During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Angelica Bergamini is an Italian born New York-based artist. Interested in the relationship between the personal and collective unconscious, her creation manifests through painting and paper-cuts assemblages, video, and sculptural installations. She has shown in collective and solo shows in New York (C24 Gallery; Tanja Grunert; Ground Floor Gallery; Ivy Brown; White Box; BRIC Arts Media; Photo New York), Los Angeles (Torrance Art Museum), London (Chelsea Space), Paris (Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre), Stockholm (Färgfabriken), Milan (Pari&Dispari), Hong Kong (Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery), Addis Ababa (Addis Video Art Festival). Her latest video was presented at the 55th Pesaro International Film Festival in Italy, in the selection “Best in Short – Contemporary Italian Animation.”
AS: How are you coping?
AB: Better today. I was in Italy at the end of February for work and visiting family, and flew back to New York the day my country locked down. I knew what happened there would happen here, and felt pretty anxious during the first two weeks of March. I’m back to my usual routine except that each morning after Yoga and meditation, I call and text family and friends to see if everyone is okay. Then I go to my studio (which is my apartment), and usually work till evening. I live close to Prospect Park where I walk a few times a week. More than ever, this is a meditation for me. And once a week there’s a Zoom meeting with my Yoga teacher who gives us tips on how to practice daily to maintain a peaceful mind in this time of sorrow and uncertainty. I understand how I process what happens around me by observing what I make in the studio. Right now, my work is unfolding slower than usual, but I‘ve noticed since I’m back the only color I’m using is blue–the color associated with peace and trust. Day after day I’ve been making monoprints that represent the starry sky. My first impulse was to show how interconnected we are–all under the same sky, with neither the walls nor borders our governments have built able to stop the virus. And the contemplative night sky in my work mirrors the introspection that the physical distancing, isolation, and my own self-quarantine has made space for. But the major reason I can maintain a daily balance is knowing that my loved ones are fine.
AS: Has your routine changed?
AB: I’ve never been so close to my phone as in this period, because people look for you and need to know you are okay, and you want to be sure they are well. The other addition to my routine is an open and free Reiki and prayer circle a friend and I created on Zoom. Every day at 6 pm, anybody can connect with us, or send names of relatives and friends they want to direct Reiki and prayers to. After a brief visualization, we sit in silence for about 20 minutes. This practice helps me feel less helpless, and is the only way I know to be of some service in this moment of collective pain. Extra time in the studio has also allowed me to work on an exhibition proposal with a Jungian psychologist. We had not been able to find time before, but with a weekly meeting on Skype, we’re now choosing women artists we would like to invite. Since we are blessed to be safe and well, now more than ever we feel the urgency to complete it.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
AB: It took some time to feel centered and more peaceful. Of course, the big part is because family and friends are well. But in the days before leaving Italy, I felt very anxious, questioning if I should come back to New York and my husband, aware I was leaving my family in Italy in a situation that was getting increasingly worse. When I landed in New York, I found dozens of messages since Italy had declared lockdown while I was in flight. The first two weeks here were tough. I constantly checked on my family, needing constant reassurance as the death toll in Italy soared day after day. Work stopped as clients canceled sessions (I work part-time as a color therapist and Reiki practitioner); two projects in Italy were suspended. During the second part of March, I was able to shift my focus. It was a collective grieving period with thousands of families losing loved ones and others dealing with issues of daily survival. It was intense, and I tried to stay informed without constantly watching the news, because I know there is only so much I can take. Once I get daily confirmation that loved ones are well, I enter my studio, and that’s my therapy to stay centered. And I feel immensely grateful to be able to do so.
AS: What matters most right now?
AB: I hope this is a global wake up call. We must care for each other as much as we can, because now more than ever it’s clear how interrelated we are. I am dependent upon an endless list of people from truck drivers who deliver to the supermarket around the corner, to the farmers, and the delivery guy. That is why when we can, my husband and I connect to a group of volunteers in my neighborhood who deliver food to the elderly, sick people, and families in need. Luckily it’s a big group because the numbers of daily deliveries are large, and this is just the situation around me. We also need to take extra care of ourselves since the daily collective message of death and financial struggle requires more effort to stay serene and cope with anxiety. My walk in the park is one way I do so, while remembering a quote of Suzuki Roshi: “I don’t know anything about consciousness. I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
AB: In north Italy, they got doctors from other regions to help during the emergency, as states in the U.S. have begun to help each other. No one is safe alone. I hope what we are experiencing will bring about a collective global shift, a call for solidarity and care for the web of life we are all part of, a message to the necessity of building bridges rather than walls. To quote Roshi Joan Halifax: “We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.”