There is an old adage that art cannot be made in a vacuum; however, Lancaster’s art community has been proving that it can, in fact, be made in both quarantine and protest. In an era imprinted by both solitude and solidarity, many makers have been finding solace and connection through the work of creating.
It can be easy, at least for me, to become stoic and focused on pragmatism in times of stress or struggle. However, I also believe it’s important to keep connecting, creating and communicating through art, especially now.
Art should not be viewed as a frill but as a necessity for the human spirit, a part of life – whether in creating, viewership or patronage. Picking up a brush, pencil, camera, pen or sewing needle in times of struggle is both a time-honored artistic tradition as well as a newfound outlet for many folks.
Those who make a living through the creative arts have been especially challenged over the past five months. With classes, shows, festivals, exhibits and special events such as Spring Art Walk canceled, they have lost the personal connection and feedback that a live audience provides. They’ve also been deprived of that special Friday magic that exists in Lancaster, Lititz, Columbia, Elizabethtown and Mount Joy each month.
The pandemic will no doubt have a rippling effect throughout the coming months and years.
However, that’s not to say a void exists. In a show of resiliency, career artists, hobbyists and novices alike have come together digitally in this time of social dichotomies – distancing and camaraderie – to share their work with their communities. Thanks to their efforts, they are making the world look a bit brighter and keeping us connected through trying times.
“Nurture Your Mind” – PSA Temporary Mural for Lancaster Public Art
The purpose of public art is to express community values, enhance the environment, transform landscapes, heighten our awareness or question our assumptions. Placed in public sites, such art is made available to everyone and serves as a form of collective community expression. Public art is a reflection of how we see the world – the artist’s response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are. (Source: Association of Public Art).
The art we see around Lancaster City fits this criteria and exists because Lancaster saw fit to develop the Office of Public Art, which is headed by Joanna Davis and includes an advisory board of diverse talents who are passionate about art and culture.
When it became evident that Lancaster would be impacted by COVID-19, Lancaster Public Art, in partnership with Two Dudes Painting Company, formulated an ambitious project that would deliver health-related messages to neighborhoods across the city via art. Ten artists were chosen to create murals that would convey COVID-19 messages. From the initial planning stage to the installation of the murals, the challenge was to complete the project in a matter of 30 days.
Keisha Finnie was one of the artists selected for the project. Her mural, which addresses the mental health aspect of coping with the coronavirus, features the legend, “Nurture Your Mind.” It’s accompanied by the image of a Black woman whose head is encircled with a vivid display of flowers. The mural essentially captures Keisha’s interests and view of life. She says the inspiration for her art comes from “living life and being a woman of color.” It’s also borne out of “a love for nature, vibrant color, texture and the female form.”
Keisha is proud of the fact that her mural is displayed on fencing on the grounds of George Ross Elementary School on North Queen Street. The school is where her artistic talents took wing as a kindergarten student and progressed through art classes at J.P. McCaskey High School. Now, she experiments in all media, with henna being a newfound talent. Her bold art also decorates T-shirts and baseball caps.
She says the mural is her largest piece of art to date. In order to meet the tight timeline, she often painted through the night. To capture the vivid colors, she mixed her own paint. She views the mural as a “reminder to nurture your mind and take care of yourself during these times. With all of the things that are taking place, we can forget to relax and take a day to really ask ourselves how our hearts and minds are. Suffering from mental health myself, I wanted to remind others that they are not alone.”
“HOPE FOR TOMORROW”
Godzilla But with Wizard Powers
Note from the artist: This image is made through a series of targeted corruptions, within the confines of a Samsung smartphone. Photo captured and manipulated with a smartphone.
“When the Light Breaks” – Oil on panel
Note from the Artist: Sunflowers and trees are both signature styles for me, but especially meaningful during this pandemic – trees represent strength and being grounded/rooted in the face of whatever comes (one of the reasons I include the roots in my trees), and sunflowers … well, most people realize they always face the sun. What is less known is that on cloudy days, they turn to face one another! A reminder that we’re in this together!
