Periodically, we pose questions about issues artists face in their work and lives. This month, we decided to return to a question we first asked in Summer 2020: How has the pandemic impacted your creative practice?
Dance artist Swati Biswas, visual artist Audrey Goldstein, composer Ryan Suleiman, and photographer Bruce Wilson reflect on the pandemic’s impact, 2+ years after its onset.
Audrey Goldstein, visual artist
Recently I’ve noticed some of the subtle aftereffects of the pandemic on my psyche. I’ve realized that in my current work, I’m using and understanding the landscape very differently than I had before. The land, the earth, is not depicted as seen or observed, as externalized. My relationship to the earth has changed so that I’m feeling the land by internalizing its vulnerabilities. I’m correlating these vulnerabilities with those of the body and weave back and forth between them. For example, I partially unravel a sweater so that the loosened yarns cascade down a piece to form rivulets and merge with land masses.
The intact sweater can be seen as part of a body or a larger land mass.
Swati Biswas, dance artist
As a dancer and choreographer I have always enjoyed performing on-stage in front of a live audience. There is no substitute to the lights, the ambiance and above all the live reaction from the audience. Pandemic temporarily closed the opportunity of performing on-stage, but opened new opportunities. I started recording our programs outdoors. As I started publishing our performances on social media our outreach became global. I plan to continue keeping the digital platform alive for better audience outreach.
During pandemic, artists and performers all over the world faced enormous economic uncertainty. I organized and delivered online ticketed events, raising funds for a few singers and dancers from India. At the same time I also started collaborating with folk artists from various parts of India with the idea of advocating for and promoting various local artforms as well as helping the artists along the way. I started organizing digital art workshops and bringing in some of their artworks to sell (see facebook page: ArtsyWayOfLife).
My husband and I had always been nature lovers, and during lockdown, became avid bird watchers. We started spending more time outdoor and many of my dance and art projects have been inspired by nature.
Ryan Suleiman, composer
I think without realizing it, the pandemic has a had a significant impact on my practice as a composer. On the logistical side, I’m much more comfortable with the idea of a Zoom/Facetime rehearsal of my music than I was before, especially if it means I can reduce my environmental impact by opting not to fly across the country. Collaborating with writers and other artists long-distance has also become more comfortable, which is a major plus. That said, nothing can or ever will come close to sharing a physical space with artists and collaborators I admire. Though I was grateful for them in 2020, I almost cannot stomach attending another Zoom-concert. I cherish physical spaces now more than ever.
Given the varying amounts of unequal trauma we’ve all collectively experienced, I also sense my musical output changing, at least in the short-term. It seems to have shifted to a much quieter, more introspective place. I’ve started to see my music – both the compositional process and the performances themselves – as a possible refuge or balm for our anxiety-ridden lives. I’ve written pieces that aim to heal myself as much as others. A part of me is embracing this, but a part also hopes to return to some of the more flamboyant, extroverted elements of my pre-pandemic pieces.
Bruce Wilson, photographer
The pandemic significantly changed my creative lens-based practice. Early on, as my physical world contracted, so did my new subject matter. The latter became limited to what I found on local walks or drives. I compensated, however, by appropriating and reworking historical images that I found in digital collections, images that came from all over the world. One evening, close to home, I wanted to capture some of the effects of the pandemic on local businesses. One of accompanying images is from a nearby upscale restaurant. In the summer of 2020, service was limited to takeout and all orders had to be picked up outside. The restaurant, to dress things up a bit, moved one of their tables outside and placed large flower arrangements nearby. With plenty of sanitizer at the ready, a takeout bag awaited someone named Larry. I captured the scene, and I titled the award-winning print, For Larry. Thirty months later these images still summon strong emotions.
I continue to carry a camera on neighborhood walks and work with appropriated material. I am most thankful, however, that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us and I can once again freely explore other places for novel subject matter, now both out in the world and in digital collections.
How has the pandemic impacted your creative practice? (2020)
Envisioning your art, post-pandemic
How do you deal with stress and burnout as an artist?
How have health issues impacted your art?
Swati Biswas is a Boston-based dancer, trained in both Kathak and Bharatnatyam classical dance. Her ArtsyWayofLife Facebook page advocates for artists practicing authentic Indian art forms.
Audrey Goldstein is a multidisciplinary artist who has exhibited or performed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Danforth Museum, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the D.U.M.B.O. Art Center, and Gallery Kayafas.
Ryan Suleiman, Ph.D., is a composer and educator whose performances/commissions/collaborations include the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Dedalus Quartet, and Jai Jeffryes’ album Amethyst. His interview series, Reflections on Music and Nature, explores the connection between music, nature, and activism through conversation. Listen to his compositions.
Bruce Wilson is a fine arts photographer whose exhibitions include Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, the Griffin Museum, Cambridge Art Association, and Newton Art Association.