Written by Cathy Breslaw
August 27, 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.
Artist Stacy Nixon works on her art practice in remote areas of California and New Mexico, so working in isolation is comfortable for her. As Nixon puts it: “Working in isolation is an introvert’s paradise.”
1) How has your work shifted during the pandemic? Has it been a change in the process of you creating art? The mediums you use? The themes or concepts you are thinking about?
I was fortunate enough to be wrapping up a residency program as things began to shut down in mid march. I feel like I’ve had a super extended 6 month residency, really. Pre-pandemic I was focused largely on textural detail in my work, knowing I wanted to incorporate figures but not clear on how they would come in or what their purpose was. During that residency I began to get a glimmer of what I would later develop at home during quarantine. Lots and lots of figures began showing up in the form of the animals that trot past my studio, people in interesting silhouettes against their surroundings and architectural bits and pieces. I feel like I began to unload some of the enormous swirling subconscious ideas we were all experiencing about our places in the world and in relation to each other. I also began working on large beautiful paper instead of boards as I had been. Being free to make LOTS of pieces during this time, without attachment, has been so freeing. I have nailed down a beautiful process that I am so happy with and a series I feel is truly cohesive because of the state of mind I was in when creating it.
2) What have you discovered about yourself as an artist during this pandemic?
This time has shown me how much I thrive on long periods of uninterrupted isolation. Different artists thrive on different ratios of solitude and stimulation- I think I have now figured out my ideal balance. I feel it is easier to hear what the work wants when its quiet for a long time. Also, knowing there is no hurry to complete anything or an expectation to get on with it is the best kind of freedom. It’s the introverts paradise.
3) What have been your biggest challenges working in isolation? Surprises?
For me the biggest challenge has been not being able to physically connect with people around making and showing art. Getting together with people who are making art themselves or are interested in what I have made adds such a special texture to life that just doesn’t translate to the virtual world. Talking about art while standing in front of it with someone is one of life’s great pleasures- it lets our humanity peek out. And just like everyone else having shows cancelled or go virtual, has been disappointing. The thing I found most surprising is being able to let go of my dislike for technology. It is usually pretty intense. But I decided it’s not all bad. I live out in the sticks in California and New Mexico, where attending a class on a whim or a guild meeting is a major undertaking- so zoom has been quite gratifying in that way. It’s almost like being a fly on the wall, also an introverts paradise.