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Artists on Coping: Laura Karetzky by ART SPIEL

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping

“We’re Going To Have To Read The Eyes A Lot Better”, 2020, oil on wood, 18×24 inches. photo: courtesy of the artist

For the past six years Laura Karetzky’s practice has examined the way technology and virtual communication is able to sustain us in various states of perspective, as it confounds our idea of autonomy and community. Toggling between painting, sculpture and video-installation, she has exhibited this work in galleries including The Lodge (NYC), Marcia Wood (Atlanta), Lehman College (Bronx), SUNY (Old Westbury) and most recently in solo shows this winter at Lora Schlesinger Gallery (Los Angeles) and Elizabeth Houston Gallery (NYC). Her current endeavor has been the subject of feature interviews and reviews in ArtCritical, ArtSpiel, ArtNowLA and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Laura Karetzky is currently participating in Dumbo Open Studios Virtual 2020, July 1-31, 2020.

“I Just Found A Pin”, 2015, oil on wood, 24×16 inches. photo: James Wade

AS: How are you coping?

LK:When I first began responding to your questions two months ago, my perspective was expectantly hopeful. At that time, I was reluctant to admit how much I was enjoying Shelter In Place—it felt like a rare opportunity to retreat and make lemonade out of lemons. Now as I pick up where I left off a lifetime later, my answer to each question has changed. I’ve been through three or four cycles of inertia, cautious good humor, panic, and resolute energy. At this evolution I am looking the enemy straight in the mask and renewing my focus. I’m still envious of those who feel bored, have immaculately clean houses, have plowed through piles of reading and are attacking new projects. I have wanted to do that too, but found myself spinning in circles more often than not. I am busier than ever just to keep the home afloat and safely stock groceries. In the most basic of ways, my world is revolving around food, and although often creative, the chore of it is no longer novel. I’ve been posting new and old artworks on Instagram. Some older paintings that feel immensely relevant, seem to have conjured the current circumstance like a divining rod. My preoccupation since 2014 has been to depict our experience with virtual communication platforms—this analog tool that distances us, and also holds us together—It’s shocking how prescient my work is right now, but who would ever have imagined it would come this far.

Finger Sketch, May 6, 2020, steam on shower door, Brooklyn NY. Part of a daily routine during the Corona Quarantine. photo: courtesy of the artist

AS: Has your routine changed?

LK: In my initial optimism I placed a 125lb order of ceramic and porcelain clay. Intending to work on a group of wall sculptures that had been sidelined, I was delighted for the gift of unbound time to develop them meaningfully. But the dispatch was retracted when delivery into Brooklyn was ultimately deemed unsafe. Consequently, keeping a regular schedule at my workspace became more difficult. A forced temporary slowing of the pace, I decided, would be a possibility to let my current ideas ferment and a cause to progress, rather than chase. However the collective urgency of the New York City art community is a fortitudinous and exhausting part of what I adore. Historic moments like these are the times when critical thinking and invention advance most, and accordingly the proliferation of interesting webinars, lectures and online art exhibits, is lately becoming overwhelming. My phone alarm buzzes all day long reminding me to tune into one livestream or another. My original anticipation of unrestricted time has been in fact the opposite, I find myself more betrothed, the computer as my umbilical cord.

Artists are learning to be ever more flexible and adaptable, and we are all bringing our art-making along with us, like nomads. Some are engaging in online open drawing sessions with live-models, observing and interpreting our human reality in whole new ways. Unwittingly I have been finger sketching in the steam on the shower door. I didn’t even realize I was doing this until my daughter mentioned, “…I like those bathroom drawings you’re doing.” Now I’m wondering how I can work such cartoons into my practice. I have been to the studio only intermittently and made four paintings during this time, but I trust that this experience is quietly solidifying into imagery and will show itself in the revealing works ahead. I still have that insurmountable feeling of missing everything, coupled with guilt for not being more actively and tangibly making things. Usually that’s a motivator, right now it will have to be the permission to reflect and collect.

“Sharing Corona”, 2020, oil on wood, 14×11 inches. photo: courtesy of the artist

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

LK: Well before the social distancing crisis of Covid19, my work had been consumed with the way the computer interface has inevitably changed our understanding of autonomy and its effect on the way we communicate. Now this work feels all the more urgent, and has made me realize that perhaps part of the idea I am trying to figure out is: What do we see?

As we wholly rely on live media platforms to perform our daily functions, I am questioning: Who is the “self” on the screen? Are we seeing ourselves as something other than ourself ? Is that “me” on the monitor an other, out there, in another space—as I am here, at home in this room? That’s the uncanny part, and that is why we can’t stop staring at our own doppelganger. We are asked to be in our bodies and out of our bodies at the same time.

Dinner with friends, May 2, 2020, Laura Karetzky, Manuel Sosa, Julien Gardair, Melanie Vote. photo: courtesy of Melanie Vote

I’m also thinking about the effect social media platforms and text messaging have on the way we experience meaning. For instance, on posting: If a singular post is “opened” and “read” by different people in different locations with different references: what is the shift in the multitude of “understood” dialogue that results? If we’re not together in person, the idea of what is truly meant is always in flux. Human behavior and social phenomenon are awakening in a whole new way.

Or in the case of receiving disparate texts in one window at the very same time: How do these messages resonate together in relation to each other? Now embedded conjointly, what is their commonality? How do multiple realities simultaneously also occupy a unique new story? Is it a 4th dimension? I can’t stop probing this strange real-worldly issue, as it continues to feed my work, which has been grappling for so long with the notion of what participation looks like in collective quarantine.

“Cup /Mise En Abyme”, 2019, oil on wood, 24×18 inches. photo: James Wade

AS: What matters most right now?

LK: Reading a face. We’re going to need to rely on the eyes a lot more. Whether masked in-person or through an analog portal, with so much concealed the idea of truth (and transparency) is being challenged as we learn to adjust and understand the complexity of the whole story, not just what is visible, or appears on camera.

Touch. Real bodily, human, experience will become sacred. An appreciation for what we can commonly and congruously distinguish. Old world things like texture, temperature, taste and smell will resume such larger importance—those things that words can’t exactly conjure. There have been times even before this, when I’ve just opened the oven and have wanted to text that aroma to a friend. Will that happen soon? Will we be able to transmit an odor? And even so, how do you paint a smell?

“Laptop”, 2014, oil on wood, 14×12 inches. photo: James Wade

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

LK: The idea of simultaneity is something we are now acclimating to. There is a story and there is the actual story. There is fake news and there is real news, and how does that pertain to Covid19, the pending election, or paying our rent? Just as we are watching as outsiders, life unfold around us, so are we insiders as we’re all thrown into this “Selfie” situation. We are living a narrative inside a greater narrative, and we’re constantly asking ourselves; What is public, what is private? Where do our personal stories end and begin, where do our borders merge and combine? When are you and I the same thing? It’s like watching from afar as your kid crosses the street for the first time. You feel yourself right there holding her hand, and at the same time you see her out there doing it alone, and doing it well. You are in two places at once, and for me that sensation always comes with a certain foreboding, it is just impossible to normalize. It will take our brains to evolve into a different understanding of time and space, where we can render multiple truths at once. We are stretching the mind’s concept of reality, and with this new challenge we’re going to need empathy, clarity and flexibility to sift it all through. And so, maybe it is not so much what we see of the other, but what we see of ourselves in another. It’s all about empathy.

“PineTree Resident”, 2016, oil on wood, 24×18 inches. photo: James Wade

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