During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Simona Prives is a Brooklyn-based visual artist. She creates collages, both still and moving, that focus on the process of decomposition and reconstruction and that examine our complex relationship between the organic and the man-made. Each work combines multiple forms of printmaking, using drawing, monotype, found material and hand-shot video to assemble the composition. Her artwork has been exhibited in New York City, Chicago, Miami, Italy, Greece, Japan and China, including at the Shanghai International Print Biennale.
AS: How are you coping?
SP: The Times ran a piece about people and families loving their shelter-in-place dynamic, happily working on home improvement projects, cooking fun family meals, and partaking in other creative endeavors. This sort of cozy nesting sentiment has been echoed throughout various conversations I’ve had with friends and family. I’ve also heard others say things like, “I stay away from people anyway” so social distancing works for me.
These reactions are quite the opposite of what I am experiencing. I love and need people in my life. A lot of people. Not just my close family, but the network of people that enrich my life – my friends, students, collaborators and colleagues. Human connections have always played a key role in my life and have inspired my work.
AS: How has your routine changed?
SP: My routine has changed a lot. Pre-pandemic, my daily life consisted of teaching dozens of students, taking several long subway rides between schools, socializing often, seeing and playing music, and making art. The outside world from which we are now hiding is where I spent most of my waking hours. Sheltering in place is pretty challenging. Transitioning from physical to remote teaching, however, worked out very well. My students produced amazing work. They inspired each other and myself to keep trying harder.
I hear and read about other artists who are thrilled to be working intensely in their studios at this moment in time. I wish I could join them in their flurry of instagram postings or the new pandemic-inspired series that seem to be rolling off of their paint brushes. But instead I feel stifled and unmotivated. I have been granted a very large and intensive public art installation that I should be madly working on, but instead I feel like my hands are tied. I believe that this will change, but for the present all I can seem to manage are mindless line drawings. I draw pretty mechanically (geological patterns, maps, repetitive textures) ̶ things I can handle. Drawing is a key component in my collages, so they will be used eventually, and they don’t require that spark of creative energy that drives me to produce a new series of works. Usually my process is the other way around – I get an idea or vision and I am so excited to get started that the detailed drawing process feels cumbersome.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
SP: Two weeks ago I lost someone I care about. Not being able to hug others who were close to him and going through the same pain seemed tortuous. Grieving while having to “socially distance” is unnatural and cruel. I know I am not alone in acknowledging how much we took for granted. Being scared of each other in public (or private) is disturbing. I am a physical person, so moving through a new reality in which people cannot be near each other is hard.
I think about other times in history during which people were frightened to leave their homes and didn’t know whom to trust. I realize that the comparison is far from similar – often people were hidden, trapped inside for years with far greater deprivations than we are now experiencing. Yet the start of this pandemic made me think of my grandparents and great grandparents who lived in Nazi occupied Poland. Their lives were suddenly turned upside down. Activities and people that had filled their lives were suddenly taken away from them.
AS: What matters most right now?
SP: What matters most now is for everyone I know to stay sane, healthy and get through this period of history in one piece. It is also important to try and keep things in perspective amongst so many unknowns. I do believe (because I must) that this period will be over at some point. How and when, we cannot know, which is the hardest part. We do know that pandemics have existed throughout history, and eventually they end. I come from a family of scientists so I am constantly being updated on news and developments and new questions. There is so much about this virus that we do not know, but to have scientists from all over the world collaborating on some sort of end in sight gives me some hope.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
SP: The answer that I am hearing a lot of is “life will never be the same.” In terms of loss, this is true. The loss of loved ones creates holes that can never be filled. But in terms of our daily lives, I don’t believe that things will never be the same. People adjust to transition – this is human nature. When we are no longer living in fear, we will adapt to conducting our lives as we have in the past. Perhaps we will be a little more paranoid about close contact with others, but I think even this will dissipate with time.
I do fear that the New York that I grew up in and love might be changed. Those little hidden pockets of cool music venues, small businesses, restaurants, and such that have survived gentrification might not survive this. It is my dream that all of these wonderful little gems that kept the city alive creatively aren’t replaced by the Rite Aids, Citibanks, and corporate megastores that had already seemed to be invading our city.
Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org