During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Born in Queens, New York to a family of artists, inventors and actors, Lizbeth Mitty grew up painting and writing. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States and abroad, and is held in public and private collections including the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York State Museum, The Orlando Museum of Art, The Zimmerli Archive, The U.S. State Department, and Trierenberg Holding AG in Austria. Her studio is in Brooklyn, New York.
AS: How are you coping?
LM: Coping has been a process that largely involves feeling sick to my stomach with stress or self-soothing with work. Most of my family is at home with me, and mild daily dramas aside, I am lucky for that. I am keeping in close touch with dear friends who are alone. However, in terms of keeping in touch with the outside world, my inner hermit is having a field day. Obviously, I speak for most artists when I say that long unrestricted days in the studio are what we crave.
AS: Has your routine changed?
LM: I was on a roll in the studio when this started so no, my routine has not really changed. In August I had a complicated foot surgery that kept me at home for months, at first unable to work, then working on paper. When I returned to the studio, I was still in pain for a few months and getting out to socialize was nearly impossible. The work was transitional and felt like a struggle until finally I had a breakthrough in early February. All of this unstructured time is giving me permission to work for even longer hours. Coming on the heels of the year I had, it feels urgent to paint. I am all too cognizant of the fact that having the privilege to paint at all is a luxury with a time limit. I am fortunate to be in my studio at this moment.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all of this?
LM: For much of my career, “apocalyptic” was a word often used to describe my work. An unintended sense of dread appeared in the work escorted by my subconscious. Right now, when the threat of the Coronavirus is front and center, I seem to be on a seesaw, leaning away. Painting is always a statement of survival, now more than ever. I don’t know how this happened, but my work has a new levity. The places I’m painting are suddenly more inviting than terrifying.
AS: What matters most right now?
LM: Of course what matters most is human life. Pushed to the brink, maybe the truth and simple standards of right and wrong will resurface. That’s the hope. Every day has been a slap in the face of decency since our last election. I just hope that the plagues are coming to an end and this nightmare is a turning point.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
LM: Every day in the studio feels like a surprise adventure right now and I’m hoping that I can stay on that road for a good while. Most of us are overwhelmed by concerns about the health of the entire population against the backdrop of all else that is so daunting. How to climb out of it?
All photos courtesy of the artist.