My best friends, Ruby and Paul, live about an hour north of Manhattan. On March 13, we planned a nice weekend—I would come up for a day or two, as I often do to get out of the city. On March 14, Covid-19 accelerated its embrace of New York. Paul and Ruby, worried about my being on the subway and Metro-North, drove to my apartment in Brooklyn to pick me up.
After a few days, as the news became more dire, I said to Ruby, “I don’t want to be like fish. You know, houseguests are like fish: they begin to smell after three days.” Ruby replied, “Family is not fish.”
Today is April 14, and I’m still here.
Normally, I live alone and work in solitude in my studio. When I go out into my densely populated neighborhood, I’m surrounded by all sorts of people (and dogs). Now, my life is flipped. I live with two other people and, as we are “sheltering in place,” we interact a lot. But when I go outside, I walk to a nearby stream and encounter no one.
It’s spring, but there are still cold, rainy days. On those afternoons, Paul makes a fire and the three of us gather in the living room. We read, or work, or listen to a story, like George Saunders reading “Love Letter.” We doze briefly.
Though my primary discipline as an artist is sculpture, drawing is always an underlying practice. In the (now distant) past, I sketched in public places like parks and cafés. So many different faces and bodies to observe! Now, at the pinnacle of the pandemic, I’m still drawing, but my subjects are just two captive people.
Wendy Richmond is a multimedia visual artist and writer. She is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center residency, an American Academy in Rome Visual Artist residency, an NEA grant, a LEF Foundation grant, and the Hatch Award for Creative Excellence. She has taught at Harvard University, the International Center of Photography, and Rhode Island School of Design. Richmond’s books include Design & Technology: Erasing the Boundaries, Overneath: a collaboration of dance & photography, and Art without Compromise*. Her regular column Design Culture has appeared in Communication Arts magazine since 1984. Find her online at www.wendyrichmond.com.
Text and drawings © W. Richmond 2020