September 16, 2020

During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice. 

How do we connect to others in a time when physical distancing is a necessity for survival? How do we connect to others in order to build solidarity in the face of isolation, political misdirection, and racial injustice? These are questions that we are all trying to understand. I’m fortunate that during quarantine I have been able to work from home (with my husband, toddler, and dog), and that most of my work can be done at my computer. From our newly formed home office/dining room, our team met over Zoom, thinking that it was a temporary solution. As months went by, we realized that this “new normal” was not going to change any time soon. Since we had access to Zoom, I decided to reach out to artists for virtual studio visits. This is not a normal practice, but what is normal right now? I sent out a few emails and was so happy when artists were totally open to this new form of meeting. An even bigger perk, was that I could meet with artists anywhere in the world without traveling. 

Clockwise: Los Angeles-based artist April Bey (@aprilbey_) prepping for our virtual studio visit. Virtual studio visit with New York-based artist Elizabeth Moran (@elizabethcmoran). Virtual studio visit with Chicago-based artist Deb Sokolow (@debsokolow). Virtual studio visit with New York-based artist William Powhida (@williampowhida). San Francisco-based artist Isaac Vazquez Avila’s studio via Zoom (@aliencitizen). Virtual studio visit with Zurich-based artist Laura Arminda Kingsley (@l.a.kingsley).

Over the past three months I have made genuine connections with numerous artists through virtual meetings. One of my first visits was with my longtime friend and collaborator Omar Mismar who currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon. For two hours we caught up on life, talked about new projects, the state of the world, and shared our longing to connect and how good it felt to find that in each other. Less than a month later, the room where he sat while we talked had its windows blown out after the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut. Thankfully he is safe and his family is safe, but so many lives were destroyed. Omar urges us to use “memory as a force to propel us away from the gravitational pull of normalcy,” in order to use our frustration and anger to demand something better. The thing that I’ve observed the most from these visits is that we need to use art as a tool to make connections, advance change, and, hopefully, shape a brighter future.

Entry by Lauren R. O’Connell, assistant curator

Omar Mismar (@omarmismar) reflecting on the explosion at Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020.

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