Artists on Coping: Sally Boon Matthews

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


Sally Boon Matthews with Soundscape for March, April, May 2020. Water Colour, Ink, Felt Tip, Pencil, Thread on Mulberry Paper. 12”x 288”, 2020

Sally Boon Matthews is a British born and educated artist, educator, and yogi living in New York City. Though her background was originally in photography, in the last eight years she has developed a multi-discipline practice that includes video, painting, collage, and drawing. Her work has been exhibited and published in Europe, the United States and Latin America. Publications include Tricycle Magazine, NY Times, Blitz Magazine, British Journal of Photography, Penguin Books, Random House, Warner Books, A&M Records, Om Yoga, Battersea Museum of Art, UK, Galerie Solado, Caracas, Venezuela, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Louisiana Museum of Art, Chateau de Trousse-Barriere, Briare, France, Jamaica Arts Center, NY.

AS: How are you coping?

SBM: After the initial stress associated with the unexpected change in lifestyle, I have adapted very well to the situation. I was fortunate to be working so I still have a responsibility to others and this provides structure to my days. Without long commutes, my body has become more relaxed and this has provided support whenever I do feel anxious about the future. I created a strict schedule in early March with an emphasis on my meditation and yoga practices. Both of these communities had online offerings so I never felt isolated or alone. In fact, we have shared more, and this has strengthened our sense of responsibility and compassion towards each other. Several elderly members of my meditation community have passed away from Covid-19, and these online meetings have given us the opportunity to come together and publicly share our grief and provide support for each other and those that are suffering. It does not diminish my profound sense of sadness and loss, but it is reassuring to be in the company of caring people.


…..Rising Falling… #2, 2015, Mixed Media (Water Color, Acrylic, and Thread), 38″x 51″

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

SBM: I had an installation called “We are With You” scheduled at St. Phillips Church, London in November 2020 to coincide with Remembrance Day. It will be rescheduled for the following year, and may be adapted to reflect the lives lost to Covid-19. I had also planned to shoot a short film in Venice about memory and place inspired by the American painter Emily Mason. This has also been postponed till 2021.


…..Rising Falling… #4, 2015, Mixed Media (Water Color, Acrylic, and Thread), 51″x 80″

AS: Has your routine changed?

SBM: As an adjunct professor with five classes at three different universities, converting to online teaching was painful, and I fought to maintain equilibrium. My studio building was also closed by the city, which left me with a small home workspace and limited supplies. But I have a 25-year background in yoga and meditation, and that became a source of great solace and spaciousness. It provided structure to my days, and without physically rushing about and being constantly bombarded by sights and sounds, I’ve found a slow and rhythmic quietness within reinforced by the absence of noise.


…..Rising Falling… #5, 2016, Mixed Media (Water Color, Acrylic, and Thread), 51″x 78″

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

SMB: I feel slightly guilty that the absence of social activity has awakened in me a deeper sense of connectedness to the world. I don’t need ideas and distractions, and feel better off without them. How will I navigate the city and my relationships when we start seeing each other again? I’m nervous. I don’t want to give up this quiet resonance within the body, but don’t know how to incorporate it into my future life or share it with friends.


Lies and Uncomfortable Truths #3, 2016, Collage: Photography, Acrylic, Thread, Tape. 16″ x 20″

AS: What matters most right now?

SBM: What has become essential in my days is finding the still point within me no matter what troubling winds are blowing through. It’s something I have forced myself to practice throughout these times.


Body Gone, 2017, Hanging unbound book, page four, 17″x24″, stitching, scratching and puncture on tracing paper.

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

SBM: After seeing many new online platforms exhibiting work, I’ve focused on creating more ephemeral pieces that exist only in the virtual world. Paintings and drawings that are shot with video then edited together with audio; pieces that move through virtual spaces then evaporate. As many of us grapple with shifting perceptions of our own realities, creating work solely for virtual format seems to mirror these changing times and the uncertain future.

Soundscape for March, April, May 2020 Video Still, Combined Media. Water Colour, Ink, Felt Tip, Pencil, Thread on Mulberry Paper with added video overlays. Click on image to view video.
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.