Creative Quarantine: Photographers Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman | Photo Credit: Ariel Pate

Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman discuss a paused book launch, appreciating what is close at hand, photographing in the kitchen, examining old work, and using the slower pace of the current situation to explore broader themes in their work.

1. How are you holding up?

Barbara: I am reckoning with uncertainty, an ancient conversation that is part of the human condition. It has made me think deeply about the travails of my ancestors.

Lindsay: So far so good! Family and friends are healthy. Opportunities and routines have diminished but are still recognizable. I retired from teaching last year—in retrospect, a liberating decision. There is now time for serious musing in my domestic and garden spaces. I’m enjoying the slowed timeframe to read broadly, focus attention and observe closely.

Sweet Life, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

Dr. Oz Sleep Slim, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Barbara: We were ready to launch our artists’ book Recipes for Disaster, about the climate crisis, but as the pandemic unfolded, it felt like the wrong time to be reminding people that the world is still burning up. But this disaster has taught us that everything is connected —food, supply chains, politics, public health, deforestation, habitat destruction, the list goes on—which has expanded the discussion about what the future should look like.

We live 90 miles apart and have not been meeting  in our shared studio in Milwaukee to incubate ideas and to shoot. We have always adapted our workflow to work schedules and family life, so we continue our frequent, interminable phone conversations and are finding ways to work separately together. I went back to my kitchen to shoot—exploring the mythic qualities of food. Quarantine cooking. Stress baking. The comfort and familiarity of the known and predictable. Kitchen emanations where the tools interrogate. I am delving into the history of recipes, who is doing the cooking, labor as meditation, the found poetry of handwritten recipes and the questionable nostalgia they evoke.

Lindsay: Covid19 has forced us to investigate the broader themes we have been thinking about for decades; revisiting old work to see the arc. New ideas are simmering and often bubbling up. Our project menu has definitely changed.

Kitchen Emanations Study 1, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

This unexpected slowing down has heightened my appreciation for what is close at hand.

Kitchen Emanations Study 2, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over? 

Barbara: This unexpected slowing down has heightened my appreciation for what is close at hand.

Lindsay: For me, the most interesting effect of being restricted to our separate domestic spaces is that the prolonged physical separation has caused the trajectory of our thoughts to spin in surprisingly different, yet parallel strands. What remains constant is that much of our collaborative work springs from ideas about defining domestic space as a site of psychological and historical significance. I’m viewing this situation as an opportunity for us each to bring more to the projects, go deeper into ideas, visually and intellectually.

Research materials, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

American’s assumptions about social engagement, commerce and consumption have been upended and jumbled by Covid19. Whether we chafe or embrace confinement, our experience of the passage of time, information, technology, consumption and caretaking has been altered. New relationships and rituals around the idea of domestic space are forming. I marvel at this transformation and look forward to what it becomes.

That’s For Me, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

Yum Yum Gems, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?

Barbara:  The Rolls and Tubes Collective has provided much needed levity as each of four artists (Christy McDonald, Colleen Mullins, Jenny Sampson, and Nicole White) reinterprets a known photograph from photographic history, utilizing toilet paper as an element in each image. The artist team of Hillerbrand + Magsamen also make playfully serious work that addresses the moment. In their project, 147 Devices for Integrated Principles, they create and photograph their earnest protective devices with hopeful titles like 23. A Device for Swallowing the Apocalypse, 48. A Device for Letting Go Of The Lump In Your Throat, or 93. A Device For Compassionate Balance.

Lindsay: I’ve had more time for Instagram and it’s great to see new experiments and work in progress by artists I follow. These artists must be handling quarantine well, lots of inspiring and surprising images from

Priya Kambli             @ kambli.priya           

Dawn Roe                 @dawnroe                   

Vaughan Larsen   

Clarissa Bonet          @clarissabonet          

Hermits, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

Mother’s, 2020 | ©Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman create photographic narratives examining history, myth, and popular culture. Their projects critique the social landscape and posit alternative histories. In their four-decades of collaboration, they have chronicled their gendered experiences, from adolescence through aging. Continuing their interest in the psychological and historical significance of the domestic sphere, they are currently using the layered history of food and consumption to probe politics and the climate crisis.

Their artwork has been exhibited in the US and internationally and is in collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Walker Art Center, and Worcester Art Museum. Their artists’ books are in the Yale Center for British Art, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Joan Flasch Artists Book Collection, and the Bainbridge Island Arts Museum among others. 

Ciurej divides time between Chicago and their Milwaukee, Wisconsin studio. Lochman maintains her studio practice in Milwaukee.

Their artists’ book and installation, Recipe for Disaster and Vital Signs of the Planet, is in the exhibition, The Blue Planet, at the Kunstsammlungen-Museen in Augsberg, Germany through December 2020.