Sunday, May 29, 2022

Artists During Covid

We all have our stories about what we did during the pandemic when so many businesses and schools were shut down. Suddenly people were working at home with the blessing of their employers, and some kept working as usual for one reason or another.

What about artists, don’t they always work in their homes or studios. Did they change what they were doing?

What prompted this line of thought was reading a short article announcing David Hockney’s largest painting to date. A 314-foot Frieze inspired during lockdown.

He had spent the year in his house in Normandy where he recorded the changing seasons on his iPad. He printed, painted and stitched 220 images into one continuous frieze. He says he was inspired by a Chinese scroll unrolled for him at the Metropolitan Museum and the Bayeux Tapestry not far away from his home which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest in England in 1066 and made shortly thereafter. Here is an image of the frieze and Hockney in his studio with some of the individual images on the wall.

In March of 2021 the New York Times asked 75 artists in all media what the past year had been like for them, Sheila Hicks, a textile artist, replied: “I have never gotten so much work done! There are so few distractions or interruptions. Even if you choose to do nothing, you can do it with intensity.” While Anicka Yi, a conceptual artist, disputed this saying, “Maintaining my studio is a lot like making an ongoing meta work of art. There is a myth about the redistribution of time during the pandemic, that we have fewer interruptions. I’ve experienced the opposite.”

Jenny Holzer replied, “I used my electric-sign fixation in service of the vote. I practiced applied art, maybe agitprop, for the elections. Also, I indulged in ugly watercolors on formerly secret documents, that I littered with filthy words. Women should swear more.” This image from Madison, Wisconsin’s Wort News photographed by Chali Pittman of Holzer’s “Art Comes to Madison”...

Sean Scully, who has been twice mentioned as a Turner Prize nominee, said “Lately, I have fallen in love with yellow. At the moment, I seem to be using it in every painting. I’m not sure I understand why, though maybe it offers a kind of protection against the cold, or against the sorrows of Covid. One of my new paintings is called “Yellow Yellow.” Another is called “Wall Orange” and has blurs of yellow and orange seeping into each other. Yellow is complicated.” Here is his 2021 painting Wall Yellow (Myanmar).

Ending with my favorite story: In 2020 Alison Elizabeth Taylor created “Anthony Cuts Under the Williamsburg Bridge”. The artist used a blend of paints, inkjet prints and wood veneers to create the work. It received first prize in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait competition that occurs every three years. As a result, she received a $25,000 cash award and a commission to paint a portrait of a living person for the NPG’s permanent collection.

The subject of Taylor’s winning portrait is an actual barber, Anthony Payne, who set up his business under the bridge offering haircuts in exchange for contributions to the Black Lives Matter movement. In making their choice the competition jurors, who had sifted through 2,700 entries, stated they felt Taylor’s work spoke to all the themes of the past three years from the time of the pandemic when people could no longer assemble indoors to the fight against racism.

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