An Artist’s View of Quarantine
by Courtney Cerniglia
“Family Life During a Pandemic”
Artist Leif Larson
While we all went into a period of quarantine, many of us felt disruptions in our work. As many industries and employees were negatively affected, I was curious how the artists in our area were doing. Were they still able to create? What did quarantine look like for them? What happens when you can’t leave your tiny box to seek inspiration? What happens to your work when your emotions are spiraling in this unprecedented time?
One of my favorite local artists, Leif Larson, continued to publish work during quarantine. The images he cast onto the canvas were so relatable that I had to speak with him about his experience. I really wanted to know how he kept motivated to keep creating and how he made space to be inspired in a world of uncertainty.
You’ve seen Leif’s work on McFleshman’s beer can labels and in the Red Lion Hotel with his mural installation. During quarantine, he published “Family Life During A Pandemic.” When you look at this piece, you can feel the energy emitting from it. The family seems in constant movement, in organized chaos.
I enjoy the fact this is a snapshot of a family amidst chaos, all centered in one room. Leif described that he was sitting in the kitchen one day and took a moment to pause and take in what was happening in one room. Kids at the table trying to do classwork, Mom checking in – work headset on – making sure everyone is doing as they’re supposed to, and Dad spinning in a million directions trying to keep the home in order. It’s just so relatable for families during the shutdown.
Leif’s process has always centered around observations like this. Quiet and contemplative, he’s used to the solitude that quarantine provided. After a few weeks of initial chaos, he was able to get back to his observation mindset and take note of what was happening around him.
For many, the quarantine period seemed like this “great pause” and for Leif, he had trained his mind already to focus on pausing and observing to enrich and inspire his work. Family life in quarantine is just one of those moments captured in quarantine life.
The other that seems to resonate is “Solitude #3.” In this painting, you can feel the eeriness yet calm of night, the winding down hour. Leif explained this moment where he went out before bed with the garbage and he paused to take in his surroundings. It was so quiet. Everyone was tucked in their homes. Leif noticed this moment in time that is rare and allowed it to inspire him.
The ability to keep an open mind during all the craziness life is providing right now is something to be learned from Leif. As an artist already focused on being in the present moment, it seems his art was a way to release thoughts and emotions related to what’s around him. Maybe we all should take a few minutes to sit back and sketch what’s happening around us?
Stay tuned for Leif’s upcoming collection on our relationship with physical space this fall at the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, or visit leiflarson.com.