Over the coming weeks we will be sharing the views from our artists’ studios at this particular moment in time, offering glimpses into their practice. What are they working on? What are they listening to? How are they responding to the current moment? Each artist shares, in his or her distinctive voice.
This week, from Brian Fekete.
The time of COVID-19 is, as we are told, a great equal opportunity affliction that respects no boundaries, ethnicities or social classes, but its effects today, and tomorrow are unique and varied as each individual on the planet, infected or otherwise. For all we know about it, COVID-19 is still a great unknown, and therein lies its power, until an effective vaccine renders it just another microbial annoyance. Morbidity is fearful enough, but from the beginning, COVID-19 has been manipulated as a political weapon through information suppression, misinformation, mismanagement, denial or outright grabs for quick financial profit.
Ultimately, though, at least for now, it's the not knowing that keeps us awake at night. Do I have it? Did I have it and not know it? Am I Immune now? Does immunity exist? I'm fine now, but what about winter? My children, my job, my income, my savings, my social life, my groceries? Everything is NOT KNOWING.
This is where my art becomes my refuge, my buoy. It always has been, to the extent that I now realize that my compulsion to make art is to remember who I am. It's the self made mirror I stare into. It's my identity. If you want to know who I am, look at my art. That's what I do.
I always listen to music while making art; broad palettes of musical color and energy, from Mozart to Mingus, Bowie to Bizet, Rimsky-Korsakov to Roxy Music. But lately, it's Billie Holiday singing "In My Solitude" that won't let me be. It used to be just an extremely soulful rendition of genius and a poignant plea that merged with my creative energy while painting. Now, it's a haunting dirge of the everyday with meaning I could not have imagined. An anthem of merciless isolation:
I sit in my chair
Filled with despair
Nobody could be so sad
With gloom everywhere
I sit and I stare
I know that I'll soon go mad
Isolation. Funny Thing. Some people rage like restless animals against it, but for many artists it is not just the preferred way, it is the only way to be productive and prolific. I've learned early on, since an often lonely childhood to reach inside, dive deep and hunt for pearls of inspiration. This year is no different, but now isolation also means hiding out from something unknown, and it is not by choice. This makes it painful.
I don't know if it's a kind of synchronicity, serendipity or intuition, but my work for 2020 laid itself out before me like a plan, well in advance of COVID and perfectly attuned to the vibe of isolation. I had decided I would make a body of work that if presented as an exhibition, would be titled Prepare for Impact. This is something your flight captain announces when your plane is about to crash, but it also implies that you're en route, traveling somewhere, and travel is one the very luxuries we can only dream about right now. So the subjects of my paintings allude to near and distant places and time periods as imagined by someone who can only guess what a particular place or time could feel like. It came about quite naturally, as color and form are so easily molded into suggestive and evocative scenes. it allows me to indulge in a series of childlike Walter Mitty adventures, orchestrated for dream sequences, not so much for objective reality. The overall sensation of this body of work is intended as a kind of abstract travelogue, allowing the viewer to absorb impressions of other locales and eras from the comfort of home. With this work, I am secure and at home with the world.