During my first two years studying painting at Mason Gross, my work would often depict my experiences through group portraiture. One of the most defining factors in my life at the time were the talented artists, peers, and friends who I surrounded myself with. I found these communities within Mason Gross, the Honors College, and Rutgers at large. I had been told as an artist that you have to paint what you know and be true to your autobiographical hand, so I made paintings of and about these relationships and friends.
When the pandemic lockdown began in March of 2020, I began to rethink the place that my group portraits had during a time of social distancing. I also started to contemplate how quarantine had changed my relationships to my loved ones and the world. Being isolated intensified the way I experienced visual culture and social media. I realized how overly reliant I had become on my virtual existence, as well as the validation and false sense of closeness that it provided. It felt like social media had created an illusion of connectivity that brought about social distancing long before the pandemic.
It was out of these ideas that my painting No Diving was born. I wanted to satirize the present moment, but also society at large. Just like the appearances we keep up, the narrative exists in a space somewhere between real life and fiction. A 44 by 50 inch canvas is filled with an array of inflatable kiddie pools, each occupied by a solitary figure enjoying their social distanced summer. By depicting a lack of human interaction, I wanted to ironically stress the importance of physical and personal connection.
When classes shifted to a virtual format, I was especially missing the connection I had with my community of artists. I wanted to find a way to share all the amazing paintings that my peers and I had created in quarantine since no one would be able to experience our work in person. In June of 2020, I decided to organize an online exhibition space, Views from Quarantine. While nothing compares to seeing a physical painting in real life, the platform allowed for the visibility of paintings like No Diving, which has been sitting in my parents house for over a year now.
Recently No Diving was selected for the Newark Museum of Art’s 2021 New Jersey Arts Annual: ReVision and Respond. It feels incredibly rewarding and full circle to know that a year after launching Views from Quarantine, this piece will be on exhibit at the Newark Museum.