By Cathy Breslaw
September 1, 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 Susan Osborn has changed mediums from assemblage to painting and collage and is loving this new journey of experimentation during COVID.
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 have always used collage and mixed materials in my work. From 2007 until 2020, I was occasionally doing mixed-media collage painting but I was mostly creating assemblages. Yet more and more, I was feeling an urge to paint but needed to know more about the new painting materials before I could start. When thrift stores went on lock down and estate sales ended, I had no place to search for assemblage objects I needed. It was a perfect excuse to learn about the new acrylic paints and techniques from Golden Paint demonstrations.
I began experimenting on small panels and would enlarge the size a bit more with each new work. Then in late February I read about an artist using fabric in her paintings with an emphasis on pattern. I realized that the patterns in fabric could dictate the theme of my work. I began to collage fabric pieces onto wood or canvas.
2. What have you discovered about yourself as an artist during this pandemic?
As I painted more and more I realized how sensuous the materials are. Seeing colors mix and the smoothness of pushing a loaded paintbrush over a surface brings joy, surprise and excitement. My training is as a painter. I didn’t realize how much I have missed it and how much it is a part of me.
Lately, while I am creating, I am no longer concerned about what others see in my work. I am focused on creating while I see and work with wild abandon. This could be because I have no venue for exhibition for my work now that galleries, libraries and colleges are closed.
3. What have been your biggest challenges working in isolation? Surprises?
It is difficult because I lack inspiration from seeing art in galleries and museums. Seeing art in person gives me so many new ideas. I have turned now to my books and virtual exhibits which aren’t the same because they lack the color and space.
I get saddened when other artists say they can’t work.
I miss the critique from other artists and studio visits that give me feedback on my work.
I miss not being able to get my work out where it can be seen. I am at high risk due to my asthma and feel threatened even going into a gallery with a mask.
I miss not being able to pick up work that was in three exhibits at libraries and a college because of the lockdown.
As things open up again, gradually, I wonder if my attitudes will change. Will I be enthused about promoting my artwork? Will I be happy because my artists friends begin working again and meeting me in my studio (or I in theirs) with great art critiques and ideas? Will I be inspired by seeing all the new work in galleries? Time will tell.