During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Christina Massey’s work is somewhere between that of painting and sculpture, craft and fine art, process based and conceptual. She has exhibited extensively in the NY Metropolitan region having completed over a dozen solo shows. Her work has awarded her an FST StudioProject Fund Grant, Brooklyn Arts Fund Grant, SIP Fellowship at the EFA Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, Puffin Foundation Grant and Mayer Foundation Grant. Massey’s work is in the collections of the Janent Turner Museum, Art Bank Collection in DC, Credit Suisse and multiple private collections. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
AS: How are you coping?
CM: I think I’m coping well. I’ve gotten a kick out of all the Gen X jokes that they have prepared their whole lives for this, latch-key kids and all. I’m what you might call a baby X or grandma Millennial, so I do feel like that X side of me is well prepared for this, as I don’t mind long periods of time alone and having to entertain myself. However, my Millennial side is struggling. I feel like I am hyper aware of my health, like there is this magnifying glass on every tiny scratch in my throat or cough. I am also getting pretty stir crazy. I am usually a very active person and the extensive indoor time is very trying on me. I’ve been having online gatherings with friends which helps and makes me feel more connected and in more frequent contact with family which is nice as well. I have also been very focused on getting things done and staying busy. I think having several goals and a long to-do list is really helping me right now.
AS: Has your routine changed?
CM: Normally I get up, exercise, and go off to my studio or wherever I may need to be that day, installing/deinstalling shows, delivering works. My evenings are usually fairly full between going to shows, talks, or athletic activities. Now all that running around is cut out of my schedule, so I tend to work in the morning on whatever computer oriented administrative tasks I have to work on that day as that is when I am usually able to be more focused. Then I will do some sort of house activities and exercise usually in the afternoon when I feel that 3PM slump, and then I’m able to either get back to it or start something new. I have done very little artwork from home so far, I have found that to be more challenging than I had realized it would be, particularly with a young cat that thinks it’s a game. However, I have been extremely productive in other ways, getting to a long list of to-dos’ that were always easy to push off until later. My days are often full of learning, researching, planning and organizing, thinking and preparing for what I will do next. It’s allowing me that time to focus on the more business-oriented side of being an artist, which like for most of us, is usually easy to overlook and ignore.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
CM: I feel like that should be easier to answer than it is. I think I am still digesting it all. I think my years of training as an outdoor mountain / whitewater raft guide kicked into gear, where you had to be good at assessing a situation and acting quickly with the concern for the safety of others. But in doing that, you tend to put your own emotions aside, and just do what needs to be done. The first week or so I was completely focused on what I could do for others, consumed by how I could help, wanting to take action. I collaborated with a friend to make masks using vacuum bags, (from what I researched the next best thing to the true medical masks) which felt useful. I used my curatorial platform WoArtBlog on Instagram to support those who had lost opportunities from shows, lectures, fairs etc. to those who are teachers and had to completely alter their courses to be online and to support those in the more at risk category, be that due to their age or pre-existing conditions.
Now that a little more time has passed, I am able to start looking at my own needs, but I don’t think I have fully processed the emotional aspect yet. I think I am still coming down from that adrenaline rush of crisis mode and starting to allow myself to really feel those emotions that were set aside. I feel like I’m a strange mix of anxious and calm, worried yet ready to take the challenge on and oddly still a little hopeful that perhaps eventually we can bounce back and be in a better place than when this started.
AS: What matters most right now?
CM: I think empathy is extremely important right now. Everyone’s situation is slightly different, from their personal health, family situation and economic situation, we need to be sympathetic to each other and find ways to support one another given this situation we all find ourselves in. I think we need to all ask ourselves that question, because if you were able to definitively say health for example, then you may be in a situation to financially help someone else in desperate need. If your first thought was financial, then perhaps you can help someone who has a pre-existing condition and is scared to go out. I think if we work together, focus on the larger picture, support those in the most need, then we can get through this.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
CM: I feel like if using the road metaphor, it’s like the driving conditions are extremely foggy. Right now it feels like we haven’t hit the crux of the crisis and there’s a lot of anxiety as we approach it, and yet we live in a society where people are used to being able to do what they want, and greatly enjoy that freedom of individualism and choice, and I worry that because of that, this will get much worse.
I imagine however that at some point there is going to be a release, when people can be out again and a renewed appreciation for seeing and experiencing things in real life vs just online. I know that I greatly look forward to that moment.
I also look forward to seeing how artists reflect upon and communicate their experiences and social concerns during this time. Including myself! I tend to need to process a situation a little more before I can react to it in my work, so in due time, I’m sure my own work will have changed as well.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org