Francisco de Zurbaran, Saint Francis in Meditation, oil on canvas (c. 60 x 39 in.), c. 1636, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Thanks to everyone for your kind messages during these challenging times for all. Throughout the years more and more we realize that many of our lifelong friendships have been built around our workshops. Yes, we are doing well here in the Ottawa countryside. Life can indeed change in a nanosecond! Three weeks ago, we were having drinks in Cartagena with our friends of Studio Colombia Art & Eat. A few days later and for the first time in 20 years, we had to cancel our annual trip to New York City.  And now, our beloved summer art workshops in Italy and France are on standby. But this crisis affecting each and all of us will pass too. In the meantime, what is most important is to keep healthy, busy and creative.

As you already know, I am an art historian professor and art teacher. During our summer painting workshops in Europe, the great immortals of art are always there inspiring my instruction. Alberti’s Della Pittura is essential for teaching a good subject matter, Brunelleschi for perspective drawing, Monet for colors, Picasso for letting go, Duchamp for the importance of the concept, and so forth. I have always said that art history knowledge and art practice go hand in hand. Now we have been told to stay inside, to self-quarantine, to live a moment of solitary confinement, in our own monastic cells.

This brings back memories of medieval philosophy and de facto to Giotto’s frescoes done in Assisi depicting the reclusive life of Saint Francis, and of course, the beautiful works on Saint Francis himself, in meditation, by Zurbarán. It also revives the interconnectedness among history of religion, art, and society. When teaching art history classes to my much younger students, some thought I was crossing the threshold of the political correctness when I was talking about religion. They didn’t realize that their basic genetic fabric was based on religion (Edgar Morin, La Méthode 4 Les idées). For this reason, they keep marrying in churches, later baptizing, and respecting the boundaries of pictorial rectitude when they paint. But that is another story.

In this time of “self-quarantinization”, I am also thinking about all the monastic rules (regola) established since the last fifteen centuries, many of them founded after a pandemic of some kind: the Benedict Rule, the Carthusian Rule, the Franciscan Rule among many other. Despite their origins and differences, most promote contemplation, self-imposed discipline and silence all aimed to accomplish the great “Work of God” (Opus Dei). Let’s see this pandemic as a propitious time to quit this whirlwind of vanity and consumerism. A moment of silence and meditation so needed for our well-being and our own great human work (Opus Humanum), no matter what it is. During times of self-isolation, Boccaccio wrote his Decameron, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, Newton theorized his theory of gravity and so on.

In our studio, at our easel or our desk, the time is right for deepening personal truths, so essential for future artistic endeavors. The time is favorable for revamping our own publications including our artistic statements and websites. The time is appropriate to devote ourselves to serious art readings. In brief, a time to search, a time to find a new equilibrium.

But this isolation is temporary as we all need to live in the community for emotional, social and economic reasons. Knowledge has to be spread. So, let’s enjoy this moment of solitary confinement to refine our ideas, so later we can share them. Covid-19 will be part of history!

2 thoughts on “COVID-19 and Your Art

  1. Well said. I appreciate your historical perspective. And anyone devoted to their art expression will continue their work.

    A group of us started a “Covid 19 – 2 week challenge” to paint every day and share on Facebook in this group. This kind of support is important specially at a time like this.

    Your message comes at a good time as well. I’ve been thinking about you and Monica and your welfare. I am glad that you were safe and continuing your work as an inspirational teacher. Mimi Placencia


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