1. How are you holding up?
In general I’m fine. Good days and bad days. Thankfully my friends and family are all healthy. I’ve been trying to keep busy by focusing on my artwork, which is usually a good distraction. Unfortunately, my freelance work has dried up, so the financial situation is challenging, and takes up more mental and actual time than I’d like. Overall I don’t mind being at home so much since I’m an introvert, but I miss being able to go to restaurants and bars. I also miss going to the gym, but I go on long walks every morning. Even though I’m prone to anxiety, I’ve been pretty well, mentally. I’ve had some trying days, but so has everybody.
Being in New York has been really crazy. The first few weeks were genuinely scary, even though I was almost exclusively at home. Just knowing all the death and trauma were right outside the door, hearing all the sirens, and hearing about what was happening in the hospitals here really put me and everyone on edge. Now that things are getting better in NYC I’m feeling a little calmer about being here, but it really feels like New Yorkers have gone through something traumatic.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
Definitely. For a while I didn’t want to go to my studio at all, so I set up a small space in my apartment for artwork. I obviously can’t work on oil painting in my Brooklyn apartment, so I decided to teach myself watercolor painting. I’ve never had any desire to work with watercolors at all, and really knew nothing about how to use the medium, other than it was basically the opposite of oil painting, something I have a pretty good handle on. I bought some supplies before everything shut down, and thought it would be good to use the same subject matter I’ve been working on with oil painting, the sheet paintings. I had to watch some YouTube videos to have some basic idea about how to control the paint and the water, I had so little idea. It’s been a steep learning curve, but it’s been amazing to learn something new, to figure out how it works. I’ve done 20-30 watercolors, but a few of them went straight to the trash. I still have some that are pretty bad.
At some point I started going into my studio a few days a week. I have a car and can drive there, and my studio itself is fairly isolated, so I felt safe. I’ve started in on some of the paintings I had been working on, and it’s felt really good to do something normal. For now I’m switching off between working on the watercolors at home and oils at the studio.
The project I’ve been working on, these sheet paintings, were about trauma and grief, to begin with, so the pandemic really feeds into the work and the things I’ve been thinking about for some time. I really haven’t been able to process it too much, but what’s going on definitely reinforces and impacts the work and my thinking.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
Well, there’s the watercolors. I expect I’ll continue them in some way, it remains to be seen to what degree. It’s been really refreshing to have a different way of working as a break from what I usually do. And it’s taught me that it’s good to learn something new, even though it can be really challenging.
4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?
I don’t know that I can name anyone in particular, but it’s been great to see so many artists that just keep going, in whatever form that takes. Some artists really seem to thrive, since artmaking, at least, involves some measure of isolation to begin with. And I appreciate the artists who can’t get to their studios but still manage to carve out a space to work and find ways to keep making stuff.
Stephanie Serpick is a painter whose work explores themes of isolation, grief, and healing. Her work has been shown in various exhibitions in the U.S. and internationally, and she is a fellow at several residencies. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at Sweet Lorraine Gallery in Brooklyn, the College of Southern Nevada, and a two-person exhibition at The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute at the Museum of Art at Pratt in Utica NY. She was recently awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.