By Cathy Breslaw
August 31, 2020
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 Linda Litteral while having been busy with a combination of a residency and creating art in her studio, finds the isolation has intensified the negative psychological issues that ironically have been a source of creativity and healing.
During the pandemic:
1) How has your work shifted during the pandemic? Has it been a change in the process of you creating art? The mediums do you use? What themes or concepts you are thinking about?
My work tends to evolve slowly, the content of childhood sexual abuse, trauma, and feminist issues stays with everything I do. I was at a residency at Desert Dairy in the beginning of the pandemic and stayed for 2 weeks. The energy and beauty of the desert and looking out at Joshua Tree National Monument was wonderful. It gave me a quiet entrance into the pandemic. When I was back home and in my studio, I really did not want to paint and have been working primarily in clay. I do not think my work has changed much, it just continues its evolution. I started working on spirals and how to carve and draw them at the residency. They have always been in my work but, seem to be central for now. I am working on a 7 foot totem that will be the center of a labyrinth I designed that the Feminist Image Group is doing for Desert Dairy space. It gives the group something to look forward to and we will go out and construct it this fall.
2) What have you discovered about yourself as an artist during this pandemic?
It has been a difficult time to stay focused and moving forward. The lack of control over what I can do is too closely related to my childhood lack of control as an incest survivor. PTSD has raised its ugly head. As an artist I have pushed to stay busy as it is the one thing, art making, that allows me some psychological peace. While I am making art it is calm and I have purpose that makes sense in the moment. I find I like not having to have all the deadlines and constrictions on studio time that we had before the pandemic. I am pretty good at being an introvert and spending time with myself in my art making capacity.
The creative process is an innate human characteristic. This time has solidified that understanding for me. If we continue to repress our children’s creativity by defunding all the arts, and trivializing creativity’s value, we will be building the world that the Republican Trump administration stands for. Lies, gluttony, greed, hatred, misogyny, bigotry, etc…. Creativity is a shining light to a better world.
3) What have been your biggest challenges working in isolation? Surprises?
The biggest challenge has been staying focused and contending with the past. While I have been speaking with my therapist throughout, I miss the one on one in person aspect of healing. The biggest surprise has been the way I have isolated almost completely. I rarely talk to anyone and while I do miss people, I have not pushed to have a lot of contact with anyone. There is fear involved in going out into the world that seems to be based in past traumas, and amplified by the ongoing trauma of the pandemic. The challenge will be to integrate the healing to encompass past, present and future that we cannot know. Then to address the healing evolution with art work.