An upcoming “Shelter in place” measure was announced in Manhattan on March 20, 2020, three days after France started its “Confinement”. Sheltering would ensure protection against infection from the coronavirus.
Starting on March 12th, the opera, theaters and museums, and then the High Line – a frequent source of inspiration for my work -, gradually announced that they would remain closed until further notice. Actually, already the previous week, many Manhattanites had started to voluntarily limit their outings, including me.
As a result, my artistic activity changed. Staying at home made me turn inwards and re-examine past work through my watercolor sketchbooks, voyaging around my room, à la Xavier de Maistre.
First, a reflection and work on the garden theme in preparation for exhibitions planned for the spring which I did not realize would be postponed or even canceled. And then the start of a big project on immigration.
Obviously aware of the eerie outside reality, I started looking out of my window again and painted what I could see from my studio: people queuing to enter the grocery store downstairs, or the building under construction right across the street where the work had stopped and which crows had invaded.
Rare outings allowed some quick watercolors which I reproduced in oil paintings, illustrating the loneliness and desolation of the abandoned city, the deserted parks, luxury urban developments turned gym grounds, the rare masked passers-by, closed hotels, or health care workers wearing their personal protection equipment.
This introspective journey led me to a self-portrait, as testimony of the exceptional period we were going through.
As for most confined people, meals had become extremely important, to be celebrated as moments of beauty. For breakfast, every day, using small plates, I constructed an appetizing dish of yoghurt decorated with fresh fruit, the composition of which varied according to my food reserves.
64 small paintings make up this self-portrait, corresponding to the 64 days of my confinement, which lasted from March 16 to May 18, when I left for France. The paintings are juxtaposed to form a visually pleasing portrait, and not in a purely chronological order. Colors decided of the placement of each one of the pieces. The fruit arrangements are seen from above, looking like flowers, and evoking cornucopia, the symbol of endless abundance and nourishment, the daily promise of a plentiful tomorrow. In the tradition of a 17th century vanitas, one of the flower plates features the coronavirus crown, a reminder of the fragility of such abundance.
2021 brought a different feeling to living in Manhattan. While 2020 had been about SOLITUDE, walking around the city and painting it in 2021 revealed a great RESILIENCE. Paintings show a more discreet presence of the pandemic. It can be very subtle, such as people wearing protective masks.