EXIT 2020

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday December 30, 2020

“May you live in interesting times.” This pandemic year has proved, without doubt, that the ancient Chinese curse is ripe for an update. As we exit a year that has left its mark on everyone, reflecting on how we adapt in a world where change is beyond exponential is unavoidable. So I looked at the opening weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown to see how the arrival of the fittest began. 

Clearly the shutdown of events during the normally busy art fair season would alter the nature and content of DART. In taking a closer look at what subscribers were doing to maintain their art practices and find ways of reaching out across seemingly impenetrable distances—literally and virtually—was exciting and inspiring. Features on books became more regular, including the shelves on which they rest, as subscribers began to show off their own collections. Following is a sampling of how it began. Photos above: @peggy.roalf

Week Two of LockdownIn the interest of public health concerns regarding COVID-19, this week’s DART Board offers a menu of online exhibitions and books rather than a list of public events. Many of this week’s events have been canceled or postponed, especially those presented by educational institutions, so the standard offering would be a hit-or-miss mess.


Week ThreeFor anyone born after 1996, or new to New York City, prepare yourself for the kind of resourcefulness that rose to the front after 9/11. The kindness and reaching out that seemed to come out of nowhere has become somewhat ingrained in the social fabric of this city. Following is a sample of how people and businesses are carrying on—big time—in the age of COVID-19. Above: Jacob Lawrence, from The Great Migration. Watch human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson speak about the power of art to communicate justice, here


Week 7Maria Santto, one of my students in the full-time Photojournalism/Documentary Program at ICP back in the day, wrote in to share her lockdown experience:
“A State of Emergency was declared in Finland on the 18th of March 2020. We haven't had a  situation this extreme since the Second World War. I think that since the COVID 19 crisis was declared a pandemic, life has been weird, lonely and isolated. We are all in this together, except we are not together at all. …Every isolation is so very different….Finland is a country where solitude is regarded as something natural and “you must survive on your own” is unfortunately embedded in the DNA of most Finns. It's been a month since I've hugged anyone. Photo above © Maria Santto


James Luna: Take A Picture With A Real Indian, scheduled to open at Garth Greenan Gallery tomorrow, has been cancelled. But you can view the artist's searing takedown of institutionalized racism here. You can read James Luna's piece, "I've Always Wanted to be an American Indian in Aperture 139, Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices, which I edited in 1995.


Week Nine: In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, written during a period of social and political unrest following the French Revolution, William Blake states, "You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” Blake regarded Hell as a place of opportunity for unrepressed, Dionysian energy. He explained, “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.” These thoughts came to mind with the landing of Skarstedt Gallery’s Viewing Room feature today: Eric Fischl’s newest work, American Hula, detail above, inspired by The Colossus, attributed to Francesco Goya. Info

Week ten of lockdown began with sunshine, cleaner air, and colder than usual for the unofficial start of summer. In a surreal moment of clarity I realized that all who are working from home are unwittingly participating in a revolution. Stranger still, I realized this is a negative revolution, as if we are shifting from having electricity to not having electricity. It seems that this particular revolution has been rumbling along without the kind of watchdogs that usually gather for such moments. That is until Naomi Klein identified “Coronavirus Capitalism” as a potential threat to democracy, in The Intercept. More

She wrote, “The Trump administration and other governments around the world are busily exploiting the crisis to push for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts and regulatory rollbacks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is moving to repeal financial regulations that were introduced after the last major financial meltdown, as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. China, for its part, is indicating that it will relax environmental standards to stimulate its economy, which would wipe out the one major benefit the crisis has produced so far: a marked drop in that country’s lethal air pollution’…. But as this video shows (above), many are already pushing back — and that story hasn’t been written yet.” Follow the story here

For me, the lockdown was not as strange as it might have been because I work from home anyway. But this pandemic was so frightening that it caused me to amp up my art making practice. My theory was that if I were constantly involved in the work, it would cut down on time spent thinking about what I could not change. It worked in the sense that I had four major accomplishments during 2020 that I probably never would have even gone for otherwise. 

One was teaching a course on professional development I had originally created for International Center of Photography. I was invited to teach it online for Sculptors Alliance; thanks to its president Marco Palli. And I am proud to say that I’ll be teaching it again in February. Info. Thanks, Marco!

Another is the Covid Journal project I did in collaboration with subscriber Gio Alberti, who lives in Trieste. We decided to post drawings five times a week on Instagram, serving as one another’s art director. It began on March 24th and lasted for just about two months. Info Thanks, Gio!


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