Like a lot of people, I haven’t been leaving home much the last two or three months. Fortunately, I have had things to keep myself busy, not the least of which has been working on a show (now tentatively scheduled for November 2020). I also have no lack of books and music lying around; I can watch Citizen Kane, Don’t Look Back, or Rear Window; and there’s always Jeopardy! and reruns of Murphy Brown.

Theoretically, it’s been ideal for me – I’m at home, have a lot of time to paint and next to no obligations outside my four walls. However, for someone who even under normal circumstances spends a lot of time at home, I do miss going out. Different environments allow my mind to go in different directions; I’m often writing notes for prospective paintings while at a café or the laundromat, ideas often coalesce while I’m just walking around. As much as my painting reflects my interior life, the world outside also contributes to how I work. So, while I’ve had more time to paint, my process has been disrupted. Add this to the stress and general sense of dread I’ve felt during this time – I wouldn’t say I’ve been depressed, but I haven’t been sleeping well, an emotional toll has definitely been taken – and I’ve probably not done much more work than I would have ordinarily, despite having had quite a bit more time to do it.

Often, when I start working on a show, people will ask if I have a theme. I never do, although after I’ve finished several pieces, a through line which links at least some of the work will often present itself. This has not happened – I believe my thought process has been more disjointed, less fluid; as a result, working on one piece hasn’t led directly to an idea for another, as is usually the case.

What affect this will have on the finished show has yet to be seen. We’ll find out together.

Ross Bleckner is a contemporary New York artist whose work I’ve admired since 1983. I remember seeing a magazine article (I think it was in Art in America) about his Weather series and being intrigued by what I saw – abstract quasi-landscape meditations on light and shadow. A few years later, I read about his dark, obscured interiors with chandeliers, urns, and flowers, which evoked loss and mourning in the age of the AIDS crisis. It was these paintings which convinced me Bleckner was someone I should watch, and I have been following his career since then.

Over the years, stripes, domes, birds, dots, flowers, and other imagery have appeared and re-appeared in Bleckner’s work, which straddles the representational/non-representational line. In the late 1990s, he started a series of Cell paintings which are simultaneously realist and completely abstract. Although he has referenced many different styles and movements during his career, he has never fit into any one box – he is on his own path. I’ve only seen a handful of his actual pieces, but he is an artist I hold in very high esteem.

The last several weeks, I’ve thought about Bleckner often, as every time I see an image of the coronavirus, it reminds me of his Cell paintings, which he started the year his father died of cancer. Bleckner is known for the elegiac feel of much of his work; it all seems to fit.

During this trying time, please stay home, be good to each other, be safe, and, as your mother told you, wash your hands. This too shall pass. I hope.