The unprecedented and presently immeasurable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is undeniably one of the most challenging and intense experiences that many of us will ever encounter in our lifetime. Each one of us is faced with the test of really taking life moment to moment, day to day, and doing our best to remain healthy, responsible and resilient. While preliminary surveys like the one just published by the California Arts Council reveal the massive impact of COVID-19 on the arts, we are truly heartened by all of the ways in which we see the arts community adapting, creating, and contributing despite the odds.
The arts are a refuge at a time like this, and artists of different mediums are finding ways to channel their energy not only towards creating, but also towards wellness – both mental and physical – for others and themselves. It’s a tough time for everyone, but we hope that these entries will give you all a peek into the different ways artists in our community are experiencing this Stay at Home order.
Hello reader. My name is Alyssa Rose and I am an artist. I wonder what you think of when I say that. Am I covered in paint with a paintbrush in my hand? Do I have a swirly mustache? Am I using a torch? Am I slacking off while drinking some coffee? Got glitter all over my face?
I am not sure what it means to be an artist but I am very confident that I am one. I think about this a lot. What qualifies one as an artist? What makes an artist worthy of an art career? Is it really all just clout? (Clout is influence and power disguised as coolness and instagram fame). I digress…
So what kind of artist am I?
I write, I make dances, I perform, I design, I paint, I draw, I make collages, I take photos. I have settled with “multimedia” artist for now.
I work at Trader Joe’s. I know, right? Well, let’s just say I am employed with Trader Joe’s. About two months ago I strained my lumbar while setting down a heavy tray. I tried going back to work, but found myself in the middle of the pre-social distancing hoarding fiasco. Much like the rest of the economy, we were not quite prepared for the situation. As a result, I worked a little too hard a little too soon after my strain. I am currently on a leave of absence as I recover and manage my pain.
I have been either at home or on a walk by my home for three weeks now. With the exception of a check up appointment for my back, a few acupuncture sessions, and 1.5 grocery store runs. Saving lives? Im in.
Of course it is not that simple or easy. My mental health has been on a roller coaster. I have not had a single hug or seen my partner in three weeks. I have had to put a pause on a choreography project I’m passionate about. And I know there is no end date in sight. Nature does not plan ahead. I am deeply humbled.
I had three blank canvases before this thing started. Now, they are mostly covered in sparkles, metallic paint, gems, words, other kinds of paint… two of them have pieces of mirror glued to them. I am working with and curious about reflective surfaces and materials. Sometimes I doodle something I end up disliking on my ipad in Procreate. Sometimes I spend three hours making smooth shapes that fit together like a puzzle, and adding layers for opacity. Sometimes I am writing poetry. Oh, I also painted a mural in my kitchen. I love painting on large surfaces.
When I was asked to write this, I had just had a very important realization on a long solo-walk through my neighborhood. I want to create every single day and make a career out of it. I have been struggling to accept that. I think sometimes that looks like “I don’t know,” and sometimes that looks like researching mathematics graduate programs until I am exhausted and anxious. I have a B.A. in Pure Mathematics, and graduated top of my class. But no matter how many times I feel incredibly curious about ideas in mathematics, I do not feel that fire.
Even on my worst days, there is a tiny flame on a tiny candle in my belly. Its name is passion to create something. Its name is project-based work. Its name is Alyssa Rose Creative, multimedia and interdisciplinary art. Its name is big sculptures, solo shows, installments in public spaces that spread joy. I can feel the flame burning brighter now.
So, as this pandemic causes a flux of mental health struggle, I encourage you to externalize your feelings or thoughts somehow. Maybe you walk, maybe you cry, maybe you write, maybe you punch a pillow, maybe you reach out to a friend for a chat, maybe you roll out your back on a foam roller, maybe you take a movement class on zoom, maybe you make a beautiful meal from scratch, maybe you pick up a musical instrument, maybe you…
(I believe you are an artist too)