From a Distance: Quarantine Rooftop Views
In the beginning there was such a feeling of disbelief. Sporting events were canceled, concerts postponed indefinitely, and businesses were told to close. Even travel across the borders came to a stop. As an art educator, I was informed of the potential that our school should prepare for the possibility of teaching remotely. The uncertainty was unsettling. We had never dealt with this sort of collective unknown before.
With the Coronavirus pandemic upon us, we were soon told we would not be returning for in-school learning. My work would continue remotely via distance-learning. Like everyone around the world, we were forced to adapt quickly to a rapidly evolving and unprecedented challenge.
Before I could teach my students remotely, and with only a few days to prepare, I had to first learn a few things of my own. I was Zooming, G-chatting, and learning to create and edit educational videos that would provide guided art lessons to my students. With friends and family asking to share my videos, I decided to post them to YouTube and later created a public channel for kids called,
I will never forget that time in my life when the entire world seemed to come to a standstill. I will always remember the feeling of life on pause. There was also a common struggle that, at least in the beginning, brought many of us together in new ways.
Neighbors sharing sourdough starters and baked goods. With more doors closing we found more ways of connecting and adapting. A farm stand offering drive-through pick up of in-season, local produce. The fisherman offering home-delivery of his daily catch. The inexplicable run on toilet paper. And lots of banana bread.So much banana bread.
Stuck at home, I started spending more time on my deck than ever before. It was a place to enjoy private meals (a slice of banana bread) or have social happy-hours with neighbors participating from their respective decks, driveways, and patios. We had Zoom birthday parties and more frequent FaceTime calls with family and friends. We did things together, but from a distance. My deck became my favorite place to be, and I decided to set up my easel to capture my view of the world.
Albeit confined, I began sketching out various vantage points; rooftop views looking west, north, and south and the quirky alleys in between. For a change of perspective, my neighbors provided use of their deck, and a chance to capture the stunning sunsets it offered (as well as better views looking east).
I quickly became fully immersed with my painting. I was moved to capture not just the view, but the experience. This was a time when we were all on-edge but also settling into new, unhurried routines. While the view from my deck offered an unchanging stillness, there was an uncanny eeriness in the silence. But there was also beauty in what was once a mundane view.
“Shelter in place” and “Safer at home” had meaning, and I wanted to capture it all. The buildings, their rooftops (our shelters), even the telephone poles and their wires that keep us all connected.
And the lone crow on the telephone wire. Only sometimes it was a dove that sat on that wire and cooed at the parked cars and the silence they offered.
I tried to capture it all in my new series:
Capturing a moment in time in my art is how I interpret my experiences and share my story. But the experience of the Coronavirus pandemic is not mine alone. We are all sharing in a collective uncertainty that has a lasting impact on each of our stories. More than a moment in time, it’s a moment in history. I hope that we can all make our stories happy. That we can find beauty in the otherwise mundane. Let’s keep up the Zoom happy-hours and the Facetime calls with friends and family. Let’s cheers our neighbors from afar since we can't be up close. Let’s support our local businesses, buy from local farmers and fisherman, and help our communities thrive. And let’s keep that sourdough starter alive!
Be well and stay safe.
Fay Wyles View my new series at FayWylesFineArt.com.