Written by Shayda Windle

There is no doubt the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has impacted every industry imaginable, and the arts are no exception. For businesses that weren’t prepared to close their doors for an extended period of time, there has been a saving grace: technology. As soon as the stay-at-home order was put in place, galleries and individual artists swiftly moved exhibits and events to an online format, with many citing positive experiences. 

That said, there’s nothing that can replace the human connection of walking into a gallery and attending an event. Meeting the artists themselves, seeing the works in person, and hearing the stories behind the art cannot be substituted with an online platform. In-person workshops and classes also provide something irreplaceable. Local artist Jill Garity says, “Artists get a lot of synergy from painting with other artists, which is something that cannot be replaced online.”

Garity is one of the artists represented by Artists in Middleburg (AiM), a local nonprofit whose mission “is to nurture, develop, and provide arts educational opportunities for all.” After the stay-at-home order was put in place, AiM quickly moved their most recent exhibit “MORE Things Considered” online through a virtual gallery. These changes had us begging the question: What are artists doing during this time of social distancing, canceled events, and economic uncertainty? After all, for artists who normally work solo, times like these could present opportunities to create new works, learn new mediums, or find inspiration from places unimagined. Garity couldn’t agree more. The quarantine has allowed her to diverge from her usual impressionistic style and delve into abstraction. 

Small 5X7 Studies, Laura Hopkins

“Coincidentally I had signed up for an online course in abstraction that started on March 1st,” she says, “In pursuit of that, I started two abstract pieces using an oil paint and cold wax process that’s made for layering of translucent layers, something I always strive for in my work.” Garity has been amazed at how quickly the art community, and everyone else, has jumped on the “online bandwagon.” 

“You could spend all day just watching free webinars and tutorials as various teachers take the opportunity to introduce themselves and generously offer something of value,” she says.

Painting Process – Beginning Stages, Laura Hopkins

Jessica Wilson, another artist represented by AiM, mostly focuses on landscape paintings, but also finds allure in architecture and figurative works. “No matter what the source, my choice of subject lies in the geometry and structure of things,” Wilson says, “During this time of quarantine, I feel a door has opened to observe and discover more. Watching winter turn into the brilliance of spring is a reminder that mankind has the same will and determination. In its own way, the pandemic is forcing us to adapt and use what’s at hand.” 

Then there is Laura Hopkins, a local artist inspired by the rolling hills, open country, and stone walls of Middleburg. “Much of my work is inspired by the American Tonalists of the 19th century, whose moody and atmospheric landscapes were popular in the decades between the Civil War and World War I,” she says, “Their paintings of fields, pastures, and marshes in the soft light of dawn and twilight are thought to have brought solace to the nation in the years following the Civil War.”

In the Studio, Jill Garity

Hopkins tells us that despite these uncertain times, she still strives “to capture the mood and emotion of a scene that offers the viewer a respite from the difficult realities we all face.” During this time of quarantine, she’s been spending more time in the field drawing and painting. She adds, “Without the pressure to paint for upcoming shows, I’ve had the opportunity to renew my studies of the historic Tonalists. I’m taking part in an online landscape drawing class at the Landscape Atelier, and as a result, am drawing in graphite, charcoal, and pen and ink as part of my process.  I’m also painting many small oil studies that allow me to explore compositions and color harmonies. The drawings and small studies inspire larger works.”

“Approaching Storm,” Jill Garity

Despite the adversity this quarantine and pandemic have presented, it’s truly inspiring to see what local artists are doing to further their practice, become better artists, learn new techniques, and most importantly, continue to see the beauty of this world in a time of darkness. 

“We’ve seen entire communities come out to sing and play instruments from their balconies. Art never loses its power to communicate and bring people together,” Wilson says. ML

This article first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.