Artists on Coping: Susan Carr

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


The Procession, 18 x 24 inches, oil on wood, 2019

Susan Carr’s art investigates play, color, cartoon art while referencing motherhood, loss, and personal mythology. Her second solo exhibition at Labspace in Hillsdale, NY, has been pushed to summer/fall due to Covid -19. Carr has been in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and overseas, including the Mash Gallery in Los Angeles, Phillips Art Auctions, New York, Next to Nothing Gallery, NYC, Mark Borghi, NYC, Andrew Edlin, NYC, the Elaine Jacob Gallery at Wayne State University, and Boecker Contemporary in Heidelberg, Germany.

She co-curated two exhibitions in 2015, and recently published a book with the rawmeat cooperative titled Tensions that can be found at Printed Matter in NYC. In May 2019, Hyperallergic wrote about her first solo show In my room at Labspace: “Deceptively playful portraits mask personal traumas.”


Waiting, 12 x 12 inches, oil on wood, 2020

AS: How are you coping?

SC: My back is out right now, and I know it’s from stress. My schedule is not what is was and that makes me anxious. It is so funny how I built my life around my practice. Every day I had something concrete to do. I adhered to a very strict schedule, but now my plans are out the window and it feels scary to me. If I allow myself to let go of the fear even for a moment and feel some wonder at the natural world for just being alive, I move from fear to gratitude. I can try new things now and go back to ideas that I let go of. I can practice being in the moment, which is hard for me.

In_the_fire_of_other_suns_my dream2020.jpg

In the fire of other suns [my dream], 9.5 x 11.5 inches, 2020

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

SC: My second solo exhibition was scheduled to open April 26, 2020 at Labspace in Hillsdale, New York. It’s been put on the back burner for now due to Covid -19, but will open once the danger of infection has passed.


Make a little birdcage in your soul, 16 x 18 x 8 inches, oil on wood, 2019

AS: Has your routine change?

SC: Before the pandemic I would go to my studio, which is in my basement, as early as 9:30 in the morning, then walk my dog during lunch, then go back down to work again for an hour or two. Now I’m lucky to get downstairs by 12:00. I just can’t seem to move my body with the same urgency. I think this time of Covid-19 is a period of gestation for me, for growing ideas. I am painting, yes, but the work that comes out of this time I think must be different, so I am also doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming. The big thing that has changed is I have moved closer to my online community. I have been watching virtual studio visits, which have been wonderful and so necessary. I feel less alone, and also share some of the feelings other artists speak of about creating in these difficult times.


Forever, 11 x 14 inches, oil on wood, 2019

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

SC: This is new territory, so I try to keep busy as we all learn how to deal with this new reality. I feel both anxious and tired and know that I must keep making art, as art for me is a solace and place of safety. The art community has been incredible, and I feel most grateful to it for coming together and helping each other in this time.

JHBS0745 (1).jpg

Totem, 8 x 3 x 3 inches, ceramic, 2020

AS: What matters most right now?

SC: Paying it forward means a lot because so many folks have been so kind. I think the community of art and artists matters greatly. Continuing my work is very important, as it is the center of my life, and no matter what, I must find ways of making art. This time in particular will push me to discover the many ways art has a voice in my life. I will be doing a lot of experimenting and that is good. I have children in my life, so being an example of calm is important to me. The kids are number one and I don’t want them to become afraid. Living life as it presents itself is an art, being on this planet and helping others is an art. I must remember that.


Big Momma, 13 x 13 x 4 inches, mixed with acrylic, wood, and yarn, 2019

AS: Any thoughts on the road ahead?

SC: When I was in a writing group my teacher would ask about the stories we wrote, “But how is this night like no other?” I will be thinking of that as I make work and how it pertains to these days ahead. I miss my ceramics practice; I feel off like everyone else. I think this time will make me more resilient to change–at least I’m hoping it will. I know my work will have to adjust to the powers that be, yet I don’t know how to do that yet. Little by little I am guessing. My wish is that we all remain safe and well and come out of this stronger.


The Puppet, the Doll, the Mask, 6 feet tall, acrylic on fabric filled with Poly-fil
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.