Visually Speaking: Being an Artist in the Shadow of the Pandemic
By Anna Horsnell
Wow. Our world has been shaken and things have changed very quickly. By the time you read this, the situation will no doubt be different again. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic in some way, and the cultural community is no different. Concerts and performances have been cancelled. Whole theatre productions have been put on hold. Movie releases have been pushed to later dates, and galleries have closed. As an artist myself, here is my story as one example of how artists are meeting the challenge.
A painter for over forty years, I’ve worked hard over the years to learn and improve my skills, exhibit my art, meet professional standards as a working artist, and contribute to both the art community and the community at large. Most artists are entrepreneurs, and while at least half of my time is spent in the creative process, there is also time dedicated to the varied business aspects of working for yourself. Thankfully I have excellent help in the person of Cheryl Bell, owner of 14 Bells Fine Art Gallery in Halifax where my work is available for sale. Over one year ago, she asked me to create work for a solo show to open March 28of this year, and I said yes.
As with most artistic projects, an undertaking like this means lots of planning, and coming up with a theme or focus. Then you buy supplies and get to work. Many long hours are spent painting alone in the studio in the months leading up to the show itself. Art does not always come easy. Creating anything means pulling from within yourself. There are challenges you set for yourself and other hurdles that ask you to try harder, push farther. You attempt to communicate a feeling, an idea. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and then there are the glorious “a-ha” moments when you feel you’re on to something.
Such was the way with “Earthlings,” my new series of seventeen abstract paintings. I wanted to express my feelings about the simple truth of our relationship with this planet. I wanted to convey that we are all the same as human beings, and we are all part of this wondrous earth. I felt the best way to express these things was to strip everything down to the basics in the way a child understands what we adults make far too complicated. In many ways, the creative process is very much like giving birth. It is very personal, and I never like to reveal the work until the series is complete.
Writers do not write books to read to themselves. Musicians do not create music for it not to be heard. Artists do not make paintings for their eyes alone. Art must be shared to come alive. Finally, the countdown to my show began late in February. The invitations to the opening arrived. I was excited to share what I had been working on this last year, to anticipate the paintings hanging in the gallery. My job was done. Now the paintings would speak for themselves. And then, the pandemic arrived. Everything changed. The cancellations began. The restrictions became real. Disappointment loomed.
I’ll let Cheryl share her thoughts: “Anna kept this collection under wraps until just the last minute and what a privilege it was to be one of the first to see it. There is never an accidental stroke on Anna’s canvases. Everything is put together with care and thought. Her message of our interconnection and reliance on one another has proven to be especially poignant at this time. These are paintings that deserve to be seen and celebrated. I may have to be creative but I will make sure that happens!”
My gratitude is great. The paintings are now online and the artwork is in the gallery waiting for an opening to be scheduled for a later, safer date. Like the musicians singing from their balconies in Italy and Spain, like the online concerts and performances, art finds a way. Please visit 14bells.com to see the entire series that is “Earthlings,” and take care everyone.