Snowmass art show focuses on quarantine, isolation experiences
Over the past five months, a lot has and hasn’t happened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Events and gatherings have been canceled, many people have spent more time at home and on screens, social justice issues have been brought to the national stage and everyone has been impacted in their own way amid the global crisis.
But what do all of these things and not-things, emotions and experiences look like? On Sunday, roughly 40 artists tried to show Snowmass residents exactly that at the “What’s in Your Queue?” art show in Base Village.
The show, curated and organized by Teal Wilson of Straight Line Studio, aimed to portray the new habits and self-reflection artists in Aspen and across the country have experienced during quarantine, featuring a variety of pieces with written descriptions explaining what inspired each work.
“For me, it sucked to wake up everyday and see the same kitchen, the same food, the same routine,” said Wilson, Snowmass local and gallery manager for Straight Line Studio. “I really wanted to see what (quarantine/isolation) looked like for other people, what they were seeing when they looked out their window.”
From Aspen and Carbondale to Kansas City and Albuquerque, Wilson said she reached out to artists she’s worked with and for over the years in late May to see if they’d be up for creating quarantine-inspired art for a Snowmass exhibition.
She said the response she received was overwhelmingly positive, with most of the artists agreeing to participate in the larger, collective project.
“So many artists I reached out to were really excited to be a part of this bigger thing, which meant so much to me. I think we all needed this,” Wilson said.
“We are all social beings and need that sort of call and response. … I think seeing these pieces on display brings a sort of brightness and light and is a reminder that we’re not alone.”
At the part-indoor, part-outdoor show Sunday afternoon, attendees were able to see artist reflections of domesticity and looking more inward for inspiration; depictions and symbols of anxiety and depression, growth and change; and a large, black-and-white “billboard of emotions and observations” felt during the pandemic by Taylor West of New York City.
West, who was a few years behind Wilson at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, said she’s been a “fan girl” of Wilson and her work for a while. So when Wilson reached out to ask if she’d be up for being part of the Snowmass art show, West said she was extremely excited and is proud of the piece she created for it.
“This piece really allowed me to slow down, express things I haven’t been able to express because I haven’t spent this much time alone,” West said. “This piece really means a lot to me, more than they have in the past because I just feel more like myself.”
West said at first she felt weird about creating such a personal piece — a collage of sketches and paintings and meaningful words — during a time so focused on broader societal issues like the public health crisis and re-energized Black Lives Matter movement.
However, West said she’s experienced a lot of change in herself since the quarantine began — she’s been sober for more than six months after struggling with alcoholism for more than six years, has learned to be comfortable with herself alone and is creating more of her own art —and she felt to not create a piece that reflects these changes wouldn’t be genuine.
As things start to move into the “new normal,” West said she’s determined to stay sober while still socializing and supporting her friends. She also plans to open up an artistic space in New York City that integrates social justice and art, as well as gives more artists a voice.
“I want to take all of the things I’ve learned and make something myself,” West said of her experience working for various artists and galleries in New York. “Making this work during quarantine has made me know that I have to keep making my own work, making something bigger than these companies that I’m working for. … I really want to make something from the ground up.”
Similar to West, Clarity Fornell, an Aspen native and weaver for Aspen Hatter, said she’s also realized the importance of self-reflection and creating artistic pieces beyond those for work during this more isolated era.
Fornell, who attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and has worked with fiber arts for 15 years, said that weaving repetitively has always been both relaxing and a good way for her to listen and absorb information.
During the local stay-at-home period, Fornell said spending time weaving and crocheting helped her through and solidified the importance of taking the time to create.
“I’ve taken an 100 percent dive into art for a while, but I’ve realized that I need to make time for creating more fine art in my life, to give space for that experience and learning,” Fornell said. “Even if I don’t show each piece, the act of making them is so important for me.”
Fornell said for “What’s In Your Queue?” she created an “infinity box” of woven flowers, symbolizing growth and change. In the artist card accompanying her piece, she likened the care plants and flowers need to grow and succeed to the efforts needed to make change in America, urging readers to not give up on promoting and creating their own positive impact and change.
Walking through the show Sunday, Fornell said she was blown away by the variety of artwork and how bold each piece was, grateful to be experiencing them in person.
“This is one of the first shows there’s been in months, and in Aspen people want to see feelings and experiences, they really want that,” Fornell said. “I feel like this show was done in such a nice, safe way and really highlights a lot of great work from artists that aren’t just local.”
For Wilson and Kelly Peters, owner of Straight Line Studio, Sunday’s show aimed to bring people together in a safe way and to help attendees find connection with local and national artists who may be experiencing some of the same things they are.
The Snowmass-based artists contributed work to the show as well and said that while “What’s In Your Queue?” was a one-day-only event, they intend to create a virtual gallery with all of the pieces for people to explore further.
“I think this really gives people something to relate to and shares different stories in a visual way,” Peters said.
“I’m really proud of Teal and all of the work she put into to this to bring all of these different artists together … it’s an exciting thing to be a part of and an exciting thing to share.”
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