Corona Journal: Bettina Blohm fom New York
We asked artists around the world, who are close to Haus am Waldsee through exhibitions, what their situation is like at the moment.
The German painter Bettina Blohm (*1961) studied at the Munich Art Academy in the early 1980s and has lived and worked in New York since 1984. Since 2008 she has maintained a second studio in Berlin. She has exhibited at Haus am Waldsee, Bikini Berlin 2018.
Here you can read her update from 3 April 2020:
For three weeks now, I haven’t met anyone, all my communication is via email or phone. I am used to being alone, but this has taken on a whole new dimension. In the beginning there were countless phone calls “How are you, are you in New York?” – that is now becoming rarer. The events have left us speechless and our conversations turn in circles. We don’t experience anything anyway. My outside contacts are reduced to quick shopping and long walks. Fortunately, the parks are still open. In the first week one could still feel a certain lightness outside: a break from life to catch one’s breath, spending more time with the children. That has given way to grim stubbornness.
Loneliness, and especially boredom can be very good for creativity, but it is difficult to clear one’s head. I try to keep to my work rhythm and spend a lot of time in the studio. But for painting you need courage, the courage to try something new, to indulge in the unknown or even to wipe everything away. And I miss the conversation about art. The other day I talked to an artist friend on the phone about how to mix a certain green. We emailed the colors. That was the best conversation of the week. After struggling against social media for years, I am now posting on Instagram.
I don’t have to repeat the terrible news from New York, in my area in Downtown Manhattan I don’t notice much of the rage of the virus. Above all, it is quiet, a lot of people are now wearing masks, making wide circles around each other. I don’t hear any ambulances. In front of Whole Foods there is always a long line with wide spacing, they only let a few people into the shop. Almost all of my neighbors in the building are still there, I do not hear anyone, it is as if the house was deserted. We assure ourselves via email and sometimes shop for the older ones. The teenagers smoke marijuana in the basement.
And here her initial report from 19 March 2020:
The virus hit America completely unprepared. Although we have been following the events in China and then Europe for weeks, our president believed himself invulnerable, and thus of course the whole country. In a few days everything has now closed down, schools, galleries, museums, restaurants, bars. If possible, people are working from home. There is hoarding, first there was no pasta, then the canned beans were gone and now most of the durable food is sold out. In order to get hold of toilet paper, you have to be a little more clever and find out the delivery times of the respective shops. Even then there is only one package per person. At Amazon you could buy a pack for $40 yesterday.
New York, this loud, lively city is quiet. Not as quiet as it is at Christmas or Thanksgiving. People walk as if in a trance, waving to each other from a safe distance. In the days after the September 11th attack, people moved together – now they look at each other suspiciously, “how close can I get to my neighbor, ride in the same elevator with her”? But the dogs have to be walked and as the weather was springlike in the last days, many people flocked to the parks and to the Hudson River. The warning of our mayor that we should prepare for “shelter in place” sent shock waves through the lonely apartments. Those who have been able to, have long since moved to the country or the Hamptons.
I’m very lucky to be used to being alone. My studio is at my place. So my real life hasn’t changed much. By chance I had just ordered new canvases and paints and I am “provided” for. Instead of meeting people in the evening or looking at exhibitions, I now talk on the phone. Most of the people I know don’t want to see anybody except their smallest family. But it is hard to concentrate, the future is dark. Will New York survive this? The art world? My next exhibition in Berlin has been postponed, my planned trip anyway. I thought about leaving for a while, but would I come back then? Will we perhaps return to old values, get some rest? We say to ourselves: at least nature profits, it can recover a little.
But on no account get sick, because there are no test kits, no protective masks, no respirators, no hospital beds.