In the early days of the pandemic, nearly 18 months ago, I asked artist friends if they were working through the pandemic, perhaps with more time and less resources, or whether they were experiencing a shift in daily ritual and creativity. Most said they were planning on working, but as the days of isolation and lockdown and diminished social contact wore on, I heard a shift in tone. One artist said, “I’ve stopped. I want to see where this is going to go. I don’t want my work to be about this.” Several months later, deep into the pandemic, another artist friend remarked, “I’m sensing nostalgia creeping into everything I do.”
After long periods of loss and displacement, it is not unusual to feel a longing for a time before. The very meaning of the word is about returning home nostos and yearning algia. Isolation from social interaction and community can be devastating, and result in reflecting on what has been lost. But nostalgia comes with its own heavy hand and caprice, often remembering a past that never was.
The exhibition at the Kimball Jenkins Mansion, presented and curated by Kelley Stelling Contemporary, centers on this theme of social isolation and return to community. Five artists have transformed the rooms in the historic building with paintings, sculptures, works on paper and performance works.