Walter Robinson, Souvenir, 1996, polychromed wood, 68 x 18 x 4″
Although isolation is the right response in our current environment, social distancing can have an effect on our mental health. We are wired for human connection, which raises some questions: What can people do to minimize the risk of being lonely when cut off from direct human contact? How can we not only survive, but thrive during a period of social isolation?
Many artists have been known to enjoy solitude, so we asked some Turner Carroll artists for their perspective, and did some research and introspection ourselves. In fact, according to a global study on the value of creativity conducted by the creative software giant Adobe, seven in 10 people report that they prefer to work by themselves when being creative. Isolation from the noise of our previous daily routines can offer the time, quiet, and space for our inner creative voice to emerge. It also takes getting out of your comfort zone. Look out the window and pay attention. Observe. Look at life through a different lens. Try something new, and don’t expect yourself to be good at it. As an art gallery, of course we’d like to invite you to try making some art. Whether you’re doodling from your own mind or trying to copy a famous landmark or painting, making art connects your mind to your hands, which gets that creative brain going, and has been proven to have positive effects on your overall mental well-being.
Below are some of the insights and nuggets of wisdom we have collected over the past week. Enjoy!
-Shastyn Blomquist, Director, Turner Carroll Gallery
Solitary time in the studio is golden. It is the only time in which I can be left alone with my thoughts–uninterrupted—to explore creative curiosities. Only in solitude can I experiment freely, without prying eyes or commentary, thus allowing me to dig deeper within myself, which ultimately leads to creating more meaningful artwork.
Expansive, uninterrupted solitary time is often fertile, and can be used to sow seeds of new possibilities for the future. With more time for introspection, in-depth research and learning, we can reflect on how to go forward in life (and work) in a more dynamic and fulfilling way.
For me, time in solitude is for self-reflection and for nurturing self-love. A few days ago, my mind-set was completely shifted from inhibited to calm then to spontaneous. I have a feeling that this is happening collectively.
Comfort in solitude is something you cultivate. Art is time-based, and you need that isolation to get the work done. You also have to have something really great to listen to in your audio field: books, radio, podcasts, so you feel connected to the world.
While very difficult in some respects, this unprecedented time has eliminated so many of the activities that filled my days before. I feel myself more able to focus on simple routines and pleasures, and I cope by making sure I build those into every day. Planning meals, taking walks, roaming my home and garden with my camera. I don’t know what will emerge from my creative practice; however I believe the impact is profound and will inform everything I make – sometimes in an obvious way and sometimes more subtly.
An essential part of my work over the years has been a direct result of the solitary pursuit in the sanctity of the studio.
I was just thinking about a personality type that has or doesn’t have a passion. Isolation is part of internal problem-solving. If they don’t have an idea about what to do when they’re alone, maybe now they can take the time alone to figure out what they’re really passionate about and embrace it. Every night, I go to sleep thinking about all the things I’d like to have time to do by myself the next day, and I take comfort in that I get to see where that will lead.
People are saying right now is like the Apocalypse, but it might actually be a rebirth, like the Renaissance was after the darkness of the Middle Ages.
I don’t really look at my sequestered hours painting as “isolation” in the way we’re experiencing now during this age of pandemic. I go to the studio, a space that’s grown around my life and practice wherever I’ve lived. It makes what I do possible, so it’s a point of destination. What seems to pass for isolation is the focus required. You have to shut out all of the voices and doubts in order to concentrate, to lose yourself in the process, and that’s mostly a lone effort. I’m paraphrasing, but like Philip Guston said, “gradually as I work everyone leaves the room until it’s just me, and then if I’m lucky, I leave, too.” When and if you’re able, a different sort of dialogue transpires while working, and this conversation takes on its own reality. So, it never really feels like isolation unless you give into being self-conscious, and then you’re all too aware of yourself and what you’re doing to produce something of consequence.
