Artists on Coping: Rhonda Dee

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

A person standing in front of a sign

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Photo credit: ZakiP

Rhonda Dee is from Texas and currently resides in Australia. She holds a BFA, (CCA, Seattle), and MA, from Sydney College of the Arts. Her layered works explore the body as a site of transformation between human, animal hybrids and supernatural forces. Her works are in permanent collection at Macquarie University, Australia-China Arts Foundation, and Museu Brasileiro da Escultura, Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Recently, she’s begun creating public artworks with disadvantaged communities. She features in Artist Profile, The Art Life, Torrens University Blog, Arts Hub Australia and is currently designing podcasts with Casula Powerhouse Art Centre, in response to COVID19.

AS: How are you coping?

RD: Like a tornado on steroids. At home, nearly every space has been rapidly re-arranged. My husband, and pre-teen son and I are now suddenly working in the same space in the matter of a week after school closures and work from home restrictions. Rooms have been divided into office/bedrooms but thankfully my studio space is still my own. New interpersonal boundaries are asserting themselves through our domestic life as well as within the larger public sphere through masking, withdrawing from touch, spacing between others and virtual playgrounds. I am incredibly thankful to have those closest to me under one roof navigating this rapidly changing landscape.

A dog in the snow

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Barrio Dog, 2016, acrylic on polyester film on canvas, 80cm x 90cm photo credit: ZakiP

AS: Has your routine changed?

RD: The novelist Paul Coelho said “If you think adventure is dangerous: try routine; it’s lethal”. Routine is something I’ve never really trusted. Now more than ever in the presence of this seismic change, I create my work within nooks and crannies of each day wherever and whenever space and time allow. Large chunks of regular time in the studio have become a luxury, so instead, I’ve learned to throttle my process. I try to be mentally prepared by making quick notes and sketches throughout the day to maintain continuity with my practise . I work across multiple mediums including painting, sculpture and multidisciplinary collaborative works which all have a different rhythm, so I attend to pieces that are calling out the loudest when time is scarce.

A picture containing indoor, sitting, table, small

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Godzilla within, 2020 handbuilt ceramic sculpture, H35cm x W38cm x D22cm. photo credit: ZakiP

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

RD: With still so much unknown, the ambiguity and mystery about what will become of the future has left me with a profound feeling of dislocation…it is the kind of feeling one might have when someone close to you is dying. The future retracts and you are unable to plan. Eventually there is acceptance of the fact that each day or each moment is the only relevant time.

I’ve grown conscious of my breath and where it travels. I feel the extended space from others and social distancing has become a further extension of my body like an invisible bubble jacket. I practice adding vibration to that space and charging it with energy.

A close up of an animal

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The Covid Hours, 2020, acrylic, paper, graphite, polyester film 70cm x 34cm photo credit: ZakiP

AS: What matters most right now?

RD: I think what matters to me varies each day. Sometimes it’s turning up Maria Callas on my speaker until I’m brought to tears by the cry in her voice. Other times it’s trying to be effective in doing something that makes a difference in the community or being an effective artist/creator…then it’s also about family and making cinnamon toast, the blue tongue lizard in my garden, the importance of front line workers, walking barefoot in the grass, Octavio Paz, 3 yellow budgies, and tequila.

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Ceramic sculptures, 2020 artist’s studio, photo credit: ZakiP

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

RD: The road is racing ahead, and we cannot see the flagman waving us toward the finish line. Our deepest rituals have been disrupted as the virus dominates, subjugates, divides and bewilders us on a global scale. We are on the road and can only hope that with so many brilliant scientific minds working around the clock on this crisis we will begin to see a glimmer of hope followed by a brilliant and tangible vision for the future.

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Big Foot Melting, 2020, handbuilt ceramic sculpture, H38cm x W20cm x D20cm photo credit: ZakiP
Melissa Stern is an artist and journalist living in NYC. She has written for Hyperallergic, The New York Press, CityArts and The Weeklings. Her work has been shown all over the US and can be seen here at her websites- and