Artists on Coping: Cathy Diamond

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

Studio Portrait, photo by Elizabeth Reagh, 2019

Cathy Diamond is a New York City-based painter. For decades, her imagery has fused elements of nature and figuration into a kind of narrative abstraction. Residency fellowships in Wyoming, Virginia, Maine and elsewhere form the building blocks of works developed in her Queens studio. Diamond spent two decades in Williamsburg, exhibiting there at Farrell-Pollock Fine Art, Sideshow Gallery, Gallery Boreas and Janet Kurnatowksi Gallery. She has shown extensively in New York City. Diamond’s paper works travelled to national print fairs with Oehme Graphics. She recently exhibited at 490 Atlantic Gallery and at SRO Gallery in Brooklyn. Diamond is Adjunct Lecturer of Painting and Drawing at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Brainy,2020, Oil on Canvas, 38 x 38in.

AS: How are you coping?

CD: I’m coping by investing in different parts of my life – practical, empathic/nurturing, political, and creative. Initially, I was often visiting that place where the victims live in my mind – this overwhelming cloud of family suffering, of sudden panic and loss. I was going to this overarching spiritual presence, here in Queens especially, but also city and state-wide, and feeling the tragic stories mounting in incomprehensible numbers, trying through my empathy to exude comfort. I feel so grateful for my health, and my heart has been broken by the loss of my fellow New Yorkers.

Turning off the news, I have survived by working for my students at BMCC. The paintings they’re making in their homes are full of focus, effort and incredible talent. Not to mention that they’re memorializing patterned mugs and vintage vases that I’ve been putting together from my objects at home for their still-life set-ups. My drawing students too, the ones who survived the transition, have shown an admirable dedication to keeping strong and simply doing the best they can under the strain.

I was initially doing small works in a hand-made drawing pad about this suffering and the separation of people. After some coping and the onset of Spring, I started back into paintings I’d been working on before the quarantine. I’m lucky to have this ‘simple life’, without the needs of children, without having to commute to a front-line job.

Bush, 2019, 11x14in, Oil on Canvas

AS: Have you had a show or other creative opportunities canceled?

CD: Yes. I’ve curated an 8-artist show called Earth Matters, that was to open April 24th at the Green Door Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’m confident that this will still happen down the line and am very excited about this project.

Second Thoughts, 2020, 18x18in, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas

AS: Has your routine changed?

CD: Yes, due to the online learning curve with the Zoom classes. Otherwise, my routine has not changed so much as intensified. There are these saturated, lengthy days of reading, business, household duties, art, exercise and tv entertainment. Shift and pivots between. Time moves more slowly. I’ve let my husband take care of a lot of cooking, which he enjoys, and so I often stay in the studio through dinner hours. This time spent with my husband has been pretty interesting. There have been many tests in the practical, fear-based nature of the crisis, and he’s kept me calm and on task. He’s seeing me so much more during this quarantine, and that’s been probably the biggest change.

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

CD: We’re in the midst of a crisis that was previously only read about in history books and science fiction, and the fact that what was incomprehensible has become a new abnormal has shaken me.  I’ve been floored that some people in my life are unfazed by the loss of life and explain it away in disturbing ways. But I’ve found some solace in social media for my political rage.  The financial strife and uncertainty of so many people needs to be endured somehow, and various community platforms have provided support.  This is something we can all embrace and unpack, the societal manifestations of this crisis, locally and around the world.  There has been remarkable courage and selflessness that I read about daily which in my mind cannot be underestimated. There has also been this creative adaptability as performers, journalists and artists have taken to the internet as their stage. Yet the fear-mongering, ignorance and desperation that I think we’re all bracing against takes dangerous turns. How this country is going to move forward with this venal head of state, who makes it his business to stoke protests of persecution and peddles maniacal propaganda is anyone’s guess, given the possible outcomes of the election. We truly need to prepare ourselves for these existential dangers.  And in the meantime, I do what I can to  absorb this season in the studio, listen to the birds and coax out, spar with, come to terms with my own imagery.  

Lost and Found, 2019, Pigments, Ink on Paper, 19 x 19in

AS: What matters most right now?

CD: Being there for those that I care about who are suffering, or who live alone. Embracing the things that I can control. In a world where much is out of our hands, my big test is to truly engage in the things on which I can have an effect. This whole issue of personal control has been revealed in a stark light for me. Being self-sufficient emotionally and intellectually, assessing what is important – it’s all been a profound search.

Ink Studies, 2019, 12x16in

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

CD: It’s time for me to apply for funding as my fall classes are uncertain and my summer course was just cancelled – I need faith and perseverance to take this process one step at a time.  Watching the polarization of the country as it redefines any notion of solidarity and humanity will be a huge test.  I have more questions than answers:  How will individual societies coalesce again? Will office buildings be empty with a new breed of remote workers? In New York City, will we bounce back, or will we be tentative and a little zombie-like with trepidation? Likely both.

We’ll certainly be in mourning for a long time, and we need a way to spiritually memorialize those lost souls. With some urban flight and shuddered storefronts will galleries survive and how will this affect artists?  As we slowly re-enter (and brace for a resurgence) I think also about the lessons learned about the self, given this time away from society, and how this period of self-sufficiency and self-reflection might feed back into society. I think there are moments to cherish and feel grateful for in all of this, and imagery to invent that will reflect this moment for me.

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: