Categories: Cathy Breslaw, SD Press Club Award winner, THE BUZZ, Working in Isolation

THE BUZZ: Working in Isolation: Irene Abraham

August 20, 2020

Written by Cathy Breslaw

Most artists work in relative isolation.  Our collective art practices and the creative process demands it. It goes against the human urge to congregate and socialize.  Still, we persevere as the ‘call to create’ nudges us.  We then deliberately make space – intellectually, emotionally and physically for the act of creation. We move forward quietly, with intention and faith in the process. Never have artists been more aware of isolation than time now spent alone in this Corona Virus pandemic environment. It is not our choice, but as artists we are familiar and in some ways ahead of the game in our familiarity and relative comfort with loneliness of self -containment. This “Working In Isolation” series aims to highlight how artists are adapting and how their work has evolved as a result of the pandemic. Read more articles in this series HERE.

San Diego artist Irene Abraham creates abstract paintings and drawings. Here, she talks about how isolation has motivated her to revisit her completed works and to “mend and revise” them as well as a push toward experimentation.  She also discusses the importance of social connection to artist friends and ties to the art community as a whole.

1) How has your work shifted during the pandemic? Has it been a change in the process of your creating art? The mediums you use? The themes or concepts you are thinking about?

I work in my home studio, so being sequestered at home has not shifted where I do my work.  While I am continuing with my main practice of painting and drawing, I have also been taking time to look through old sketch-books and re-organize my work space. 

I have also been taking old paintings and “mending” and revising them, or even totally covering them up and starting over.  It is a glorious feeling when I get to the point where I think I have finally resolved a painting.

Since I have fewer outside events now, I have also been able to expand my art-making and do more experimentation with new techniques.  I have been doing a lot of sketching while on Zoom meetings and also trying out some sculpture projects using a 3-D printer.

Certainly the political situation in combination with the pandemic has had at least a subliminal affect on the art I am producing.   Maybe my unconscious use of darker hues in my painting “Intermission” reflects these concerns. 

 2) What have you discovered about yourself as an artist during this pandemic?  

Making art is still very important to me and often exhilarating even under these constrained circumstances.  Creating work is necessary to my sense of well-being. However, although I have always enjoyed working in isolation,  I find that too much isolation can be enervating.  I have had to seek out ways to contact other artists, even if it is just a phone call or Zoom meeting. I have realized how much artists depend on interaction with other artists for stimulation, feedback and encouragement. 

3) What have been your biggest challenges working in isolation?      Surprises? 

A show I was supposed to curate with a colleague has been cancelled indefinitely.  My disappointment at this not happening made me realize how much I enjoy projects like this to get artwork out in the world. With no more artist meetings, gallery openings or studio visits I’ve had to find other ways to connect to the greater art world.

Luckily, we are living in that age of the internet so posting my work on various channels allows me to get a bit of feedback and cuts down on the feeling of artistic and social isolation.  I also get to see my art friends’ work and have enjoyed visiting galleries and museums on-line.

Irene at Work in Studio
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