The Art of Pandemic Living
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
By Pernel Berkeley
For the past year, my creative process has altered in quite substantial ways. The fact that I am no longer working as a substitute teacher in the local schools has created an enormous change in my routine of many years. I was suddenly free to experience uninterrupted work time in my studio. There were no distractions of any sort. Weekend trips to New York City to look at art and see friends completely ended, of course. What remained was my painting, and it has completely absorbed me. I work with intensity for the better part of every day.
A large group of paintings has accrued. Recently, a completely new idea came to me in the form of collages created from old drawings. I had never thought in terms of black and white and shades of gray other than as notes for a painting. I pursued this idea for several weeks with great excitement. This experience has enriched my painting and I am now involved in a new series that integrates the images I created in the collages.
A fairly large obstacle I had to overcome in the past year, though, was that I could no longer rely on outside assistance with the carpentry necessary to execute the shaped wooden panels that compose my sculptural paintings. I have been forced to learn how to use a jigsaw, a saw with a slender blade used to cut curves, if I wanted to keep working. Necessity was truly the mother of my inventions. I haven't suffered any major bodily harm yet. It is gratifying to acquire a skill you didn't imagine to be in your repertoire. There are frustrations with the limitations to my "skill,” but I'm working to overcome them.
The limitations imposed by the pandemic on me have only occasionally been mourned as deprivation. I miss my friends and going to museums, but the creative return for me has been very rewarding. We can find inner reserves when we are forced to rely upon ourselves. I think many of us have made discoveries about our priorities, expanded our intellectual pursuits and formulated revised thoughts about the future. There are some advantages to being part of the older population, no longer responsible for children or parents. Of course, what I have been speaking about is coming from the vantage point of that phase of life. I have recently had my second shot and I look forward to returning to some semblance of “normal" life, but I know I will make permanent my work ethic of the past year.
Pernel Berkeley attended Bennington College and graduated from the School of Visual Arts. She can be found every day in her studio with a pencil or paint brush in hand, listening to Tom Petty.