What happened to Art in 2020?

These are stories of artists who primarily work in the figurative arts….

Many artists mostly work from home so the lockdown did not affect them the same as other professions although they had to adapt quickly to Zoom meetings to be able to connect with their galleries, communities, and to conduct workshops for their students.

Besides COVID-19 many other disasters happened in 2020 including fires in California and Australia, civil unrest, and the outcome of the election kept us waiting with baited breath for the results not only in the USA but in other countries as well.

Doug Webb | Under The Influence, 2020 | acrylic on linen | 30 x 24 inches

Doug Webb, his wife, and pets had to evacuate at least once in 2020 filling their car with what belongings they could and hoped to return to their home safe and sound. Luckily for them their house was saved but others were not so lucky.

Sarupa Sidaarth | Ksura-dhar, 2020 | oil on linen | 24 x 20 inches — Lost in the fires of 2020.

Sarupa Sidaarth lost five paintings from the fires in California. She gave them each a proper eulogy on Instagram. Ironically Sarupa’s paintings are about the destruction of the environment.

Acting as a liaison between nature and technology, humanity inevitably finds itself faced with a contemporary dilemma. Technological advancement is directly proportional to the destruction of the environment. It has made our relationship with the latter fragile and existence itself increasingly complex. An authentic and meaningful life is only possible with mindful action or karma in the world. Ksura-dhar or razor’s edge explores that delicate balance which enhances and distorts the image simultaneously. As the self becomes the other and vice versa, it is realized within, without and everywhere.

— Sarupa Sidaarth

Frank Oriti is known for his paintings of fellow Ohioans. His renderings are contemporary portraits of his friends who are mostly endowed with tattoos. During Covid-19 he lost the ability to connect with some of his models.

The Last Shot, 2020 | oil on canvas | 48 x 48 inches | Image courtesy of the artist.

Frank Oriti says that during the quarantine spending so much time indoors made him reflect upon his childhood and playing outside with his friends in suburbs of Cleveland. From their backyards they’d shoot baskets through low-hanging branches and telephone wires. When it started to get dark and the street lights started to flicker, it meant it was time to go home.

The painting of a basketball hoop is the last painting he finished in 2020. The hoop was one in his neighborhood he had driven past for years. He finally pulled over to take some photos of it — to use as reference to paint from. When he was two months into the painting he drove by one morning and realized that the hoop had been taken down and replaced indicating to him that children were playing outside again.

John Hyland | Quando Cade la Cenere (When Ashes Fall), 2020 | oil on canvas | 18 x 18

John Hyland lives in a highrise in Manhattan. His painting Quando Cade La Cenere is an unfortunate metaphor for our times. It was an unexpectedly difficult piece for him to finish after hearing the heartbreaking news that several of his friends lives were forever altered by the coronavirus.

He started the painting in early March, when the Covid-19 crisis still felt remote in New York. By the time the painting was finished later that month, everything had changed. As he was putting the final touches he received word that many of his friends had tested positive ultimately leading to the death of close acquaintances and their family members.

Daire Lynch | Erupting light | Oil on panel | 6 x 9 inches

Daire Lynch says his work was hit hard and considered why bother pushing paint around on a canvas. It all seemed meaningless and it stifled his creative process for months until he finally started working on the small piece above for the Abend Miniature Holiday show. The new pieces are a breakthrough reflecting the questioning of his art.

Victoria Von Kap-Herr | The Peak, 2020 | oil on linen | 5 x 7 inches | Part of a series of five paintings.

Many artist lost additional sources of income. Victoria Von Kap-Herr says that her yearly commissions have thinned out. She was forced to find a positive side and reminds herself that action has a reaction and it has given her the time to use all of her resources she has built in her career to get through the year.

Steven DaLuz | Chariot, 2020 | oil, metal leaf on panel | Image courtesy of the artist.

Steven DaLuz says that the events of 2020 disrupted his focus. He found himself in a creative block to such a degree that his solo show had to be moved from December to May of 2021. He has since slowed down and become more deliberative with each piece.

Amanda Greive | Penumbra, 2020 | oil on wood panel | 36 x 16 inches

Amanda Greive continued to work in her series of incorporating nature into her figures but in 2020, the domesticated house plant made its way into her work. She says that the female subject while staring defiantly at the viewer is nonetheless being usurped by the background. At the same time the houseplant slowly winds its way around her entire body. The subject continues to fight for herself. The goldfinch present at the bottom of the painting is a reminder of endurance and our own strength to circumvent any forces which come our way including snakes such as Covid-19.

Lali Garcia Almeyda | Girl, 2020 | oil on canvas | 20 x 24 inches

For lack of models, many artists started reflecting upon themselves and several self portraits prevailed such as with Lali Garcia Almeyda who was constantly struggling with the anxiety of expectation in her work. She put aside her ego and started to reflect upon her own appearance and edging towards new discoveries.

Arina Gordienko standing next to the last painting she finished in 2020.

On the opposite spectrum Arina Gordienko who is known for her self portraits resorted to tackling new subjects in her work. The lockdown forced her to spend longer working hours in her studio and finishing larger scale paintings.

Repost from @eugenvarzic
Saturday in the Office

Many gallery and museum shows which were scheduled for 2020 had to be cancelled. Such was the case with Eugen Varzić who was working towards a a solo show. He in turn cancelled all his group participations and projects. He switched his focus to take time to paint and experiment with new concepts.

Scott Brooks posted from Instagram: “Nuestra Señora de la Bodega” (Our Lady of the Convenience Store) — We could use a bit of divine intervention right about now…

On a positive note, Scott Brooks says that almost all his social events, obligation, and distractions disappeared which made it much easier to spend days and days in the studio.

Claudia Kaak | To be or not to be, 2020 | Oil on canvas | 20 x 20 cm | Image courtesy of the artist

While some artists cherished this time to spend longer hours in their beloved studios, others were forced to stay in familiar surroundings they had plans to walk away from such as what happened to Claudia Kaak. She had separated from her husband at the start of the pandemic and had to continue living with him for a few months until the lockdown gave way for him to find an apartment. As a single parent she wasn’t able to find a job and couldn’t teach anymore which lead to a breakdown. Some of her shows were canceled and some days she could barely find her way to the easel.

Waiting, 2020 | Gouache on canvas panel | 7 x 9 inches

Besides natural disasters, the pandemic, and the election in the USA causing halt to the creative process, political unrest in other countries has caused concerns with artist’s safety. Such is the case with Viktoria Savenkova who submitted the small artwork above to our miniature holiday show which is not a usual subject for her to paint because she is unable to show any of her larger scale works to anyone. She is not even able to show them on social media which is supposed to be one of the safe resources artists use to get their work seen.

To continue reading stories about the artists in our community, stop by this post on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. Search for @didimenendez. The best way to support artists is by buying their art. If you are unable to buy their art, follow them on social media and support their posts by commenting and sharing.

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