Local artists share their isolation works
What captured your attention during the seemingly endless hours of the lockdown?
The 16 friends and neighbors whose work is featured in a show at the Create Community gallery in Nelsonville turned to art. Drena Fagen, who owns the co-working space, was familiar with the challenges and small joys of the period. She closed her business for two years, reflecting an imposed isolation and, later, bringing a particularly rewarding person-to-person reconnection.
In October, four Philipstown neighbors who are professional artists — Richard Bruce, Evelyn Carr-White, Simon Draper and Kathy Feighery — installed an exhibit in the gallery. That inspired Fagen to again organize community exhibits. The Pandemic Passion Projects is a group show that included a call for entries. The guidelines were broad: anyone who made art “to stay sane” during the shutdown.
“We accepted everyone and were thrilled by the diversity of styles and the individual stories,” says Fagen. “It shaped up to be an interesting, eclectic group of works.”
Along with their submissions, artists were asked to submit brief personal stories to be posted with their works, explaining how creating the art boosted them emotionally during the lockdown.
Here is a sampling of those statements, edited for brevity.
Covid Cardboard Explorations
With the enormous amount of cardboard boxes being delivered to our home with supplies during COVID, I saw an opportunity for collage. So many possibilities emerged. Form and folds emerge as scars and experiences each of us has endured and survived through this pandemic.
When the world is sick. When your foot is broken and you can’t stand up, you find you can cut up all your old clothes into perfect little pieces. And sew them back together.
I’ve been a photographer for years, but during COVID I stopped taking pictures and spent hours scanning old family photos. Embroidery has been a kind of meditation; spending so much time on one photograph feels like an intimate experience with the subjects, allowing me to have conversations with them that have been lost to war.
Hand- and machine-splatter paintings
At the beginning of the pandemic I tried to preserve my excitement for leaves. Eventually I settled on making inks or watercolors with leaves by pureeing or cooking them. I also used mushrooms, walnut husks, decaying tree trunks, grass and flower petals. I started testing the inks by painting and then splattering them on watercolor paper. The splatter painting usurped my leaf excitement.
Masks: Real Life Super Powers
The pandemic was a weird time. Many of us were forced to confront ourselves and see everything positive and negative come to light among the isolation. We could discover the real-life human characteristics and abilities that inspire the “superhero worlds.” These masks are some of those real-life super abilities you can see in everyday people.
Mary Lou Sussmeier
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was a few years into my watercolor journey, but I had only been painting occasionally. The pandemic gave me the chance to spend a lot of time painting. I grew to love the medium and the process even more. It helped me to think positively in a very uncertain time.
I’m a photographer. I’m also an avid gardener. I started a series of work in 2021, during the pandemic. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2021. While I recuperated after surgery, and after my chemotherapy sessions, I made photographs of the flowers in my garden. It was therapy for me to concentrate on beauty instead of how my body felt. This work continued into 2022, as we’ve transitioned into a new stage of the pandemic, and as I’ve become steadily healthier.
I have been a working artist all of my adult life. Painting is a love-hate relationship — I’m never quite sure how I feel about any painting. During the pandemic I stayed the course and continued painting, at home, in my studio in Garrison. The lockdown gave me a reason to paint some local solitary scenes.
I have been basket-weaving throughout the pandemic. I harvest from the wild, process the bark or inner wood or vine and then weave. Often, the plants I collect are from the yards of my neighbors in Cold Spring. Every plant behaves differently and there are so many types of baskets to make.
Learning to knit in 2020 launched my pursuit of traditional skills, heritage crafts and the capacity to create “useful objects,” especially by hand. Over the past few years, I am grateful to have found a global community of knitters and textile artists who demonstrate a future for our clothing that is beautiful, and one that isn’t driven by petroleum and plastic.
Create Community is located at 11 Peekskill Road in Nelsonville. Pandemic Passion Projects, which continues through Jan. 7, is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays by appointment (email [email protected]erapists.com at least 24 hours in advance).