Outside of the grueling everyday process of enduring quarantine, it’s expected but not exactly comforting to hear social media usage has increased by 61 percent over normal usage.
But there’s another side to these statistics — reinvention of the way we consume art. Showcasing and enjoying art the way we typically would is impractical from six feet apart. Concerts are canceled. Galleries and museums are closed. Access to the tools, resources and spaces artists normally use is severely limited.
Social media is helping to mitigate these losses. Musicians are live streaming concerts, and artists are sharing their latest work virtually and hosting online art classes. And while physically sharing is stalled, virtually sharing is seemingly limitless.
“Artists tend to get the short end of the stick, so to speak, in multiple aspects of life,” said visual artist and DePaul student Elena King. “They become increasingly vulnerable to major changes, which is currently proving to be a significant challenge during this global pandemic.”
While not ideal, stay-at-home orders don’t necessarily limit creation. Whether they were artists from the start or discovered a new passion during this time, some have used staying at home to tap into their creativity.
Some are creating because they need to. Poet Makenzie Beyer had trouble writing after stay-at-home was enacted, so she “actively decided” to stop trying to write. She found herself typing up pieces in between scrolling through recipes or watching TV shows that were less intentional and more instinctual — these poems are more meaningful and have been a way to pull herself away from the turmoil.
Regardless of their reasons, people are still creating and still need support. And whether you want to look at art just for fun (ars gratia artis, anyone?), are looking for something to take your mind off things or just want to support your local artists, you’re in the right place.
Join 14 East as we take a break from our worries and turn to supporting some of our artist friends during this time instead.
Vell Le Villain: Musician
“I’m the most proud of my newest music that just came out April 17th — LIVEVIL. it’s available on all streaming platforms. It was initially going to be a Halloween-themed EP. I began exploring different different melodies and pitches with my voice to match the tones of the album. After recording a few songs my manager and I agreed this project was more special than a seasonal EP release — so I took my time to piece together the perfect moody & vibey album. The influence of this album was my surroundings on the West Side of Chicago as a kid — at times it felt like I was living in a horror movie.”
“I think supporting creatives is important because many rely on entertainment like film and music as an escape from reality. More than ever people need to mentally check out of current events. It’s all over the news, social media and daily conversations — I think a lot of people are looking to creatives to relax.”
Photos courtesy of Vell Le Villain
Tom White: Visual art using pen & ink and line work
"Cable Fights Back" (Image courtesy of Tom White)
“I believe the most special aspect to what I am doing is the research that is being done through my work. Whether it be finding content for reference, collecting information for backstory, or creating new personal dialogue with myself. Collecting this data and spitting it back out in the form of art gives not only myself, but also my audience a different perspective to learn about varying topics.”
"Nebraska Flower Study" 7.5 x 7.5 (Image courtesy of Tom White)
“During this time of pandemic, artists need to be supported in order to continue towards a common goal of change for the better. Not only in the present, but the work of artists can help lead towards future changes in our society to make sure something like this never happens again.”
"Color Study" 7.5 x 7.5 (Image courtesy of Tom White)
“The best way for people to help support my art currently, aside from the obvious, (financially), can be as simple as reaching out and creating a dialogue with me about what I am doing and the process behind it. I'm always excited to swap/share tips and insights!”
CJ Lamborn: Stop-motion and animation
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“I think what's special about this piece is that it's just completely representative of how I am coping with day to day life during these times.”
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scrolling on my phone until i fall asleep (candid)
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“I believe it is because we owe it to ourselves to let ourselves create and others when there isn't another outlet to do so.”
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visuals i’m animating for Claude
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“I think people can support my art just by sharing it, truly.”
Videos courtesy of CJ Lamborn
Elena King: Visual art, oil pastel and chalk
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset (Image courtesy of Elena King)
“This is one of my favorite pieces as it has a lot of sentimental value to me. I made this during a difficult period in my life. This piece is a representation of the insomnia I experienced as a result of anxiety, causing hallucinations and multiple hospitalizations. I was able to depict some of those hallucinations, connecting me deeper to that period of time while serving as a reminder of my resilience.”
