1. How are you holding up?
I feel almost guilty to admit that despite tragedy and anxiety around the pandemic I have been doing really well in terms of personal and artistic self. The last couple of months in quarantine right before summer have brought positive changes in my life.
One major event was my recent marriage. After about two years of seeing each other, I married my significant other, Chris Batte, who I have been head over heels in love with! Chris works in the sound and video industry. He is a part-time faculty at Loyola University, a co-owner of the sound company Parkwalk Productions, and a producer of a feature-length documentary called Left Field (2009).
Long before the pandemic started, Chris has been a blessing and a man of support to me. Ironically, the isolation and work from home together turned out to be our best honeymoon ever!
When the time had come to initiate our wedding, the City of Chicago City Hall was closed due to the pandemic. As a result, me and Chris got married on the front porch of our wedding officiant’s house, wearing masks and keeping a distance from one another! Gosh, that was the awkwardest ceremony I have ever experienced since probably my baptizing…
As soon as the official part of the wedding service was over I felt like I had become the luckiest woman ever. Our decision to legally bind our relationship during the quarantine came about mainly because of the human longing for happiness and well-being in times when there is a prolonged struggle. Regardless of the foul, deadly, and chaotic state of affairs, it was important for me and Chris to maintain love and sanity within the “small world” of our brand new family.
Life keeps happening even during the worst of crises like COVID-19. And for us striving to nurture and maintain the environment, we at least are more capable of being in control of was a key to survival. I also feel that being a partner to somebody puts on an extra level of responsibility for the life and happiness of another person sculpting a better and stronger version of yourself.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so in what way?
Quarantine during the pandemic gifted me the asset of unlimited time to stay home and devote long uninterrupted hours making my art.
Although, I will mention that the idea of COVID-19 itself has not yet found direct reflection in my art. For the past three months, I have been working on realizing art projects I have already envisioned for myself prior. For instance, I have designed and mass printed decks of playing cards for distribution from the project Playing Cards Series (2019). I have originally made paintings of 54 playing cards sizing each one 9” x 12” inches and painting with gouache, watercolors, color pencils, and collage on paper. The project was intended to initiate the path of self-discovery telling a personal story to the audience and also addressing difficult and problematic issues that are shared among many.
Moreover, for the past three months, I have been working on and have completed other art projects. Namely, Ghosts of The Everleigh (in progress) showing my vision and interpretation of the luxurious Public House in Chicago from the early 1900s. Babygirl Series (completed) representing small female animals divided into four weather season groups. And Las Vegas Paintings (in progress) depicting Las Vegas Strip dwellers in the world of magic illusions and surreal dreams.
Graphite pencil underdrawing and sketching usually initiate my steps in creating an artwork. I use primarily gouache and watercolor paints with touches of colored pencils on paper as the main media for the past couple of years. Collage has been a fun medium to work with. Thanks to my employer, the artist Tony Fitzpatrick, I have gotten access to knowledge and materials to produce collages and found it complimentary in many ways for my own art practice.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice you’d like to keep up after this is over?
Pandemic has not significantly changed or altered ways of my art-making. I have certainly come to cherish and value the asset of time in doing what my heart desires with minimal daily job obligations. I came to the conclusion that for an artist having a structured day schedule is crucial for moving forward creatively and achieving success in the long run. As an emerging artist myself, understanding the importance of time and organization in my art practice has contributed exponentially to the overall quality and quantity of art I produce. I will retain the practice of efficient time management throughout and after the pandemic if I happen to survive it. No kidding.
4. Of the artists you follow who’s been handling this well?
My artist friend from New York, Ernesto Ortiz Leyva (website, Instagram), has taken full advantage of the stay at home order! He is a prolific artist who went to the same university, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), as I did. Ernesto is known for drawing controversial subjects and illustrations commenting on religion, politics, pop culture, and shared beliefs. The artist stays at his home studio apartment and produces new work every day. He makes beautiful and super intricate etchings, drawings with ink and pencils on paper. Ernesto also makes oil paintings of both fictitious and actual characters based on fables and real-life which inhabit the world of the absurd. Ernesto’s creatures are loud, disorderly, grotesque, surreal, funny, scary, and topical! The artist’s visual vocabulary contains punchy and sarcastic slang allowing him to powerfully express personal outrage and frustration with modern injustice, stupidity, racism, abuse of power in politics, religion, and social media. Brilliantly, the artist combines humor and satire in his art offsetting elements of reining disaster and flourishing depression branching out in contemporary society.
Currently, Ernesto makes 4” x 4” inches portraits of ravens using acrylic paints and inks on wood panels. He makes few portraits every day and puts his hard work and daily practice forward manifesting creative triumph over daily hardships and tragedies of the pandemic. I will encourage our readers to view Ernesto Ortiz Leyva’s online portfolio and get familiar with his incredible work.
Yulia Kuznetsova is a Russian-born, Chicago-based artist. She is a recipient of the merit scholarship and the Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Studio from the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Kuznetsova has had numerous art exhibitions in Chicago, IL., Seattle, WA., and Austin, TX. Her art has been featured in various media, such as the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Ambassador, and others. Yulia has also been present on various radio shows, namely, WGN Radio, iHeart Radio, and Broken English Podcast Radio. Kuznetsova is a member of HOAB (Homeless Online Art Bazaar), the charitable fundraising organization in support of homeless people in Chicago. Yulia is also a former volunteer at Intuit: The Museum of Intuitive Arts and a present volunteer at the Women Made Gallery in Chicago.
Check out her website and her Instagram account.