During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping
Rosa Valado creates immersive installations, multilayered sensory experiences, utilizing diverse approaches, from the smell of burning wax and music to architectural elements and engineering problem solving. Throughout her body of work which includes architectural elements, drawings, paintings, and sculpture, she explores notions of space and time, and elements of light. Valado has created public art projects and been in solo and group exhibitions in Austria, Germany, and Holland, and exhibits regularly in New York City. She has received many grants and fellowships, including a Pollock-Krasner, Sharpe-Walentas, Yaddo, Jerome Foundation, and has been featured in the New York Times, Art Forum, Art in America. Juries and panels include Hamilton College and Jerome Foundation.
AS: How are you coping?
RV: It has been an emotional roller coaster. I was impacted on every level: physical, financial, and emotional. During the first 30 days of the lock down I spent most of my time researching, trying to make sense of the rivers of information coming from the government, and filling out applications. I found it very difficult to function under so much stress. I began a self-care routine with baths, qigong, meditation, walks, and healthy food–preferably twice a day and this really helped. Half way into PAUSE, I’m still doing lots of busy work but feeling calmer, even drawing more regularly. I’m getting used to being home alone, and my small home studio is feeling like a real thing. I come back from my walks in the neighborhood with clippings from flowering trees, and sometimes buy seasonal flowers at the grocery store, and draw from them. I love watching nature transform from one day to the next, new leaves and blossoms everywhere lift my spirits and ground me at the same time. I don’t know the end results of anything right now but I’m more lighthearted as I focus mostly on what I can do in the moment.
AS: Has your routine changed?
RV: Completely. In 2019, I organized my life to focus mostly on art. The long commutes between North Brooklyn and Sunset Park were heavy, but I really enjoyed my studio and expanded a body of work called Time. Ironically, COVID-19 brought everything to a halt. I was hardly ever home and now, of course, I’m home all the time. Everyone I know is in the same situation, which is a comfort of sorts. I’m learning to make my home my world; can’t rely on gallery and museum visits, art openings, or socializing. I get up around 6:00 AM (my normal time) and spend two to three hours doing things that enhance my physical and mental health: baths, meditation, qigong or yoga. After a light breakfast, I do whatever practical things need to be done and try to spend the rest of my time drawing. When I manage to divide the day into morning “busy work” and afternoon drawing, I consider that a good day. I check in with my elderly parents and take walks daily. After about 30 days of this, my mind is relaxing; I have less resistance, and feel more creative. I’m hoping this lighter mood will push me to do artwork all over the house if I can get more art materials–but by then everything might all change again!
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
RV: Initially I was very resistant. I wanted to control the outcome. A lot of my anxiety stemmed from wanting things to be the way they were before the pandemic, and soon realized it isn’t something I can control. Once I did all I could think of doing, and paid more attention to my mental state, I felt better. I’m realizing there were many things in my life before PAUSE that were not working to my satisfaction. Perhaps this uncontrollable crisis will present us with opportunities not available before. This is a much more empowering feeling and cheers me up.
AS: What matters most right now?
RV: Paying attention to how I feel because that shows me how I’m perceiving the events around me and how I’m allowing them to impact me. It allows me to choose a response as opposed to reacting. Self-care is showing me how much better it can be when I don’t work myself into the ground. Checking in with my family and elderly parents daily and staying in touch with friends feels very important. Staying calm and being creative everyday, helps me make sense of everything.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
RV: We will all probably try to get back to the old normal and find that changes are inevitable. The stay-at-home lifestyle has shown us that technology can carry most of the workload and it appears to save money. It could even help with the business of art–marketing, sales, and some online exhibitions. But art needs to be experienced in real time and space, that’s the power it carries–to inspire and transform us. Space for artists to work will have to be reconsidered as the number of artists grows and their role in society becomes evermore important (call me a dreamer!). Nevertheless, this is a transforming moment and consciousness will accelerate as a result of COVID-19, changing ideas about healthcare, energy sources, and the design of big cities.