my attempts are read by others as just “bad quilts.” I’ve been pondering why and I think it’s partly because of my use of orphaned quilt blocks. Include a quilt block, and it looks like a quilt. Or a bad one, anyway. And my lack of decorative hand sewing. Much of the wonderful textile collage out there includes hand embroidery or boro stitching and I do not have the patience for hand sewing.
I’m happy with this piece, even if no one understands what I’m doing. Or perhaps I’ve failed to communicate adequately what I’m doing, I can admit that.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was having a lot of trouble focusing. I wanted to start a big project – after all, we were self-isolating and it seemed like an opportunity. But I couldn’t. I thought quilting might be good, because there are so many disparate, repetitive tasks. But even that, I couldn’t focus on. I did start thinking about some patterns and fabrics and ordered some fabrics that took forever to arrive.
Artistic comfort food – that’s what I finally decided. I thought what’s my favorite thing to do? What’s the artistic thing that I do all the time, for myself, not for a call for art or anything? It’s collage. In high school, I collaged my folders with photocopies of pictures of bands and print outs of lyrics of my favorite songs. (And then covered the folders with clear Contact Paper.)
I started doing collage and started posting sporadically for the 100 Day Project, which began April 7th and goes to July something. (I’m under a Shelter in Place order, what date in July doesn’t really matter, I’ll be here, at home, making collages.)
For the 100 Day Project, you are supposed to post one photo per day of an artwork, on a theme you set for yourself, that you make each day.
With the extra work of living (both mental work and practical work) in a pandemic, I decided to cut myself some slack and not post daily. If I happened to post daily, cool, but no pressure. Sometimes I post one picture, sometimes three or five at a time, to catch up.
I’m ahead on the art making. This is day 37, and I’m ahead, but I’m acting like I’m not ahead, and continuing to make new work.
Here are some of the collages I’m making for the 100 Day Project. If you’d like to see more, please follow me on Instagram!
Artist Trading Cards
I’ve also started making Artist Trading Cards, which are small works, the size of playing cards and there are only two rules: the size is 3.5″ x 2.5″ and the works must be traded, never sold.
A group I’m in set up a trade by mail, with everyone being given an official partner, plus the option to set up more trades on your own. I’m mailing cards across the country and the world! It’s great fun. It’s also the kind of thing that people (myself included) probably wouldn’t make time for normally. We’d want to, but we just wouldn’t have time, or make the time.
I only needed to make 5 or so, but once I got going I couldn’t stop. I’ve made 30 so far. I’ve started to mail them out to artist friends unsolicited, just to hopefully brighten someone’s day. I’ve started trades in other online groups I’m in.
Highly recommended! Give it a try. You can work on playing cards, buy blank cards, or cut them yourself out of anything you like. People also make them out of fabric!
And I finally made a quilt top! That’s a whole ‘nother story, so I’ll start a new post for that. Quilting can be collage with fabric, so it’s all of a theme!
What are you making? I’d love to hear about it!