Artists on Coping: Farrell Brickhouse

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Experimenting with my wife Beverly Peterson’s VR gear

As a mature artist Farrell Brickhouse states: “I have this large vocabulary to draw from, imagery that has woven its way thru my entire career is available and malleable even as new stories continue to emerge.” He has a long Exhibition history in New York and across the U.S. A. including One Person Shows @ Julian Pretto Gallery, Max Protetch Gallery, Pamela Auchincloss Gallery, Life on Mars Gallery, John Davis Gallery, Fred Giampietro Gallery and elsewhere. His work has been reviewed in the major publications. Farrell has taught at The School of Visual Arts since 1980 and recently retired.

Leaving Staten Island, NYC

AS: How are you coping?

FB: Well, thank goodness my wife Beverly Peterson and I have each other. We made a life changing move this past Fall leaving NYC and moving first to our family home in Montauk and then Upstate to Hudson, NY. It was a tremendous undertaking moving our lives twice and then setting up our home and studios. We have a dream home now, an incredible space and a wonderful community. We are where we want to be, but it is happening at this most terrible moment. We are the lucky ones; we have resources that help protect us and we can continue with our life’s work but then one is hit with what is happening and the fear of simply opening the mail or bringing home groceries. We read about those who are on the front lines of this battle and hear from dear friends in Italy and it stops us in our tracks, the sadness of it all. Artists have created their work in the most desperate of times, we know in part of the lives of others through the work of artists in all disciplines. And so, our task is to make the most truthful work we can and continue to support those we love and our community.

Our new home in Hudson, NY

AS: Has your routine changed?

FB: We were so looking forward to enter into our new community that is filled with friends and fellow artists and having studio visits and dinners and that is now on hold. Rather than visiting galleries we take drives thru the countryside and walks on our property. It took quite a bit of time to set- up our studios and get essential stuff out of the packing boxes, but artists are familiar with organizing their spaces and getting to work. Our home life is much the same as it has always been. I am finding time to do some long-awaited chores, organizing files and such. I’m using Skype more than ever. With all the moving to get up here I hadn’t had any sustained studio- time in about a year, so my priority was to get my studio set- up and running and to paint again. There’s a learning curve of how to physically work here, but these are good problems. Also, I am no longer teaching, I’ve retired after 40 years and so there is a feeling of uninterrupted time that is much appreciated, as rewarding as working with young artists is. I do have to chase the deer away from the bird seed I put out which is a new task.

View from the Barn Studio

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

FB: It makes me weary and angry just thinking about how to respond to that. There is such folly taking place and then those whose heroic deeds are being performed daily, hourly, the full spectrum of human endeavor is on display. Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” I am powerless to enter the fray in any meaningful way. Both my wife and I have compromised immune systems, leaving us very vulnerable, let alone our age.

We are kind to others, keep close to friends, keep informed and share information that may be useful. There is so much that needs to be read and digested and then balanced into one’s own life and actions. I hope that when this subsides, we will be able to enter back into our community and offer what we can. In a larger political sense, I hope there will be a chance to address what has been exposed, what needs to be changed, lessons learned. But I fear we will mostly lapse back into the same old conflicts and inequities. I look to poetry, history and letters from smart friends on how all this is unfolding and responses that ring true. I’m thankful for having had a full life, love and friendship and don’t envy the young with what they are inheriting. In each generation, some pick up the “good fight” and hope to make a more kind and just world, but it takes so little to destroy and there is such willful ignorance. As I am writing this, a friend sent a video link from a Dr. in a NYC hospital who taped such an empowering statement. Doctors who are so inclined will have great moral and political power to steer and inform any future dialogue we may be having. That makes me hopeful.

New Studio set- up

AS: What matters most right now?

FB: For me right now, after all this time out of the studio, I’ve finally started to work and that’s the most important thing for me to be doing. There’s a strange liberation with all that’s going on outside, inside the studio what is it to move a red or yellow two inches to the right and see what’s possible, to be fearless. I want my work to continue to speak to how we live now, to make work that rings true to what we are experiencing in our lives.

If we were living in different times, my wife and I would have told each other- we did it, took care of all our business, let’s go on a vacation to some warm place by the sea.

So now it is so lovely to just step outside here and have a forest as our yard. To watch the light and changing weather and for Spring to be on its green way. The sky was simply amazing this evening. What a world. And I’m painting again finally. But of course too, to stay informed, to support those doing good work both politically and humanely and stay close to loved ones, that is most important.

A “Combo Desk- Top Screen Shot”

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

FB: Personally, it’s always been an act of faith to make art. The world isn’t necessarily waiting for the next painting and so the reward must be in its making and the life lived thru that process. In the larger sense, these were perilous times before the pandemic and now ever more so. Civilizations seem to collapse when there is endemic corrupt leadership, endless warfare, environmental degradation and then some tipping point event, like a pandemic. There is tremendous opportunity for change, so many people of good will and great skills. We need leadership to emerge than can seize this mixture and forge some better way for us to be in this world.

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: