Getting ready for an art show during a pandemic is something else. It is a place to magnify all of the uncertainties of the time and at the same time remind me what is most important.
I spent the first few weeks not working on the show pieces. I was just trying to keep my head above water in the midst of the brain fog of grief and managing what my kids needed to do for school and figuring out what we were going to have for dinner. The transition to being at home all the time was a shock to our family’s system and it took a while to settle.
As I started to return to working on the pieces for the show, I felt a bit like I’d lost the thread. I knew what I was supposed to be doing but it seemed like I’d started the project in a different life.
I basically had to retrain myself to be in the studio. To come into my workroom, shut out the outside world, and figure out how to get in a headspace to work. My family was really amazing during this process and allowed me the time and space to do that. I am so thankful for them. I mean I always think they are pretty great but especially during this time, they’ve all helped carry the load of spending 24/7 in our house and that’s amazing to me.
When I conceived of the idea for this show, I wanted to tie the handiwork of generations of women in my family to the roles that women are prescribed in society and how they choose to engage or not engage with those roles. So I was of course drawn to women who chose to defy those roles:
- Maria Mitchell – America’s first recognized female astronomer
- Sojourner Truth – an abolitionist and human rights advocate
- Jane Austen – a writer all her life, she was forced to publish her work anonymously with her brother signing her writing contracts
- Artemisia Gentileschi – an Italian Baroque painter whose work has been overshadowed by her rape and subsequent successful prosecution of her rapist
- Lakshmi Bai – a leader in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British East India Company
- Sor Juana Inés – a 17th century nun and very early feminist
- I also have a host of women who have influenced me in my life
As I’m finishing up a handful of pieces I am struck by the bravery and resilience of women. Awed by the women I know and am lucky enough to share space with. Thankful for their presence in my life. Thankful for the women who chose the more difficult path in service of their dreams so that we might see their trajectories and learn.
Working on this project during this time has also underscored for me how fortunate I am to not have to make a living from my art. Artists are reporting total loss of income during this time. I closed my Etsy store because I didn’t want to have to figure out shipping during this time. That is a luxury I am afforded.
So as the work for this show comes to a close, I’m going to be spending some time reflecting and retooling what I do. I want to make art and I want people to see that art. Reimagining what happens with that equation is what happens next.
Women’s Work runs June 17-July 31, 2020 at Lowe Mill‘s First Floor West Gallery.