Art in the Time of COVID-19
March 13, 2020, was drawing near and I was excited! Thirteen is my lucky number and I was psyched for a successful and well-attended opening reception of a solo exhibition at Origami Air Art Studio in Sarasota. I was working my butt off preparing for the event. Then, on March eleventh, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. I pictured the relatively small gallery space filled with guests eating, drinking and chatting as they viewed my art. Then I pictured our guests crowded together as I read my son’s poems. I imagined how remorseful I’d feel if anyone became ill and, with the support of Kuniko Yamamoto and her team, cancelled my artist’s reception. Instead, we held a reading of a selection of my son the late Jaro Majer’s poems before an audience of the Origami Air Art Studio team and the few people who hadn’t seen the cancellation notices. My friend and long time painting student Carol Komater recorded the event on video while her husband, Bruce Hewitt, accompanied me with sensitive acoustic guitar music and sound expert, Jim Sennott, helped with the recording.
The following are just two of the poems I read that evening with a backdrop of my mixed media painting, Free, Tumbling Like a Leaf in the Wind, from Life to Life.
Love — like spring blossoms, grows singing
like summer sun, illumines
like autumn trees, colors
like winter’s purity, pervades
like season’s turning, changes
Love —ever the altar to which I bow.
I learn forgiveness from the tree
that always bears fruit,
even for the kids who carve into its bark
and throw rocks at its apples.
I learn detachment from the sun
that turns seawater to clouds,
then rains the water down again
without staking claim.
I learn everything from the mirror
that, like God, reflects the world as its object
yet remains different
from the object it reflects.
The mind reflects the universe like a dirty mirror.
If tarnished, cleanse your mind—purify it,
keep it completely under your Self control.
Then your heart, which is God, will talk to you,
You, whose nature is knowledge and bliss.
After I had finished reading a selection of eight of the twenty-one poems in the book, a few of us enjoyed a delicious meal at a local restaurant. I haven’t eaten at a restaurant since!
The exhibition, Rose Marie Prins: From Bound Crosses to A Leaf in the Wind was scheduled to coincide with the publication of the hardcover version of our book (an edition of one). Entitled, A Leaf in the Wind, with my son’s poems, mostly written while he was living and working at an ashram in New York state, and my watercolor and Sumi ink images, the book had been a labor of love for over two years. Along with the rest of my art, it remained at Origami Air Art Studio with few people getting to see it.
My exhibition statement is as follows:
I have selected works from three series for this exhibition. The one series, Bound Crosses and Boundary Crossings, has been exhibited in cities in the Southern states from Richmond to Atlanta to Jacksonville and Tampa. This, however, is the first time these works are on view in Sarasota. Made in response to my experience growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, these works express my reaction to the injustices of apartheid. As a white female I was not an obvious victim of apartheid; however, in the master/slave dialectic there are no masters. Systematic oppression impacted almost every aspect of life in the devoutly “Christian” country that was the South Africa that I grew up in. Of Bound Crosses and Boundary Crossings one reviewer wrote: “Prins’ mixed media works probe the notion of trauma and healing, destruction and rebirth. She slashes or burns her canvases, then repairs the wounds with wire stitches that branch off like waterways or coalesce surprisingly into crosses. She colors the canvases beneath the suture-like stitches with the bruised tinges of healing flesh, the blackened effect of a burn, the signals of pain that precede recovery, metaphors she naturally associates with life. Prins’ work voicelessly discloses a self portrait.”
Included in this exhibition are two large works from the series Sanctuary in which I address the global crisis of pollution. Florida’s springs, becoming increasingly polluted and depleted, are a microcosm of that world-wide phenomenon. Ultimately we all seek, each in her or his own way, a sanctuary free of pollution, whether that pollution be literal of figurative.
Until schizophrenia disturbed and, in some ways, polluted and depleted his brilliant mind, my son Jaro Majer sought and found sanctuary through writing poetry. My most recent series of paintings and prints, A Leaf in the Wind, is a memorial to Jaro. I started work on it during a residency in India in the winter of ’16/‘17 shortly after he passed away. At the Sanskriti Kendra, an artists’ retreat in New Delhi, the trees spoke to me of fortitude and resilience—in spite of the drought and suffocating pollution, they survived and thrived. In A Leaf in the Wind I pour my pain and grief into countless images of Indian leaves. In an attempt to assuage my pain I trace the leaves repeatedly: they become a metaphor for my son’s body. As if to dispel my sadness, many of these works are filled with color. Together with a selection of my son Jaro Majer’s poems, several are included in the book A Leaf in the Wind.
In all three series I address the pain and loss that is part of the human condition, as well as the means to ameliorate that pain and loss. A Leaf in the Wind focuses on a specific loss—that of my only child. Through the long, slow process of making these pieces, as well as working on the book, I have come to a place of acceptance.
Now, four months after the pandemic was declared, I have reclaimed the book but the exhibition is still up, unseen, at Origami Air Art Studio. However, the good news is that a paperback version of our book, A Leaf in the Wind, is now available. It can be purchased from me directly—for information contact me through the CONTACT form.
