Artists on Coping: Jeffrey Morabito

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


L.A., 2019

Born in Bronxville, half Hong Kong-ese and half Italian, Jeffrey Morabito spent his early years traveling between New York and Hong Kong. Much of Morabito’s work is playing with the legibility of objects in painting. Recognizable figures are put in unrecognizable picture planes, or sometimes the reverse. He has exhibited nationally and internationally. In 2019, he had a retrospective of his work entitled Glossolalia curated by Karen Wilkin at 1 GAP gallery. Morabito’s work has been reviewed by the New York Times, Hyperallergic, White Hot Magazine, Art Spiel, Youngspace, Deliciousline and China Daily. A recipient of the Art Cake Studio Program, he currently works in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.


Winter Solstice, 2019

Art Spiel: How are you coping?

J M: As well as I can. I’m continuing to work as much as I can, albeit with the distractions of the pandemic upon us.

AS: Has anything changed in your routine or approach? What matters most to you right now?

JM: My routine has changed significantly. Routine is quite important for me and other artists who work in the same vain. To have any hope of working from impulse rather than a structured regiment, I need to purge my systematic tendencies through routines in my daily life. Having coffee in morning, doing a yoga stretch, listening to a podcast, etc., helps me satisfy my need for order before I can consciously allow chaos to exist in the art.

Since my job teaching art at a school in Jersey is over for the foreseeable future, I should have more time to work on my art. But there are many things I need to adjust to in order figure out how my new routine should be. Logistically, there’s the problem of how I get to my studio. In adherence to social distancing, I don’t take public transportation. So my only mode for commuting from my Astoria home to my Sunset Park studio is by bicycle. Due to an old foot injury I can’t do this every day. . .yet. But eventually if this shelter-in-place situation continues long-term, I will have to. So the most important thing for me now is to have the self-discipline to not push my body and mind too quickly to adapt to the current situation. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to sketch the Fichus tree in my living room everyday as a beginning to a routine.


Airplane Window, 2018

Avocado Toast Set, 2019

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

JM: I had a show that I was in and co-curated at SFA Projects called FOOD SHOW. This was something that I had in the works with my co-curator, Chantal Lee, for almost two years. There was much preparation for the show and on opening night it was well received. There was even a feature with a picture of my painting in the New York Times. Unfortunately, almost immediately afterwards the gallery closed down.


FOOD SHOW featured in the New York Times

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

JM: As I notice all the other artists who’ve had their shows canceled, there’s a part of me that feels how thankful I should be to have had the show up for one week rather than not at all. But I still feel bad, especially when I have to answer the constant stream of messages from people asking when the show could resume. Still, in the grander scheme of things, being an artist long-term makes you realize how temporary things are. The only constant is change. So this reminds me I need to appreciate more the good things that do happen. And when things aren’t ideal, understanding that things will pass, and not let the immediate situation define who I am or what state I’m in.


Stolen Wheels, 2019

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

JM: Besides the constant existential threat of how to survive as an artist in the big expensive Apple, I think there are some artists likes myself, who can do well as they settle into their new solitary reality. I’ve been dubbed a “studio rat,” and my best work has been made during extended periods of social isolation. At those times, if I have dialogue with other artists, it’s always about my work or theirs, not about them as individuals. I imagine now some artists are relieved they don’t have to endure FOMO (fear of missing out) from spending too much time in the studio. Acclimating to social life is always difficult after an extended period in the studio. When the “pause” is over this time, at least it won’t just be artists like myself, but all of society, readjusting.


Morabito on his roof
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.