I do not know what I would have done without my studio practice during the stay-at-home order. Immersing myself in my art helped me cope with the sadness and scariness of so many people dying alone. I remember one difficult day in particular when I sat at my easel and painted with tears streaming down my face. I just kept painting and after a while, the act of painting calmed me. My art practice grounded me and gave me a sense of purpose.
Pre-COVID-19, I had an idea for a painting of Rocky Mountain National Park as seen through the gift shop window of the Alpine Visitor Center. On March 24, 2020, the day before the stay-at-home order went into effect, I set up a makeshift studio in the dining room of my one-bedroom apartment and started painting. Freed from a 45-minute commute and all social commitments, I found myself with free time to focus on my artmaking. I spent five weeks as an artist-in-residence painting within the comfort of my own home. Besides teaching obligations, the only responsibility I had was to make art! Any energy not spent teaching was dedicated to my artwork. The combination of twenty-four-hour access and flexible workspace allowed me to be much more ambitious and complete the most elaborately detailed piece I have ever made. On April 26, 2020, the last day of the stay-at-home order, I finished my painting and titled it The Altar.
The Altar is part of my current exploration of the relationship between humans and nature. I investigate how contemporary recreation involves devices, screens, and windows that prevent an authentic experience of nature and narrows one’s view. In The Altar, a wide assortment of souvenirs obscures a view of Rocky Mountain National Park and reveals that consumerism of nature has become the focus instead of reverence. When creating my work, I reflected on how national parks face many threats, of which humankind is most imminent. Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most visited national park with a record 4.67 million visits in 2019 [i]. Overcrowding of natural areas is a problem of increasing importance in today’s world. We depend on open spaces to provide a safe place where people can exercise, connect with nature and enjoy a peaceful respite from our ever-changing and often stressful lives. The Altar invites viewers to analyze their own relationships with nature and examine the dichotomies between the human desire to preserve the wilderness and to enjoy it. I am so thankful the stay-at-home order gifted me the time required to make this large-scale painting and start a discussion on how humanity might find a balance between recreation and stewardship of our sacred spaces.
The Altar will be on view in Paradise Lost, my solo show opening Wednesday, July 14 at Art Lab Fort Collins!
Exhibition dates - July 14-August 1, 2021
Hours - 1-5pm, Wednesdays – Sundays
Artist reception - Friday, July 16 6-8pm
Location - Art Lab Fort Collins, 239 Linden St., Fort Collins, CO 80524
Image credit: The Altar, 2020 | Acrylic on canvas | 36x48 inches
[i] National Park Service, (2020, February 27). National Park Visitation Tops 327 Million in 2019. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/2019-visitation-numbers.htm
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