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BREAK OUT! Series 2: Studio in Quarantine

LA Art Documents is exploring the pandemic’s impact on the way artists operate and engage with their practice in a new series of artist profiles we’re aptly calling BREAK OUT! Here’s a sampling of responses for Series 2 – Studio in Quarantine, featuring works by: Ariel Maldonado, Rachel O’donnell (more ongoing)

Before this pandemic I was coming out of a transitional phase of my life, I had begun stabilizing myself enough financially to be able to focus on making work once more. Normally I gravitate towards installation based work and that has not changed. I do not have as much access to my shared studio space so my living room has become my studio. My degree is in Ceramics and I was a prop maker in the past so creating sculptures with messy materials is something I am very used to but being confined to my living room- I did not want to bring in silica or foam or wood dust into my apartment.

I had been sitting on a ton of yarn (like over 60 rolls/balls of yarn) that had been given to me for free a few months ago by someone who would have otherwise tossed it out. I knew I wanted to use it but had no idea how. It didn’t start right away (after 3 weeks of doing nothing) Now that I have had nothing but excess time I have been able to really sit and think. I started using cardboard and cutting it into circles and then wrapping the yarn around. I am not working on creating a hanging sculpture with these that (hopefully) will become so big (ideally I will make 300-500 of these little guys minimum) that it people have to navigate their way through it. Or create wall pieces using these as “pixels” to create a wall piece.

Overall this pandemic has helped me to work towards one of my personal goals as an artist- become more environmentally conscious. I own another page @gogreensavegreen that is focused on environmental news and how to be more environmentally conscious in your day to day life. Without access to the studio and without access to store bought materials- I am really forced to get creative with my materials which usually means turning to my trash (or other peoples like my friends yarn) and figuring out how to create something that doesn’t read as “trash.” This pandemic has allowed me the time to really rethink my work, what I want my work to be. I think by the time we are allowed out I will have 1-3 large pieces that I will be ready to start photographing and looking somewhere to show it!

This work has been really ideal for the situation. It allows me to mindlessly keep my hands busy. It is therapeutic and allows me to be productive even when all I want to do it watch trashy reality TV at the end of the day to take my mind off of everything that is going on. Once I have created enough yarn modules is when I really start to think about the outside world and how this has affected me as well as others. This work is really a direct response to different headlines and reactions people are having to the quarantine. I love the bright colors and playfulness of the work and than thinking about how I could not have made such work if the world didn’t feel so dark right now.

“I think this is what the ocean looks like” was created after seeing countless headlines that talked about beaches being flooded and people feeling that they were entitled to beach access. There was obviously a huge response from others who wanted to go to the beach as well but had the self restraint not to. I thought about how I could bring a small piece of the beach over to me and how I haven’t been to the beach in a while either.

The cotton candy piece- titled “The Cotton Candy I Can’t Eat This Summer Because Rona Shut Down The Fair” was created as a direct response to county fairs in Southern California being shut down. Granted not getting cotton candy at a time like this really doesn’t matter, but as we miss the Fair this year, it will be another reminder of how different life has become. Another marker of change.

“LA Smog” is a response to headlines that discussed how smog has decreased dramatically in metropolitan areas.

“Kill-Proof Vertical garden”- a lot of people are taking up gardening, as a past time and out of concern for the food supply chain, but some people just have a black thumb. I have a green thumb and am in amazement when people can’t keep a succulent alive. So I wanted to make a piece that could be in anyones home without fear of killing the “plant”

“Fuck”- I think we have all said that multiple times throughout this entire experience

This is an ongoing series as I have lots of cardboard, lots of yarn and lots of time still. But this is some of the work that has been created thus far.

One of the things I’ve been actively combating during this pandemic is the pressure to be at my most productive while staying at home. Some days, I’m so stressed about my current financial situation that I don’t want to feel guilty about not making art. I have continued to make work at my natural pace and see influences from the pandemic seeping into my work (the floral abstract on the Chanel collage almost feels like an N95 mask and this collage was made before the CDC recommendation to wear a mask in public).

I continue to make work although many of my plans, art-wise and personal, are all in the air. Living in this flux is simultaneously surreal and oddly normal. I used to think that all American artwork made now would be seen as representative of the response to the “Trump presidency” but now I see that this era of work will be seen in the context of the pandemic, before and after.


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