Art is dependent on creativity and, for many, creativity comes from interacting with people and our environment. So how would emerging artists would be affected by the year of isolation?
To satisfy this curiosity, I interviewed two extremely talented young artists. Hilary Devaney, 29, a surrealistic painter and David Dunn, 30, an established local sculptor.
COVID 19 impacted each of them very differently.
Hilary Devaney had just been accepted in the highly competitive and prestigious MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) program at Columbia University for the fall of 2020. She found herself in a program with virtual classes, virtual collaboration, and virtual mentoring. As the pandemic escalated, fear and anxiety unconsciously invaded her work. Indeed, her work is a spontaneous expression of our COVID 19 journey.
As part of the initial application process, she created 20 works of art. She had just completed these paintings when New York City closed down. In the next six months, she was only able to complete 3 paintings. But lately, she finds herself being more optimistic and more creative. I selected three of her paintings that chronicle our COVID 19 journey.
The first painting, Focus, painted at the beginning of COVID 19 is a upbeat depiction of a happy young woman with her cat looking forward to life. There is early caution about the virus in the scene (playing cards and a Magic 8 ball); but the young woman remains hopeful.
As the pandemic worsened, Ms. Devaney stopped incorporating people into her art. Remember those times when the pandemic was raging with no treatment or vaccines on the horizon? Her paintings during that time radiated fear, anxiety, and loneliness represented by a “googly-eyed” horse, darker colors, and amorphous images rather than the orderly paintings she used to do. Her walls faded away, replaced by funereal images and a horse of the apocalypse.
Now that she has been vaccinated, she still sees the world in dark colors without people, but a finish line is in sight, a path back to civilization, complete with checkered flags.
She doesn’t know how her experience of the pandemic will flow through her future work, but she is looking forward to more collaboration. Last month her professors were able to see her physical paintings for the first time.
But she did think of one advantage from the shuttered city. She was able to collaborate with artists from all over the world; now only a Zoom call away.
Mr. Dunn is a local sculptor who is inspired by his materials, scrap metal and tools. His challenges with COVID 19 have been
vastly different than Ms. Devaney’s.
At the beginning of 2020, he had three one-man shows scheduled and had produced a number of pieces for these exhibits. 2020 was to be his breakout year. But when the pandemic hit, all of his shows had to be cancelled.
He found himself with inventory, but no effective method of promoting it and consequently, no money to pay for new materials.
With the world shuttered away, he decided to learn a new skill, blacksmithing. After selling enough pieces to purchase a forge, he began to study this craft.
His source of inspiration has been to peru
se salvage and junk yards, but they closed due to COVID 19. Many of his suppliers were no longer willing to sell…COVID 19 fear created hoarding behaviors; and he had to find new suppliers.
For Mr. Dunn, 2020, was a year of scarcity. Scarcity of resources, scarcity of buyers, scarcity of income.
But he has persevered, producing a successful show in Florida and is applying his new skills to increase the movement in his pieces (see the purple and green sculpture below). His sense of humor prevails in the names he gives his sculptures, including Sir Clamps-a-lot.
Dunn’s art evolves as he gains expertise in new skills and equipment; and he hopes that 2020 was just an aberration. When I asked if there was anything else that he wanted to say about 2020, he said simply.
“I just want everyone to get vaccinated.”
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.