Nevada County artists discuss how COVID-19 shutdown has affected them
Scraps of Halloween costume, some chicken wire, and the fibers of 20 matchless socks — where many people see everyday objects, Grass Valley artist Juli Elin sees an opportunity to transform something into art.
Through a mixed process of dyeing, unraveling, and shredding, Elin recently turned a variety of things she already owned into a colorful, 5-foot art installation.
The piece is currently being shown in an online exhibition titled “HOME”, organized by Nevada City’s Osborn Woods Gallery and featuring 16 local artists.
Elin is no stranger to using deconstructed or repurposed items in her art, but has taken this practice to a new level since the stay-at-home order took effect.
“I don’t know if I would have used as weird materials if the shelter in place hadn’t gone into effect,” she said. “It took on even more of an importance how I could use the things in my house.”
In keeping with the online exhibition’s theme, Elin’s use of these materials represented various ties to home for her. The costume, for example, belonged to her 10-year-old son.
Elin has been making art professionally for 12 years, after earning an art degree specializing in sculpture at the University of Florida.
Living in a rural area, however, she said she’s felt disconnected at times from the major art centers found in places like Los Angeles or the Bay Area — until now.
“Now that everything is digital, and all the shows are online, I feel like I’m in the crowd with everybody else,” said Elin.
When it comes to Elin’s art business, she has made use of her online shop while at home, most recently featuring a collection of printed clothing inspired by her son’s drawings. She primarily sells wearable art, including clothing, jewelry, and headpieces.
“I was surprised that, at least with this last clothing drop, it seemed like customers were still coming,” said Elin, adding that she has felt supported by her community’s response to her creations.
Nevada City has been a place for musical growth from the very beginning for local folk singer-songwriter Davia Pratschner.
“I started out when Cafe Mekka was in town, on Commercial Street, performing at open mics in high school,” said Pratschner. “One thing led to another and I started performing with local musicians, and I found that I really loved performing.”
Now 22, Pratschner had recently been gaining momentum in playing shows with her original songs, having begun this year with plans of performing in a different place each month.
Beginning with a cancelled show in early March, and with all that has developed since, it became clear that this plan would need to be put on pause.
“I have an album that’s finished, and I wanted to put the album out and perform to promote it,” she said, explaining that she is now reworking this plan to fit current circumstances. “For me, performing is about the energy of the crowd, and it’s been interesting seeing how important it is to be with people,” she said, mentioning that this has been her main deterrent from trying out the increasingly popular avenue of virtual concerts.
Pratschner said she is considering releasing songs and even music videos regardless, but is also taking this time to refocus on the fundamentals rather than rush to share content.
In reference to how she is working on her craft in the absence of live shows, Pratschner said, “I have just been writing a lot more, I picked up my violin, and I’m practicing reading music again.”
Going only by her first name, Davia, she has released an EP and several singles online.
Her recent music, including a single released in February titled “Black Cricket”, is available through Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.
Truckee-based painter Claire Lawrenson recounted how, in a time of social distancing, a virtual coffee date with friends and fellow local artists was just what she needed to regain creative inspiration.
After feeling in low spirits for some time as stay-at-home orders began to unfold, Lawrenson said that the online gathering relaxed some pressure — particularly the drive to be productive under such unusual circumstances.
“It was interesting to talk to them about how they’re addressing it, while they’re in the same boat,” said Lawrenson. “Recently, I went back to the studio with a bit more purpose.”
Lawrenson started her business, Wild + Wistful Studio, in 2016 after becoming deeply interested in watercolor painting.
She has a line of greeting cards and sells her paintings, often taking commissions for her largely nature-centered art.
In the past, the studio’s online presence has made up a relatively small part of its business, with the bulk of Lawrenson’s sales taking place in wholesale to local shops in the Truckee, Tahoe, and Reno areas, as well as at community events such as Truckee Thursdays.
However, amid recent shop closures and an inability to gather for in-person marketplaces, online channels are becoming more essential.
“Some places are starting to explore doing online markets where they’re featuring a handful of vendors at a time,” said Lawrenson, mentioning that she is looking into options like this.
Prior to the suspension of all its scheduled events, Lawrenson also taught painting workshops at Atelier Truckee, a local shop and studio space. She commended the shop on its recent transition into an online only storefront for art supplies.
“It’s really great to be able to have that resource for art supplies and positive inspiration in town,” she said, adding that this access has allowed her to try out new creative outlets. “With a lot of people not working, I think we all feel that art is a kind of therapy, and a great thing to be working on at this time.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union.
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