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A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine

This week, artists reflect on quarantining from their studios in Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, New York City, Ottawa, and Los Angeles.

This the 156th installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. In light of COVID-19, we’ve asked participants to reflect on how the pandemic has changed their studio space and/or if they are focusing on particular projects while quarantining. Want to take part? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.

Yuki Murata, Santa Fe

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My studio is in my garage. During this pandemic, with my children at home and my husband still working out in the world, my time and concentration are splintered, my anxiety is accelerated and my studio itself is a shitshow. My studio has become a dumping ground for my unease and my family’s clutter. As a self-employed artist/designer, economic uncertainty existed before COVID-19 but now it feels galactic in scale. Strangely, I feel a comforting sense of community and connection because this crisis is global, and no one is unaffected. But like most catastrophes, there is a distillation of priorities: safety and health supersede economics. The clutter is insignificant. I am fortunate to not be restricted by current, limited access to materials because my art process involves using soil from around where I am working. After this crisis subsides, my focus on the fragility and perseverance of the natural world and the tension between the environment and humanity will be more resonant.

An unanticipated positive consequence has been gratitude that as an artist I am well-equipped to spend long periods in isolation and I am never lacking for ideas and projects to occupy me. The metronome of our daily life has been set to a different pulse and it has softened us in unexpectedly joyful ways.
I take baths and sleep in.
I cook and bake obsessively.
I darn my clothes.
We take walks.
We garden as if our future dinners depend on it because they might.

My fine art practice has adjusted to homeschooling and quarantine not without some hurdles. I am embarrassed that I yell too much. But our family discusses these challenges and our emotions about the pandemic with honesty and patience. I find solace in art-making because it feels hopeful. Through art, I wish for restoration and repair.

Penelope Gottlieb, Santa Barbara

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This is the first time I’ve ever shared my studio space with bags of food.
My studio has become the overflow for our emergency two weeks of essentials. Rather than being upsetting, I find the bags to be comforting. They sit and wait for us, promising we will be OK, at least for a while. All my upcoming exhibitions are on hold, the galleries are closed. My work considers endangered species and more and more I am reminded of my own vulnerability.

Ted Willis, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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I am one of eight artists who have studios spaces at Platform Gallery and Studios, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The studios surround a gallery space for both group and individual shows. My 155-square-foot space is windowless but has high ceilings that accommodate tall, deep shelves and wall space. Because of COVID-19 we have a studio schedule that allows each artist a four-hour time slot, day or night, several times a week, one artist at a time. Since I’m the studio manager I get a little extra time for disinfecting the shared washroom, wash-up sink area etc. Everything seems to be working OK but we miss the face-to-face contact with fellow artists.

Lacey Kim, New York City, New York

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This is a photograph of my current work station, where I am painting in watercolor. For the past three weeks of quarantine, I have been unable to access my studio. My small dinning enclave has been converted into a temporary studio for my watercolor series. While oil is my primary medium, I occasionally engage other forms — and this time of hardship gave me an opportunity to return to watercolor. I am excited about sharing this chapter of my artistic practice with viewers.

This series reflects a fluidity and lightness that extend the energy and ethereal quality of my work, which reflects a line-based language defined by layers and color combinations. I try to be true to myself while I paint. I believe directness of acting and being is the way to one’s true nature. Zen teaches that we spend years distancing ourselves from this nature, but that we can always access it again. Mahayana, or ‘great vehicle,’ captures this idea of finding wholeness through turning inward. Whatever the medium, this approach translates to everything I create.

Nathalie Tierce, Los Angeles, California

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Since the recommendation in Los Angeles to “shelter in place,” I have been working from my garage. It’s a hillside home, to get to the garage is a walk of 37 steps to street level. I keep the roll-up door open to let in the natural light.

During the day, joggers, dog walkers, parents with strollers, and a broad array of people looking for an escape from quarantine wander past my driveway. I sometimes catch their faces when I look up from my work at my easel; it’s a combination of surprise and puzzlement. Sometimes they smile. It’s a strange feeling like I’m an oddity on display.

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