Dec 23rd, 2020, 07:59 PM

Creating Art Under Confinement

By Emilyn Snyder
Image Credit: Unsplash/Alice Dietrich
How artists have learned to evolve and adapt in a COVID-19 world.

As many artists struggle with loss of income and isolation in the second quarantine, many in Paris have instead chosen to focus on spending their time at home perfecting their crafts. Amidst the current pandemic, the field of the arts is being severely affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Without access to public spaces and galleries, many artists are having a difficult time adapting to the seclusion caused by this year's curfews and lockdowns. However, they are learning to make the most of this time despite the setbacks.

A survey conducted by Americans for the Arts reported that out of 11,000 artists interviewed, 95 percent reported a loss of income due to COVID-19. Further statistics show that 62 percent have filed for unemployment benefits. Artists are struggling. But out of struggle can come inspiration — some are taking this as an opportunity to better their craft and themselves. Many artists already work from home, and if they've learned to adjust to the current situation, they are finding new ways to convey their art.

"For me, my creative practice has definitely taken on new meaning this year. I am also trying to be less judgmental and patient with myself. And that is something that grew out of the confinement," says Peggy Anderson, a photographer who is currently staying in Paris but has also done work in New York and Sweden. She graduated from The International Center of Photography in 2013 and is on their board in New York. Recently, she has taken to photographing abandoned chairs found on the streets of Paris during the confinement. In some cases, she even brings these chairs home to add to her own dining table.


"The assorted chairs around my dining table became like guests at an imaginary dinner party. The dinner party we could not have! They took on characteristics and personality," Anderson said. She is also known for her photography of individuals reading on the subway. Her series "Subway Readers" started as a chain on her Instagram and she has surprisingly still been able to add to it during confinement. "I am interested in the moment where public intersects private. What happens to a person while they are absorbed in their book in very public and often very crowded space?" she wonders on her website. 


Stella Guan, a painter, tattoo artist, and fellow AUP student in their junior year has also been doing their best during confinement. They describe their art as being influenced by mental health and most of what they paint is done in the moment. "I struggle with my mental health, and dealing with that in combination has been rough," she said. Many AUP students found their psyche affected by the lockdowns, with 15 out of 20 surveyed stating they spent more time focusing on their mental health during confinement than they had outside of it. For Guan, figuring out how to prioritize mental health was a central concern.

Image Credit: Stella Guan

"I painted a lot during the spring confinement," she said. "The second lockdown has been harder, what with the change of seasons and the bad weather." While Guan has been having a harder time during the second lockdown, they have focused their energy online and are currently in the process of making a website where they can sell and share their paintings. 

Image Credit: Stella Guan

For some artists such as Cheryl Hironaka, the focus lies in the home. Hironaka is a painter and furniture designer who has trained at the Sorbonne and Parsons School of Design in Paris and New York. During confinement, Hironaka has had more time to focus on the relationship between people and their homes. Her philosophy is that, "everyday objects should be fun and attractive. My goal as an artist is to bring these elements together, to create happiness and laughter in our lives through our immediate surroundings, through furniture, objects, art, our interior spaces, our homes."

While staying at home during confinement, Hironaka has realized the benefit of lockdown to her art. "Now with COVID and confinement, I feel no guilt or no feelings of missing out on what’s going on in the world, so I am enjoying fully this gift of time being stuck home," she said. "Oddly enough, for me, the pandemic has been a positive experience."

Image Credit: Cheryl Hironaka

Hironaka continues to paint whimsical scenes of furniture and indoor living spaces and is using the current situation as a learning experience. "It’s made me reflect inwardly and find that my art has more value personally in creating a comfortable and happy home life," she said. 

All of these artists have done their best to keep their spirits and creativity buoyed throughout these trying times. For any form of creativity, it really comes down to figuring out your own pace and rhythm to work best in the circumstances surrounding you. "The most important thing is to be authentic and true to yourself," summarized Anderson.