Image courtesy of Elena King
“I made this piece for a friend of mine, Ric, who is a musician in Chicago. I was inspired by the ways in which Ric presented himself in his everyday life but also on stage and I appreciated how he was consistently himself in all of those spaces. Not only is he a very positive presence on stage through his dancing and enthusiastic performance, but the colors and patterns he wears were always bright and funky, which is exactly the style I was interested in drawing in when I made this piece. I loved creating something for a friend and an artist as I find these exchanges valuable and fulfilling.”
Band composed of musicians Joey Mirabelli, Mike Vaughn, Tom Ruby.
“I think the thing that makes the song ‘Doomberg’ special is the collaboration between different bands in Chicago. We worked with bands Camp Edwards and DUMB HOUSE. We each recorded one song for the project, but we were all together for the recording process. The guitarist for Camp Edwards (Jameson) engineered the song. We did it in a basement too, which we haven't done in a long while. The last few projects we've done (same as it ever was, like this/like that) we did in studios, and It was super fun to go back to the old days of just being a couple people in a basement who love music just putting together a track.
“Local art is like the lifeblood of any good community. It's a beautiful thing to see something somebody created knowing they live in the same space as you and create in a similar world that you see everyday. COVID-19 put the whole scene to a halt, no live concerts, art shows, or community gatherings. That makes it really difficult to make human connections with one another and share things. Our band along with many others had multiple shows and tours planned that were completely wiped out. It really sticks a knife in the dream, but the community is strong and we're adapting to the current times. Live streams, and the internet in general help out a lot with this.”
“Support wise, follow as many artists you like on social media and buy their merch if you can! Follow what they are trying to do during these times. Whether it be live streams with virtual tip jars, or commissioning art for your apt/house. Instead of going out on Friday night, go check out what some local artists are doing online we're all doing our best to adapt and create as much as we can and the art is still being made and shared. Just not in the same ways it was before.”
Images courtesy of Superkick
Makenzie Beyer: Poetry
“At risk of sounding a little cliche, we would literally have nothing if it wasn't for art, and that is why we should be supporting artists in general, but especially now. Art of any kind is a sacred practice and I genuinely believe that the art I make is not for me, it's for everyone else. I think this is a sentiment that resonates within the art community. I'm doing this for you! And I love that I'm doing it. All that being said, support artists because artists support you.”
“Writing is such a different kind of art form. It lacks a certain physicality that other artworks contain (think photographs, paintings, textiles, tangible pieces you can physically hold) which makes it a little more difficult to share. I love seeing writers turn to platforms like Instagram to share their work. A really good way to support writers is to share the work they post, purchase the zines/booklets they've made (zines tend to be rather affordable), and inquire about what they're working on currently. Also, including them in projects like this helps a ton, too.”
Poems courtesy of Makenzie Beyer
Trevor Slavin: Graphic art
“Okay I'm not saying I'm scared of bugs but these are some freaky lookin’ guys and I want everyone to see them.”
“It's important to keep artists creating. Without support, artists might not have the motivation to keep putting their work out.”
You can support his art “by being nice to me and saying nice things about my art.”
Images courtesy of Trevor Slavin
Bridey Jones: Sculptures
“I am mostly a miniature sculpture artist, but also a painter and seamstress. I make miniatures which I then transform into magnets or keychains. I mostly paint people and do personalized canvases. For sewing, I make scrunchies and right now, as well as reusable face masks.”
“I think the piece I am most proud of is my octopus magnet. I am proud of how detailed it is. This piece is special to me because it is the first piece I put on sale on my Depop. It is what drove me to create an account and now I am doing pretty well with my online shop.”
“When people are in a time where they can't go out and do stuff, they turn to artists. Movies, music, clothes, visuals, etc. are all forms of coping for us. Support the people who provide this comfort.”
