Summer vacation has always been tricky as an artist. My son is home all day, looking for something to do. The garden occupies absorbent amounts of time, going quickly goes from meek and mild to tawdry and unruly overnight. I throw myself into weeding and cultivating like it’s a personal vendetta against the chaos. There are beaches to go to, adventures to have, and family to see. Yes, the studio takes the back burner in the summer months.
But not this summer. My son has been home for months, and out of necessity has learned to art of entertaining himself. The garden is a welcome reminder that some things, at least, are still as they always have been. I find myself drawn into the cycle of the seeds and blooms with a gratitude and calmness that welcomes even the weeds. And the trips are all postponed or cancelled. We have to settle with family zoom visits, phone calls, and even the long lost art of the letter. This summer the rituals are paused or transformed. And in the midst of this, where I have ended up more often in my studio.
The studio has become so much more crucial during this time. In the first months of COVID I had a very difficult time creating, art seemed like a luxury, even an abomination to those who were sick and suffering. Then the protests started, the injustice and pain of systemic societal issues daily confronting us with the broken reality of our world. I felt so small and speechless. Painting would not come. Creating was a foreign concept. I would stare at my easel for hours paralyzed and wonder what I could possibly have to say into such a time.
That is the thing about being an artist, it’s about having something to say. It’s about you – the artist – having a thought/idea/complaint/shout/mumble about something/anything. The form changes, the thoughts change, but the necessity remains. It took me some time to remember that I didn’t need to speak to everything or everyone in this moment– just to myself. As I reminded myself of this day after day, I found I started pouring out work. Pieces that started with layers of chaos and uncertainty slowly dissolved into quiet spaces. I built into each painting structure, composition and calm which each layer of line and form and color. I was creating internal compositions, layering and reforming all that is going on into a something I can look at without being completely overwhelmed. And I was keeping myself at least a little sane. Art as therapy is powerful and when creating is your native tongue, it’s transformative. My latest pieces have been a remedy for me; and my summer studio time a balm. I still mourn the state of things, but I can do it in a productive way; not filling the void or ignoring it, but exploring and speaking into it. The new paintings speak into my unease with hope; into my grief with grace, and into my unrest with peace. I hope they do the same for you.