During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Anna Shukeylo is an artist, curator, writer and educator normally working and living in New York City, currently and hopefully temporarily stuck in her hometown suburbs of New Jersey. Her main mediums are painting and ceramics, and her work focuses mostly on voyeuristic experiences of city dwelling. Her work has been exhibited throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana and internationally. She is a contributor at Artcritical.com and is a full-time Fine Arts Lecturer at Kean University in New Jersey.
AS: How are you coping?
AS: Thank you for asking. It seems like the question comes up a lot, but it’s always hard to answer as things change every day. One day it’s fine the next day anxiety is through the roof. Making art has been somewhat difficult as I left the city (NYC) a few weeks ago and my studio has been shut down due to COVID19. I process things through making so I had to change my coping mechanisms, scale down, work with different supplies I grabbed on my way out of the city. I am currently with family in NJ and two crazy beagles which have been adding some comfort and laughter to the everyday. My teaching has shifted online so I’m grateful to still have a job and some of my routine. Things are different but thankfully we are in the midst of my favorite season, and I can’t help but enjoy spring. First week in the suburbs I spent sketching cherry blossoms, which is completely out of character for me, but it just made me feel good.
AS: Has your routine changed?
AS: I’m usually a go-go-go person, but now there’s no commute, no theater, no art shows. Never thought I would miss getting on the subway, but I do! My work has always been small so thankfully even with limited materials I can keep painting and drawing elsewhere. The creation routine definitely changed. I work at a tiny desk in the bedroom and I’m constantly distracted. It’s a house full of people and even though everyone is very loving and close it’s hard to get an hour to yourself. I have been making watercolors which I intermittently put a single layer on at a time. I usually work in layers with acrylic but it’s such a different process and usually moves at a completely different speed. My work also took on a different meaning during this crisis as I have always painted about isolation and solitude but in relation to space full of busy people, such as the city.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
AS: My feelings are mixed. In a way I feel completely helpless by not being able to be helpful (I can’t sew and I’m obviously not in the healthcare industry) but at the same time I feel like I’m not alone. I haven’t left the house except for walks in the past 4 weeks, so I feel like I’m at least doing my part in flattening the curve. As an educator, I try to remind each of my 90+ students and advisees that I am a resource for them outside of the classroom. My art has definitely acquired a different meaning for me. In the past couple of years I have been painting about my experience of space, but now space is part of my experience as I am literally stuck inside.
AS: What matters most right now?
AS: Sanity and health of course. We need to go on as normally as possible, even if everything is flipped upside down. For me as an artist it’s relying on immersing myself in my subject matter. I need to look for light and beauty within darkness, in my case quite literally, as I have been doing dark watercolors of suburban houses with glowing windows. Now that everyone is home I can’t help to guess what is going on inside. The technique of methodical layering that I use in my watercolors allows me to ponder and savor my subject and create an emotional tie to it as well. This is not much of a departure from my regular work where I generally observe domestic scenes as if I’m the fly on the wall.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
AS: The art world will look very different. I think that we will need to think about creating safety nets for the future in case something like this happens again in our lifetimes. I really hope within a year things will start to stabilize on the gallery scene, but I suspect the lingering impacts of unemployment and economic recovery may slow the pace of the art market. I think we will all need to support each other in the process of coming back to normal, even something as simple as showing off each other’s work on social media. We are all in this together and we will get through this as art is and will be more important than ever during this crisis and the recovery. It will not only be an outlet but the escape both for us as artists and our audience.
Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: email@example.com