Images courtesy of Bridey Jones
Erin Paulson: Multi disciplinary work creating environments
Foliage Rain from Erin Paulson on Vimeo.
“I make my work to replicate the safe place I’ve created for myself in my head. A place of quiet sweetness and vulnerability. I work to bring that environment to life for myself, but also to invite others in.”
Erin's Room No Sound from Erin Paulson on Vimeo.
“Now that everything has slowed and we have time to think about what’s really important to all of us, what makes life meaningful. When people slow down they spend time on relationships, they spend time, and they make. They make crafts, they make bread, they paint landscapes. And that has to say something about the importance of making.”
Erin_NotDone from Erin Paulson on Vimeo.
When asked how to support — “Well obviously, extra funding and donations to artists so that they can keep making during this time of economic stress. Also offering up art space in unused buildings because many artists, students mostly, don’t have the space or ability to keep making at home. Then other than that, less pressure for artists to be constantly making while everything is so uncertain and we’re all scared about the future.”
Videos courtesy of Erin Paulson
Emma Perdue - Visual art, oil painting and chalk pastel
“This piece as well as the others I submitted were really playful for me. These three were all pieces that I had no expectations of and no plan for, they were each just a space for me to do what I wanted and be open to what I want to make. The ‘meat’ textures are brought alive with shapes and patterns and the meat that might be seen as death, flesh, inanimate body, etc. is made to smile or represent silly human things.”
“Art is a transformation of silence into action, it is representative of the community as a whole and it’s for everyone. It gives people a power, a voice, and a platform to stand up and stand out and has the power to disrupt and critique the power systems in place.”
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“People can help support artists everywhere by advocating for arts education and teachers and public institutions like libraries.”
Images courtesy of Emma Perdue
Alexis Kleefisch: Visual art, acrylic paint
“This really represents the fact that I am trying to reconnect with my inner artist. I remember sitting down to paint this piece. I had bought the wooden block months beforehand with the idea that I wanted to paint a deer on it, but I wasn’t completely confident that I could actually do it. So I let it sit in storage for months until one day, I decided I would give it my best shot. It was New Years Eve and I had no plans (after having recently moved to a new city). This whole process really made me focus and relax like I never have before, and I just remember being so proud that I actually got over my fear of not being good enough to give this a shot.”
“This really represents a sense of connection with nature and also a sense of friendship to me. One of my dear friends posted the reference photo on Instagram after a hike, and something about the picture was so compelling: it seemed carefree, effortless, and beautiful, and as a flower-enthusiast I knew I had to give it a try.”
Images courtesy of Alexis Kleefisch
Anne Arnold: Visual art, photography
“What's special about these works is that I have created them independently during quarantine. In the past, I have never taken the time to develop my own film from home but without school resources and CSW/Central Camera I have decided to take matters into my own hands. Although my attempts are not perfect, I like that the mistakes are totally my fault as well as the successes. It is liberating to be a part of the process from start to finish, creating an image totally on my own.”
“I think it is important for communities to support artists especially in this climate because it is never easy to create, but it is exponentially harder when the world is paused. I can't speak for all artists, but I don't think the majority want to make work related to COVID-19, but how can one disassociate the two when it is impacting nearly every facet of life. As a result, I think it is important to motivate artists to keep creating even when the work feels unrelated to prior pieces. We all need words of encouragement right now and artists are no exception.”
“People can help support my art by giving me feedback whether it be positive or constructive. Without class critiques it is hard to see my work through someone else's lens and I appreciate anyone who gives me their honest opinion.”
Images courtesy of Anne Arnold
Lucy Grundhauser: Poetry
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“Writing is the only thing I ask myself to do everyday right now. I think my poems and pieces from this time will serve as a time capsule for future me, especially because this is the first time I’m sharing them with others.”
“Many of us are consuming more art than usual right now, given the circumstances. That alone is a reason to donate to gofundmes, subscribe to someone’s patreon, pay for pdfs of writing, etc. more than usual.”
