Artists on Coping: Zoran Crnkovic

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


Zoran Crnkovic

Zoran Crnkovic was born and raised in Croatia where his early focus centered on drawing, painting, carving and sculpting. He has been a resident of New York City for last 24 years, with a multi-disciplinary practice based in Long Island City. He has had 20 solo shows, and teaches life drawing at the Salmagundi Club in Manhattan.

AS: How are you coping?

Crnkovic,Zoran, City, Monotype,15x11-TRIM.jpg

City, Monotype, 15” x 11”

ZC: This is not the first emergency situation I’ve faced in my life. In the 1980s, I lived through the collapse of socialist states in Eastern Europe, and in the ‘90s saw hardships in Croatia during blockades and war. I sympathize with those suffering in my newly adopted American homeland, but know that life must go on and that we must work to create a better future. Times like this can stimulate artists to create with more vigor and urgency. We all know about the tremendous art and inventions of the Renaissance, but rarely hear of the tragic times before. It was a time of the Black Death when “Memento Mori” was actually a life-affirming motto stimulating creativity because artists knew that life was precarious and time was short. Recently I’ve experienced an intensified urge to create which even got me into trouble at my current residency where I was scolded for “making too much art.”

AS: Has your routine changed?

ZC: My routine hasn’t changed much, only intensified. Social distancing has even helped me focus more on my work and less on interruptions at the studio complex where there is a strong communal and social side. I’ve never had enough time for all I want to do, with projects ranging from painting to printmaking, sculpture, drawing, even a few fringe ideas bridging art with technology and science. I also make my own stretchers and frames when I have the chance and necessary machinery.


MetroCity #19, 2” x 3”

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

ZC: I follow economic news broadly and was prepared for bad times, though I hoped for a chance to sell work through shows and fairs before the chickens came home to roost, so to speak. In Eastern Europe, I lived through the collapse of an economy and state that started with the unlimited printing of fiat currency by the central bank. I’m fond of studying history and if anything is true, it’s that history repeats. When it doesn’t, it rhymes.

AS: What matters most right now?

ZC: To turn all my sketches and ideas into finished artwork no matter what’s happening or what the future brings because time is short. I had a few solo shows planned for this year and many group shows, but all were canceled due to the pandemic. I was scheduled to participate in art fairs, but they were canceled too. Yet some activities like The Other Art Fair in Chicago have moved online, so I’m virtually there. I’ve also been in a few online group shows in the UK and New York, and with my Salmagundi Club in Manhattan. Though it’s not the same as the real thing, I’m trying to learn more about showing art via the Internet because at the moment it’s the only viable alternative.

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Looking Forward, 11” x 17”

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

ZC: Right now I’m in the process of losing my studio as a result of non-profit politics and power grabs. I actually got a note of eviction at the end of March when the entire city was under strict lockdown. To make it more bizarre, I even got a personal and unwanted visit at my studio by the director of the new organization that was taking over the space. This visitor had a fever and was supposed to be under quarantine, a quarantine that had begun just five days before. Instead there he was, and I got a blast of anger and hostility up close at less than six feet, so may have possibly acquired immunity. As the city reopens, I’m searching for a new space to work from. In regards to showing, I’m just starting to talk about participating in a fair in Switzerland in late November. I hope travel will be possible by then, and also hope to find space in which to create and prepare for it. If things go well, I should have a solo show locally in Long Island City from October through December.

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.