We all have lost much during this time. Some people we knew of, knew a little, or knew dearly have been taken from us directly or indirectly by the virus and the difficulties during lockdown to seek treatment. But that is for another article. This is in the perspective of an artist, after all. And that is what we strive for, to move people.
Artists rarely if ever have steady jobs. Temperaments, they (again) say, are not aligned with desk work. So it is in my case. And that meant depletion the longer quarantine dragged on – drags on. Thanks to ineptitudes by the administration, on the whole, we are a nation doing very badly indeed. As a result, the days take their toll on most of our already shallow pockets. Dwindling to nothing on some days.
What has this artist lost? The ability to move about freely. Like everyone, to be sure. In the personal is the universal, as the maxim goes. But for me, how so?
One tries one’s best to scrimp and be safe, only buying necessities within a five-mile radius, as much as possible. Sometimes on foot, sometimes on two wheels, occasionally via other bigger modes of transport, free or otherwise. The cycling option gets harder and harder to maintain because tires get worn and torn. Cycling supplies cost money. And I encountered a group of obviously male cyclists hanging out at a bike shop telling little old me that I should know how to change my wheels and inner tubes. On top of everything, I have to contend with toxic masculinity. Plus some people do not get that cyclists are pedestrians – we are on the whole constantly in danger on big roads where most motorists are size queens and disallowed on others; how funny that the latter used to have bike rentals along on side of it.
Other artists also weighed in on how Covid-19 affected them. Hermz Gacho, a writer who teaches as a day job (most definitely affected by the physical closure of schools), says he has “had a hard time writing poetry since everything is done at home due to lockdowns. Work from home household chores and day-to-day struggles have been merged in one place. I basically need the outdoors to get to my creative atmosphere.” He is “anxious and less creative” but is presently “trying to recover, although the struggle to create something is still there”.
Pam Reyes, a painter and “Iba,di’ba?” shop owner “never thought that [her] passion for painting would wane but this pandemic is really depressing.” Commissions keep her going, but barely. She is “praying and claiming that very soon the passion will be reignited”.
Krys Balmaceda, an artist, gallery owner-restaurateur, and ophthalmologist says that “at the beginning of the pandemic when everything had gotten suspended, my clinic included, I suddenly had the time to go back to my art. Painting unexpectedly helped me with coping with the toll of the isolation I experienced during the lockdowns. However, now that I’m dealing with the pandemic’s impact on my work and business, I again have had less time and energy to focus on my art practice. But I am making a conscious effort to go back to it again, beginning with scheduling a few commissions and a personal project next month.”
For me, fortunately, extended family funds food in part and some other expenditures also. But the sense of debilitation is still there as one cannot see one’s friends easily when one is essentially grounded. Gilded cages still suffocate. That Binukot feeling without being treated like a princess.
This affects one’s motivation to create. And even if one can muster enough energy for pieces, they are harder than ever to sell, seeing as people want to concentrate their efforts on purchasing needs. Sure, there are still some privileged individuals who can afford art. But the problem of showing the artworks is another financial hurdle altogether. Monthly and yearly contributions are (now) a thing for some groups. One understands that officers need to use group collections to move an exhibit but having no choice but to refrain from joining such shows still hurts.
Oh, gentrification. A complex machine. Artists add value to places but when said areas “progress”, artists can’t afford them anymore.
Editor’s Note: Name of the artist withheld upon request.
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