Updated: May 11, 2020
Lost Trust and Broken Heart at the Altar of the White Wolf, 2010
By Yisrael K. Feldsott
Mixed media on board, 72” x 84”
The spring that wasn’t has the compass needle pointing to be the summer that wasn’t, and not to be a fatalist, but the cold hard reality is 2020 is going down in history as a wash. Let me rephrase that, what’s happening is historic and very much part of everyone’s reality, but socially it’s now in a state of indefinite suspended animation. Calendars that are normally blocked off for vacations, weddings, graduation parties, outdoor concerts, and of course, paint parties, are sadly being axed off our scheduled events. It’s now May, although it feels like early March, none the less, will eventually begin to get warmer with more sun and longer days. Hmm, longer days as if they’re not running on and long enough. After the initial gut punch of thinking this pandemic was going to impact us for several weeks or a month, we are all collectively coming to the realization this is going to be months (until a vaccine is developed). No amount of video chats or Zoom meetings is going to make this easier to swallow. I know we’re to remain positive, but truth be told, positivity makes me growl, perhaps that’s more of an indictment of me.
Lepanto Part III, 2001
By Cy Twombly
My wife and I half-jokingly talk about how this is a taste of what retirement will look like. Perhaps in a way, however, in my fantasy of retirement the gym and library are open so are bars and restaurants. Maybe the days are still freeform but the errands and obligations of everyday life tend to build infrastructure in my calendar. Even the steady planning of paint parties and building relationships with customers would help chain link the days together. Again, reality is a backhanded smack that reminds you that quarantine is not retirement. With a caveat that Shan’s vision of retirement is somewhat pandemic proof, driving across the country in a RV. A mobile sort of isolation, whereas all you need is state parks and some choice eateries to be open.
Another week down and I still struggle with trying to gain momentum. I paint some, (but not enough given the amount of time I have open), I do some stuff around the house, but generally fail gaining any traction for being productive. As I whine about it in blog posts, my wife has seemed to hit a stride. A stride that is beginning to hyperextend her. Working from home presents unique challenges, and obligations if nothing else. True, there’s no commuting but the office on your dining room table never closes, so she’s always roped into checking emails and policy correspondence, no matter what time it is. My sons have become feral. Sleeping days until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, then up all night raiding the fridge and thumping around our tiny house, making it difficult to sleep. They’re able to avoid their responsibilities of distance learning (another pandemic punchline), taking out the trash or doing some dishes. Funny, reading the last 2 previous paragraphs, you’d swear it’s a classic case of household depression. It doesn’t feel like depression, at least in the normal presentation. Yet the case builds. My youngest (Xavier) is visibly in the dumps. Being shortchanged of all the year-end senior activities that he’s waited for since he got to high school, shelved indefinitely (including Graduation Commencement) he’s left holding an emotional bag. A bag that’s empty instead of filling that bag with lasting memories. There’s only about half dozen mile post events in one’s life. Graduating high school is the first, and to have that stripped away is legitimately a bummer. My other son Emile is trying to finish transitioning from community college to a four-year college, and not doing a good job. As parents of two young men, we try to lean into them about this whole “distance learning” thing, but another cold hard truth is it's all bullshit. There’s no learning at all, just a steady stream of busywork. We know it, our sons know it, yet we play charades about its importance.
By Helen Frankenthaler
Acrylic on paper
The mental health undertow of this pandemic is real. I know my gripes pale in comparison to many others whom I’m sure have it much worse. So, then the real positivity comes from resolution, not video chats or “contactless” pizza delivery. Setting your mind to go for a walk and waving to a neighbor who’s stuck in the same predicament as you or doing just a couple of items off your checklist. Hell, just making a checklist would be nice. Call someone on your phone, you know that thing you shop and play games on? Reach out to a friend you haven’t talk to in a while. Then when you’re done reaching out, take time to reach inward to find your creative self.
By Robert Rauschenberg
I’ve preached all along about finding the time to express yourself creatively, its essential now more than ever. Honestly, no one needs to know. You don’t need to post your endeavors on social media, unless you feel so compelled. I imagine it's art therapy in its' truest form, just you and your creative process. Its just a tactic that breaks the cycle of negativity you might be feeling, like taking a nap to quell a migraine.
I now have a series of YouTube videos for paintings and projects, with more to follow. They’re about 1 hour each, a little longer format than usual online video consumption. It’s something I initially struggled with, but upon consideration its proper. Just like when I did events with you, I won’t rush you. I will show you how to complete a simple painting in about an hour, in real time. You can skip forward or back the video up as needed. The time lapse videos of murals or paintings that we digest online are entertaining but don’t teach you to paint. I know what arena I’ve entered, and as far as that goes Bob Ross doing OIL paintings in 30 minutes is a complete slight of hand. What he was able to accomplish with a paintbrush is nothing short of a miracle. Not the paintings themselves, they suck, but the meditative piece of mind he’s able put you in. Then to build a brand on that very principal. From paint supplies to plush toys and apparel. If you know me, I’ve said 1000 times, painting is a process not a product. The destination in your case isn’t as important as the journey. With artist, it’s the exact opposite. What Ross does is use the act of painting to lure you in and hypnotize you by blending, mixing and applying paint to canvas. It really is a meditation. So, to that end, I may not be as hypnotic but at the end of an hour you’ll have a little painting and the knowledge of how you did it.
Blue Orange Red, 1961
By Mark Rothko
Oil on canvas
Resolutions are often silly. They’re often unrealistic and are designed to fail. A strong mind that has the conviction to resolve a situation and make it better, is the same strong mind that can rationalize why that goal was not achieved and hope to try again some distant day. Some resolutions are attainable though, results may vary, so go easy. Me? I hope to workout (free-weights in the garage in lieu of the gym) 2-3 times a week. Its comparable to my pre-pandemic regimen. I hope to walk 3-5 time a week for 45 min. I plan to start wearing pants and normal clothes again by the end of May, instead of the pajamas and sweats. I hope to finish the half dozen paintings I started over the last two years. I hope to start a half dozen new paintings. I hope to get a better handle on the home and garden chores. I also hope to shift my kids back into sleeping nights so they can be active and willing participants in the household. Despite the current state of RPS, I hope to expand our catalog and bolster our social media presence, awaiting the day we can paint together again.
They say life is about small term goals, little bites at a time. No one knows how this chapter ends, and the next one is already undergoing an extensive rewrite. Perhaps that’s the very source of everyone’s anxiety. None of us have answers, within our households, families, local or federal leadership, we’re making it up as we go. Above the din of the unrelenting news cycle, listen to scientist not politicians. Take one day at a time, and make time for some creativity, if you can. You can seek resolution and if you’re successful you’ll find it. And if you’re not successful you may stumble across peace of mind, or at least a good laugh.