When I was five years old, I remember standing by myself for too long, too close, to a large painting at the National Gallery in DC. The gallery guard came over to me and told me I needed to move back. I was so lost in the world of the painting, that extended above and beyond my reach, that I was completely startled. Years later, I took my own daughter to the Uffizi in Florence when she was 5. There, she stood in front of Botticelli’s Primavera for what seemed like an eternity for a young child. When we walked away, I asked her what she liked most about the painting, thinking I knew everything about it, since it’s a landmark of art history. But her response blew me away. She said it was incredible how many different types of flowers he put in the painting. Every art history book includes reverence and awe for Botticelli’s ability to paint the diaphanous gowns on the three graces, translucent veils on the magical figures in the painting, as well as the exquisite handling of tempera paint. I had never even considered that all the flowers in the lower portion of the painting were remarkable in their difference. I researched and discovered that Botticelli had, in fact, included approximately 500 different species of plants found in Italy, with 190 of them being different types of flowers. Had I not heard my daughter’s view from three feet tall, I may have never appreciated this extraordinary part of the painting. Taking the time/having the luxury of being given the time to realize what you think about art and to ask others what they see through their own lens, is an enlightening gift.
-Tonya Turner Carroll
With this unprecedented and prolonged period of isolation we are universally experiencing, I’ve taken this time adapt and to settle into a different pace — one with fewer distractions, a different way of being and doing, a time to simplify down to the core essentials, a focused moment to take stock and connect with my soul and the souls of others. I’m actively taking this opportunity to be more present, to reaffirm what is truly important in this life, to listen to the birds and appreciate the purer air, to be at ease with and truly absorb the quiet, to spend meaningful time connecting with friends and just listening, to identify the silver linings in the darkest of clouds, to be mindful of the tiny glimmers of hope as this global pandemic reinforces our unavoidable, profoundly impactful, and too often forgotten oneness, and to be grateful for the beautiful gifts of love, kindness, and compassion that we have the power to spread, right now, in this very moment.
-Jeffery Kuiper, Director, Turner Carroll Gallery
Twenty years ago I spent one of the most memorable days of my life in the company of John Berger. On a trip to visit my dear friend in Paris, filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman, we decided to meet Mr. Berger, and tramped off to find him. Some hours later we were warmly ushered in to his cozy house in the Paris suburbs. As a university student we read and studied his seminal work, Ways of Seeing. As a relatively newly-minted art dealer, to meet the author sent me over the moon. We did not talk about art history for long, however. The extraordinarily kind John Berger wanted to know all about my friend and me, and after some number of bottles of wine I opened up with a torrent of tears about the death of my mother. Hours later Rodrigo and I poured ourselves onto the street wide-eyed and ready to devour the world. For me as a young man at the beginning of his life’s work, to meet Mr. Berger, the man, sent me to the stars.
CURRENT EXHIBITION AND NEWS
BURNED: WOMEN AND FIRE
On View Through April 4, 2020
Burned: Women and Fire features artists who—like the alchemical Phoenix who burns and rises from the ashes anew—integrate their collective experience with fire and burning to create their art. [read on here]
Make your travel plans to join us!
February 28 | Burned: Women and Fire featuring Judy Chicago, Lien Truong, Monica Lundy, Etsuko Ichikawa, Hung Liu, and more
May 15 | Hunt Slonem
June 19 | Drew Tal
July 17 | Raphaelle Goethals
August 14 | Hung Liu Retrospective Works
September 11 | Scott Greene + Walter Robinson
October 1-4 | Dallas Art Fair
October 16 | Igor Melnikov + Georges Mazilu
November 20 | Rusty Scruby
TURNER CARROLL ARTISTS IN MUSEUMS
JUDY CHICAGO Judy Chicago BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead, UK On View Through April 19, 2020 On Fire: Judy Chicago Fireworks with Photographs by Donald Woodman Through the Flower Artspace Belen, NM Ticketed Opening July 26, 2020 Judy Chicago: A Retrospective de Young Museum San Francisco, CA Opening summer 2020 The Dinner Party Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn, New York Permanent Installation
JIM DINE Enigma Pinocchio Villa Bardini at Leonardo da Vinci Art School Firenze, Italy On View Through March 22, 2020
HUNG LIU Woman-Made: From the Collection Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art Tarpon Springs, FL On View Throught April 19, 2020 Myriad Treasures: Celebrating the Reinstallation of the Soreng Gallery of Chinese Art Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art Eugene, OR On View Through February 14, 2021 Hung Liu Retrospective Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Washington, D.C. Opens May 2021