Rod, who normally would be hard at work at The Ant Farm doing tattoos, has been spending his time since quarantine doing commissioned family and pet portraits. To see more of Rod’s work or book a commission, visit his Instagram or Facebook.
Brian, a member of Can’t Confine My Mind, says, “I guess I’m participating in the group to keep my mind active beyond helping the kids with their studies and keeping the household running. It gives me a creative outlet and some time to think something through the creation process, which is generally something I need on a daily basis.”
He also explains, “For photography, I get to focus on multiple aspects of a shot; the idea, the setup, the technical aspects of the photo, and the post processing. From lighting to Photoshop, there’s time to work on it now, so why not? I’m not sure what I do is art, but I do strongly believe in the importance of the role of the arts in our culture.”
Gerri McCritty, PAVAA Gallery
“The Day We Paused”
Cynthia L. Sperko
Note from the artist: This image is from a fun, in-home food photography self-assignment that I captured during the pandemic. My medium is digital SLR photography.
Thinking outside the box during this crisis had me coming up of different ways to continue to make a living as a pro photographer. Ordering a cupcake kit from Julia Nikolaus Cupcakery & Co. gave me a chance to hone into my past cake decorating skills from back in my college days. (I interviewed her recently for my Creative Heart Blog.)
I hope that you will enjoy viewing these images and that they will not make you raid the cookie jar.
“star dreams” – a mix of analog and digital collage
Note from the artist: Personally, the two edges of this COVID-shaped sword are that I have lost some opportunities I’ll never get back; however, due to being unemployed, I’ve gained the time and energy to create something new. My collage work is on Instagram as @mettle_fleche_ and I’m so excited to see where this creative outlet takes me.
Follow them on Instagram to see more of their work. High-quality prints are available for sale.
Note from the artist: This piece is 10×20 acrylic on canvas, titled “Wild Daisies of Inishbofin.” I spent two weeks in Ireland last summer, a lot of my current pieces are inspired from the trip. I also did two series on paper based on my interpretation of the stones that appear all along the shore of Inishbofin Island, Ireland. Those can be found on my Facebook and Instagram pages.
Note from the artist: This is one of my 3D modeling projects. I started a deep dive into 3D modeling at the start of the COVID-19 shutdown. My goal is to create my own cartoon/game/toy collection. Prior to the shutdown, I hadn’t had much extra time to learn this software, so progress was slow. Now that I’m getting the hang of it, I’m learning in leaps and bounds. I use a free software called BLENDER. It is a cutting-edge tool that is free and accessible to anyone with a computer. I’m having lots of fun and learning a lot and my goal is to submit some animated shorts to some film festivals this fall. I hope you enjoy.
Lourdes E. Torres-Shepard
“Great Expectations” – Mixed Media Collage
Note from the artist: During the pandemic I have been working from my home studio, a studio that also houses the space of the Ceramic Art and Culture Institute, a 501c3 which I founded. The hope of the Institute is that, once it is safe to have students back in session, we will be able to get high school students back on track with the in-class ceramic time they missed. Personally, I have been able to continue my art practice and have been busy creating new and exciting pieces. I recently opened an Etsy shop and am excited for the opportunity to share my work with the public.
Note from the artist: I’m really enjoying seeing work from artists who normally don’t have the time to create as often as they would like to.
Note from the artist: “Social Distancing Exclusions” is my latest colored pencil drawing, featuring my friends Jack and Buddy – who refuse to abide by the six-foot distancing guidelines.
In addition to Michelle’s creative photography, she has also been working on her online photojournalism gallery, which is an ongoing documentation of Lancaster during this time.
“Praying in a Graveyard” – Digital Photo
Note from the artist: My name is Megan Whitney and I teach 5th and 6th grade art. For the past several years I have spent most of my time guiding my students through the process of creating. When the pandemic hit, I was suddenly aware of how little time I had given myself to make anything on my own. Drawing and photography very quickly became a coping mechanism for me. I transferred all of my fear and anxiety into my pen, pencil and camera. Allowing my emotions to guide my creation process gave them a place to go instead of them staying cooped up in isolation with me. Looking at my work I know it reads as dark and hopeless but at this point in time, who isn’t?