Poems courtesy of Lucy Grundhauser
Jenni Holtz: Multimedia Artist and 14 East Illustrator
“I'm most proud of my recent cross-stitch work titled ‘Roll with It.’ I find cross-stitching to be extremely calming and it allows me to combine digital and physical art since I make my patterns digitally before stitching them onto fabric. I made this cross-stitch for my mom during Illinois' stay-at-home order this past month. She and I both have anxiety, so I've been thinking about her a lot during lock down since I can't be with her. Stitching ‘Roll with It’ for her was a way for me to feel connected to her while also making something that she can hang up as a reminder to go with the flow a little more and worry a little less.”
“The world would be so dull without artists. Everything people turn to for support, especially during COVID-19, is created by artists. Music, television, podcasts, movies, home decor, and any artwork online or hung up at home are all created by artists. Many artists support themselves through commissions or freelance work, making COVID-19 a particular financial burden, so supporting artists is imperative during quarantine.”
Images courtesy of Jenni Holtz
Drew Laughner: Visual art using acrylic paint and graphite
“This piece is special to me because it’s one of the first projects I started without an end product in mind, motivating me to work in the way on future projects.”
“This was the first project I’ve worked on in graphite in a long time, making me fall in love with the medium again. I used this as a background in my animation capstone which helped solidify an aesthetic for the entirety of the project.”
Images courtesy of Drew Laughner
Emma Punch, Visual art, drawing
“To me, this piece is impressive because of the repetitive nature of it. That being said, it took a lot of time and patience for me to make it. All I have right now is time, but I have been lacking in patience. I think humor is also really important right now because it can be a way to escape, or to not think as seriously for a moment.”
Image Courtesy of Emma Punch
Josh Williams: Digital Media
“I find this piece special because I feel like we’re so glued to our phones that we don't even realize it. It's all about appearance in our society. Once people are online, their minds are shut off and just feed off of someone they adore. There's always competition on who looks better or has the most money. I have his face covered here because it's not what's on the inside that counts on social media; it's all about your look. The hearts represent how we live by numbers, what I mean by that is we care too much about likes, followers and even top comments. We feel less about ourselves if we don't have a certain amount. If you have a big following, a lot of likes, you are basically considered ‘famous' to people even though they know nothing about you. Social media is toxic.”
“During this time I feel like us artists should always support one another because we all have the same interests. How we express or feel, we do it for the same reason, but in different ways. Social media can help by letting people always support each other. I feel like most people use social media in a toxic way for themselves; it shouldn’t be like that. Since we have a story system on Instagram and Snapchat, us posting one another's art can help, and help get the recognition of the artist.”
Images courtesy of Josh Williams
Natalie Wyatt-Aldana: Comics/Illustrations
“This is the piece I'm proudest of currently. It signaled a turning point for me personally and in my art. This was so different from what I was doing before, and it showed me that I didn't need to be scared of trying new things.”
“Art, music, and writing, all have the ability to express all the complicated feelings swirling around this crisis. That's super important, and I'm grateful to all the artists making art that speaks to a larger truth. But, I've also been happy to have all the art that helps me escape. Without all the games, comics, movies, and tv shows, it would be really hard for me to keep a positive outlook. It's so important to help each other out when we can, in whatever way we can right now.
Images courtesy of Natalie Wyatt-Aldana
Thank you for viewing our virtual gallery! Though each artist brings something different, we hope you were able to sift through and enjoy this compilation of unique work, and, perhaps, even feel inspired. With cancelations and closings, supporting artists, even through a follow or share, goes a long way. We hope our virtual gallery was able to help introduce you to some of the artists in the Chicago scene. Messy feelings are expected in the midst of a global pandemic, and it’s safe to say a lot of us are probably going through it.
Whether through consumption or creation, what better way to make sense of these feelings, or take a break from them, than through art?
Header image by Natalie Wyatt-Aldana
Editor’s Note: Upon Publishing, Alexis Kleefisch’s name was misspelled. This error has since been corrected in the text.