Quarantine, Art and the Road Ahead.

As I wait for my vaccination eligibility I am reflecting on the past year of “stay home.” When quarantine first dropped I spent months just gaping in horror at each day’s new tally of victims from this invisible killer. I was stunned, caught in a cobra-trance by the TV news. In the 3rd month of quarantine, May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police office, Derek Chauvin, and the US streets erupted with anger. This broke my coma. Unable to get out to march, I stayed in my studio and worked on this painting every day for several weeks.

I live in a rural corner of LA county, home to many native plants and animals struggling to survive in a scrubby rural/urban borderland. In this ragged landscape of sandstone mountains that were once seabed, the impacts of climate change are all too apparent. Drought and ever-increasing yearly heat indexes have erased local populations of frogs and butterflies. Pricey mansion estates have replaced oak and sage filled canyons with driveways and non-native grasses and shrubs. Indigenous animals like owls, bobcats, songbirds and butterflies are left with little habitat or food in what was once a land of plenty.

You might be thinking: Nice non sequitor, there. What do the #BLM protests have to do with your local animals? Systemic racism, poverty, gentrification, habitat loss, climate change, war and mass extinctions are all the results of one thing: rampant human greed. A very slim margin of people are taking as much as they can for massive personal gain, leaving their fellow humans and all of the other creatures on Earth with the awful consequences.

The George Floyd protests brought all of that into focus for me. I worked on this painting spontaneously and intuitively without any overarching plan or design. The images and marks expressed in real time, day to day, my feelings about my country, and my species.

The painting’s narrative starts at the bottom left, with our earliest human art and inspirations. Symbols and marks such as the crosshatches, animals, figures and dots have ancestral meanings dating back to the Paleolithic era. The full-figured woman evokes the Venus of Willendorf, a 25,000-year-old goddess/fertility icon. Moving upward we find ourselves in a natural utopia of animals, plants and waterfalls. A supernatural figure holds a sun-like beacon while gesturing benevolently to the Earth, waters, animals, trees, birds, moon and heavens, inviting us to care about these beautiful things. But the same hand also directs our eyes towards the alternative.

We swiftly move from the land of natural beauty, light, plants and animals to a dystopia of missiles, industry and pollution. Roads to nowhere surround faceless incarcerated people. Guard dogs and concertina wire flank the perimeter. Police, tanks, prisons and grinding gears support this fearful, cascading structure in a bleak world where darkness reigns.

The bottom of this painting is unfinished: spilled paint and pencil marks on unprimed canvas: the future is yet to be written.

As we enter the last month of quarantine I have hope that we can still summon the light.

Day and Night, 52" x 72" oil on unstretched canvas with found objects

Day and Night

Gods of earth and food

Gods of steel and blood

God built the Rainbow

To help us bridge the flood.

Gods of nature,

Gods of blight-

We sit in darkness

But pray for light.

Tear gas presidents,

Poems painted on roadways;

Gunshots in the alleys,

Angels in the words we say.

A baby’s first laugh,

A world in disarray:

Every minute is night,

Every minute is day.

Threatened by all things,

Threatened by Cain-

We break the covenant

Again and again.

Gods of nature,

Gods of blight.

Gods made from darkness,

Gods made from light.

Our oldest stories tell of

Black and White,

Blindness and Sight,

Might against Right.

We must face the forest to find the light,

All of our fears despite,

To seize the day

and end this night.

More about the painting:

51" wide x 72" high, 3 panels painted with oil over acrylic on un-stretched canvas with wood batten. Poem hand painted on primed canvas. Pendent assemblage: hand-painted wood medallions, seashells and bullet shell. Other materials: grommets, jute, twine, brass swivels.

Find out more about the artist by visiting/liking/following here:

https://www.instagram.com/sarahstoneart/

Bio photo by LA photographer Tony Pinto

Anthropocene Artist, Habitat Gardener, Shelter Dog Addict & L.A. Anecdotalist, writing about Life, Nature & Creativity. IG@sarahstoneart

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