Making Art in a Time of Virus

Uff-dah! What a month. March started with my opening at the Phipps Center for the Arts and then ended with everybody hiding in their homes. In some respects, life has become more dystopian. In some respects, little has changed. I still spend a lot of time in my art studio, isolated from others. I am an introvert and have been enjoying my time being sequestered away. I am in my fourth week of teleworking. I see my neighbors when we walk our dogs, but otherwise I don't see anybody in person. I would like to see others, but for now I'm okay with the self-isolation. An artist friend of mine joked last week that nothing has changed for him because he has spent the last 35 years in one room. He will continue to work in his studio through the pandemic.
Today, I was texting with a young man who lives in a refugee camp in Kenya. Coronavirus is starting to spread in the camp and people are very fearful because the government will do little to protect them. Most of the refugees are from the civil war in Sudan.  At the root of his situation is Tribalism in Sudan, where one brother is pitted against another because of thin divisions that have been fanned into flames over the decades. This week I also read my family members yelling at each other on social media over the leadership, or lack there of, by our current president. Again, thin divisions that have been fanned into flames over the last few decades. 

My daughter, who is currently stranded in Scotland, asked me last year how climate-change will alter the planet. Basically, wondering if there still will be a livable planet. Unfortunately, I had to share my thoughts that millions of people will be dying in the next several decades. The only bright side is that she is a white woman in a wealthy society in the Northern hemisphere which means she will see less of the destruction and chaos than many. And yet, this week I see reports about how pollution has toppled once countries started requiring their citizens to shelter-in-place (in India air-borne particulate matter is down 71%). There have been many reports of wildlife coming back into cities with less activity to scare them away. So many people are spending time walking outdoors that parks are becoming too crowded for people to stay the recommended 6 feet apart.  .

We are in very difficult times and, I am afraid, it is only going to get worse before it gets better. But, in the midst of this cleaving and fracturing of the old world, the seeds of the new world are evident. One of the transformations that needs to happen is that we, as a world, need to do less. We need to move around less, buy less, and build less, We need to be able to sit still and feel satisfied instead of pushing at the world to form it to our liking. We need to be quiet and let the world come to us - allow the earth to seep back into our bones so that we can feel at home.

We now know that our identity, and society, cannot be based on money. The more we base our self-worth on money, the less resource we actually have. Unchecked capitalist systems, if they are run by greedy people, are cruel, heartless and just as much a tool for harm as any other form of economy. We need to base our identity as a country and a world on something other than the accomplishments of the wealthy.

We also need a world that heals the divisions between us. All people are about 95% similar, but we focus on the 5% of difference. It is sad, it makes my heart weep. Coming through this pandemic and the economic hardships that are coming, we need to lift people up. We need to see our differences and weaknesses with compassion and not try to find ways to weaponize them. In essence, we need to love - something our holy books and art have been telling us for centuries. But our holy books and art also tell us that we don't listen very well. It is a struggle.

After every night there is a day. After every pandemic there is life. I pray that we all can watch out for each other now and when this is over.  I am already planning for a better future. Please join me.