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Exhibiting During a Pandemic: An Artist Reflects

“It gave me a sense of hope and that my circle of support was widening at a time when we were all feeling increased isolation.”

By Laura Kamian McDermott

In Summer of 2019 I dropped off my “Studio Ceiling, Giant Trade Center” tapestry at the Richmond Art Center for their annual Members Exhibition. I was elated to hear from the curator on the eve of the opening that this tapestry had earned me a 3-person exhibition to be held in the Summer of 2020!  The other artists chosen were Steven Morales, a Richmond-based mixed-media artist who is influenced by materials and themes in his architecture practice, and Oakland-based ceramicist and painter Leslie Plato Smith whose work focuses on climate issues.

Leslie, Steven and I started having rotating potluck dinners at each other’s houses to get to know each other better and talk art. In January of 2020 Amy Spencer, the RAC Exhibitions Director, came to our studios to choose work for the summer show. Then came March 2020…

Throughout the shutdown, all four of us kept in touch, checking in on each other, our families, our art practices, and how we were all coping. It was comforting to have these brand-new connections in my life. It gave me a sense of hope and that my circle of support was widening at a time when we were all feeling increased isolation. Big thanks to Amy, Leslie, and Steven for staying in touch!

Fast forward to Fall 2021… We are cautiously entering better times!  The galleries at the Richmond Art Center are now open and they are offering some in-person classes in addition to the online classes they hosted throughout the pandemic.  Our show, now titled “Opossum Magic,” based on an opossum trapped in Leslie’s studio, is one of 4 shows on display during this tender moment of reopening.  The theme of our show centers on our shared use of materials and inspirations from our everyday life in our creative work.  My “Jagged Skyline of Car Keys” series, based on keys from my junk drawer, is on display as well as several other tapestries. Also included is a large-scale felted I-Cord (knitted tube), hung in the abstract gesture and knotted shape that the felting process helped set it into. I also updated my Armenian Alphabet series, spelling out some new words related to our shared pandemic experience and re-opening: “Breath, shunch”, “Community, hamaynk”, and “Connection, kap.”  My work is interspersed with Leslie and Steven’s throughout the gallery. All our works are full of rich textures and vivid colors, a great celebration for the RAC’s re-opening!  We were able to hold a Covid19-friendly reception on October 16th, making use of the outdoor courtyard. It very nearly felt like a normal reception and was so good for the soul. Thank you Care and Dance for coming out! Throughout the show I’ve been meeting friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen in over two years, at the gallery for intimate small group visits. It has been a sweet and hopeful way to re-gather. As of this writing, two of the key skyline pieces have sold from the RAC show, and I’ve also sold a few pieces off of my website and Instagram earlier in the year. Priorities shifted during the past couple of years, and I’m glad to see personal art purchases bringing joy and comfort into people’s homes.

Opossum Magic is on display through November 18th.  I hope those of you who are nearby get a chance to see it in person!  Let me know if you are planning a visit, I’m 10 minutes away and may be able to meet you. And check out the three other exhibits while you are there:

Time and Again, Rigo 23’s large scale sculptural tribute to Leonard Peltier: https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/time-and-again/

Summer Rites, Richmond Youth Photographers: https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/summer-rites/

Works From Home, Richmond Art Center Student Showcase: https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/student-showcase/


Laura Kamian McDermott wrote this piece for the Tapestry Weavers West newsletter. Thank you for sharing it with us also, Laura! tapestryweaverswest.org

Top Image: Leslie Smith (left), Steven Morales (center), and Laura Kamian McDermott (right) at Richmond Art Center. Note, masks were temporarily removed for this photo. Please wear your mask at RAC. 🙂

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