On March 13th when “they” started shutting things down, I wasn’t feeling too affected as my life as an artist is very similar to self-quarantine and isolation. My first two paintings were of cherry trees blossoming. Being in the DC area, cherry blossom time is a big deal. Since “they” blocked off road access to the park where the majority of cherry trees are, I painted ‘Cherry Trees Blossoming Unseen’.

Cherry Trees Blossoming Unseen
Power of Spring

I was disappointed that I couldn’t see the beautiful cherry trees at my son’s home. He sent me photos and I painted ‘The Power of Spring’. (You can view either of these paintings on my website http://overlandartist.com.)

It seemed like everything in my world had been cancelled: My 50th high-school reunion in Fargo, a weekend plein workshop at Great Falls with Bethanne Cople, my family reunion, our household move to Colorado – all cancelled. Then came all the other inconveniences: wearing a mask, deliveries delayed or lost, and the frustration of not knowing when we’ll move but having to pack anyway.

Hanging By Clothespins – cropped

The thing an artist does to combat stress is to make art. I started doodling in my sketchbooks, but the paper was too thin, too small and unfulfilling. While sorting through materials and stuff in my studio I came across some weird canvas that I never used because it seemed too much like paper. I cut it into thirds, each roughly measuring 36” x 30”. I also had a bag of unopened printer ink cartridges that I needed to dispose of. I wondered if it would work to break into the cartridge and get the ink out. Straight from the cartridge I was able to make satisfying marks and splotches.

 It also helped to release some of the physical angst from not exercising. Next day I decided to keep experimenting with materials I never use, including powdered titanium oxide and bronze powdered pigments mixed with Gamblin Galkyd and walnut oil. What the heck I had my n95 mask close at hand to avoid inhalation of the toxic powders.

‘Hanging By Clothespins’ was the first of three abstracts.

As I doodled and worked into it, I felt like I was making hieroglyphics that might be found someday after the coronavirus had its way with us. I titled it ‘Hanging By Clothespins’ because for one, that’s how I worked on it, a piece of unstretched canvas clothes-pinned to a u-haul box. Second the title seems to personify my state of affairs.

‘Hanging By Clothespins’ during painting

‘Broken Barriers’ was the second of three abstracts and created in response to the walks I have to take with the dog. Living in an apartment complex with a couple hundred strangers, while myself and my husband are in the category of “at risk”, can be daunting, stressful and paranoid, but the dog (my beautiful Katja) has to and insists on (even though she has potty papers) going out for long walks. I don’t understand why so many people here reject wearing masks and social distancing. This painting exemplifies our walks while dodging and trying to avoid people, whether contaminated or not by an unseen viruses. Leaning towards “germaphobe”, all my barriers, my mask and my personal space are broken on these walks. It’s a strange violation of personal space, like stop sharing my air. Certainly an unhealthy feeling that adds to the sense of separation from others and one’s environment.

Broken Barriers cropped

‘Internal Quarantine’ the third abstract in this pandemic exploration is just what it appears to be – raw emotion. I’m a bit doom-and-gloomy with a side of anger. I’m concerned with our rights and liberties being curtailed. This pandemic with the death tolls, politics, global unrest and internal battles is an opportunity for everyone to self examine and make new choices for the future that may unite us and heal us instead of divide.

Internal Quarantine cropped

I think the purpose of doodling is to get the unconscious stuff out and make new room.

Susan Krieg