Artists on Coping: Jaynie Crimmins

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

The artist at the Active Space, 2019

Jaynie Gillman Crimmins is a Brooklyn based artist who creates alternative narratives from quotidian materials. Her work has been exhibited at ART on PAPER NYC; the Sharjah Museum of Art, United Arab Emirates; SPRING/BREAK Art Show, NYC; Governor’s Island Art Fair, NYC; the National Museum of Romanian Literature; the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary, VA; Hunterdon Art Museum, NJ; and the Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA. She is represented by K. Imperial Fine Art, San Francisco, and shows with Thomas Deans Fine Art in Atlanta.

Shelter in place #1, 2020, 2.5″x2.5″x1/4″D, shredded Bloomingdale catalogs, safety envelopes, solicitations over armature

AS: How are you coping?

JC: For me, it’s very important to keep a positive attitude, acknowledging the fear, but not allowing it to dominate my thoughts, actions, and conversations. I am so grateful to be able to continue my art practice in my tiny Manhattan apartment, and am working on very small pieces, around 2.5″ square, because my concentration has been affected by the pandemic. My superintendent and some of my neighbors have been leaving discarded junk mail at the mailboxes and at my door! Usually I don’t need other people’s mail, but a major portion of my stash is at my Bushwick studio. I find walking (keeping my distance from others!) a wonderful way to clear the head, and my neighborhood has revealed a wealth of hidden gems and grand New York City beauty. New discoveries include antique shops, little side street restaurants, foundations, cultural centers, old carriage houses, even a local hospital. I’ve been speaking with family, friends, and reaching out to people I haven’t been in touch with recently. And others are reaching out to me as well. It’s been comforting and gives me hope.

In Search of Beauty #10, 2020, 6” x 6” x 2”D, shredded Bloomingdale’s catalogs, safety envelopes, promotional mail, thread over armature

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

JC: I have extreme gratitude for all the brave health care workers, volunteers, military personnel and anyone helping to treat people stricken by this pandemic. I live around the corner from Lenox Hill Hospital, see firsthand the dedication of these front liners, and can only imagine how exhausting and scary their lives are. I, along with many others in my neighborhood and throughout the city thank them out of our windows each night at seven o’clock. I am incredulous that there is still a lack of personal protective and essential equipment. I also feel the need to give a big shout out to all the UPS, FedEx, Postal Service workers, food delivery people, MTA, and police officers who are risking their health to keep us going.

The president, as of this writing, is finally taking some action with efforts that should have been implemented months ago. So I feel angry and saddened that many more US citizens have been exposed to COVID-19 and have died because of this administration’s lack of transparency and disregard of facts.

In Search of Beauty #5, 2019, 23” x 23” x 3”D, shredded MoMA Design Store catalogs, safety envelopes, promotional mail, thread over armature

AS: Has your routine changed?

JC: On March 13th I stopped taking public transportation and began working from home. Doing this forced me to rethink so many activities–then everything closed. Since March 18th, I began truly isolating–seeing my boyfriend only for walks and weekends. He is high-risk so I need to be vigilant. I am not quite sure why knowing the dates of these state wide modifications is important, but right now they are.

For the past four years, I’ve been volunteering with the Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through Art program in a Brooklyn school. The students love this art class, but the program has been discontinued for the foreseeable future, and unfortunately they will not have their final projects shown at the museum.

Shelter in place #2, 2020, 2.5″x2.5″x1/4″D, shredded Bloomingdale catalogs, safety envelopes, solicitations over armature

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

JC: My work was scheduled to be in two group shows–one in Newport News that was cancelled, and one in Montreal in the summer. I haven’t heard about cancelations, but believe we are existing in a new normal…

A Field Guide to Getting Lost #5, 2018, 12” x 12” x 8”D, shredded promotional mailings, thread, over armature, mounted on wood

AS: What matters most to you right now?

JC: My adult children and their partners, knowing that family and friends are staying safe and healthy. Knowing everyone is taking this threat seriously and taking the proper precautions is reassuring. The survival of our world is at stake and hopefully personal actions will have wide-reaching benefits.

In Search of Beauty #7, 2020, 6” x 6” x 2”D, shredded Kips Bay Designer Showcase catalog, safety envelopes, promotional mail, thread over armature

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

JC: I certainly hope Donald Trump is not re-elected. His handling of this pandemic is another example of his incompetence, narcissism and complete indifference to science and facts.

Catherine Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer based in New York. She wrote the introductions to Meryl Meisler’s two books, and is currently working on an oral history about recent changes in photography.