One of the more recent works in the exhibition that I am pleased with is another book, a one-of-a-kind artist’s book with a long poem that Jaro wrote in celebration of a friend at the ashram’s birthday. Entitled “As Each Moon Passes,” it’s a large book on Mulberry paper with piano-hinge style binding made from bamboo. During 2019 I studied collagraph printing at the Morean Arts Center with Barry Goodman. The images that I used were two of the eco-prints I’d made in Barry’s class using leaves I’d picked during a 2016/17 residency in India mentioned above. I added gold foil moons for “As Each Moon Passes.” I worked on prototypes of the book during a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts as well as one in Central Mexico. The latter turned out to be practice for my current COVID-19 imposed isolation! For a month I lived alone in a remote part of Central Mexico in a cottage with a small studio attached.
I had done collagraphs before I took Barry’s course: years ago, I worked with hundreds of middle school students making collagraphed self-portraits for a project, Speak Out Speak Now! organized by the Florida Holocaust Museum. However, in Barry’s class I learned the finer details of collagraph printing and a number of the prints I made during his course at the Morean are in the exhibition at Origami Air Art Studio.
Toward the end of last year I received a grant from Creative Pinellas* to mentor an Emerging Artist grantee, Angela Warren. Because of the pandemic, after our first few meetings early in the year, all mentoring took place on Zoom or FaceTime. We adapted, and I think we managed to overcome the hurdles of me not being able to critique her work, which is quite lovely, “in the flesh.” I attended the online panel discussion with the emerging artists and got to see some of their work, but their final exhibition at The Gallery at Creative Pinellas had to be postponed. Disappointing! In mid-May an appropriately masked Angela arrived at my home to deliver a gift and a beautiful hand-painted card on which she wrote, “Thank you for being my mentor! I’ve so enjoyed working with you and appreciated all your feedback. Looking forward to what the art future holds for us both.” Working with the talented, upbeat and hardworking Angela Warren was a real pleasure. Her card remains on display in my office.
Meanwhile, I bet there’s hardly a teacher out there who hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. I had planned, as I do most years, to teach a Spring Day Long Mixed Media Workshop out of my St. Petersburg studio. But as the date for the workshop, April 25, drew near, I realized that I had no choice but to reschedule the workshop for the fall. Now, with COVID-19 cases increasing daily in our area, I’m wondering if even that’s a possibility. Here’s a link to my last fall workshop.
I taught my last Beginning/Intermediate Painting class in early March. Then the Morean Arts Center had to close its doors. At the time I don’t think any of us realized that it wouldn’t be before June that they would be able to reopen, and then in a very limited way. I’m happy to report that classes will resume the week of July 20. Face coverings and social distancing will be required. My classes will once again be on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Register for either six weeks or three weeks.
Also at the Morean Arts Center are two upcoming exhibitions. The first is 20 x 20, a members’ show of works limited to twenty inches square. The image below is of my mixed media contribution to the exhibition.
Scroll down for information on the second of the two exhibitions.
I’ve yet to learn when I’ll be called back to St Anthony’s Hospital to make art with the patients. I miss my Mondays with patients in Infusion, the Emergency Center, in Oncology and on the 5th floor but I’m not eager to return until it’s safe to do so.
Recently, I’ve been teaching a weekly course, Virtual Still Life Drawing, on Zoom through teachbeach.com. But, although I’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning to teach on Zoom, once I return to the Morean I will, for the time being, give that up.
My first Zoom teaching experience was early in the pandemic when I volunteered to teach a simplified version of an artist’s book to twenty-five 4th graders at Shorecrest Elementary School as part of their annual Celebrate the Arts event. I learned then how important it is (and challenging!), when teaching remotely, to articulate your instructions very clearly.
As a member of the Women’s Caucus for Art, Florida, Steering Committee (we now meet on Zoom), I am one of the organizers of the second exhibition to take place at the Morean Arts Center this summer. This is Women Who Work: A Portrait Project Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. Members of the WCA Florida have created portraits of local women who work. Since early 2020 our members have been painting, drawing and photographing thirty-six subjects. Our portraits will hang together, initially at the Morean Arts Center, from August 8 to September 26, 2020. The ultimate goal is for the portraits to be permanently displayed in a prominent location, destined to be a legacy project.
Women Who Work brings past to present. Prior to the 19th Amendment, women could neither vote nor hold most jobs. Gaining the vote has improved the lot of the majority of American women over the past century, yet we know that progress is still wanting. In the city of Saint Petersburg, women artists honor the diversity and achievements of our city’s women. A poster with the 36 portraits will be made available for sale.
In conjunction with Women Who Work, we are holding a raffle. The prize is a handmade, bound book of miniature art originals created by our membership. My mixed media piece is included. This collaborative artists’ book is a unique offering of original art representing a snapshot of the work of our member artists. The raffle tickets are $10 each and are for sale until August 18, the day of the drawing, when the winner will be announced. August 18 is a landmark day in that it is the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
Help support women and the St Petersburg chapter by purchasing a ticket!
Either Venmo the WCA-FL Treasurer $10 @Jayde-Zimmerman
Or mail your checks for $10, made out to WCA-Central FL to:
2915 W Estrella Street, Apt #3
Tampa FL 33629
For more information email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org