The art world may be on lockdown, but it certainly does not stop. During this unprecedented time, we’re checking in with art-world professionals, collectors, and artists to get a glimpse into how they are working from home.
We recently caught up with curator Cecilia Alemani, the newly announced artistic director of the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale and the director and chief curator of High Line Art. It’s fair to say she is probably one of the busiest people in the art world—but like many of us, she’s adjusting to a new, slower pace of life right now.
Read on to hear how she’s doing research for the 2021 Venice Biennale on Skype and trying to limit her screen time at the same time.
Where is your new “office”?
In the bedroom of a house in Connecticut.
Cecilia Alemani’s home office. Image courtesy Cecilia Alemani.
What are you working on right now (and were any projects interrupted by the lockdown)?
I am working in the High Line as we figure out the new season, and I am working on the Venice Biennale—so reading a lot, and doing virtual studio visits.
How has your work changed now that you are doing it from home?
Well, for the High Line, it meant that we had to interrupt the physical installation, as the park is closed to the public. We are also working on the next round of proposals for the High Line Plinth, which is something we can do remotely.
For Venice, the main difference is that I cannot travel for a few months, so I had to readjust to the reality of doing dozens of studio visits via Skype every week.
Simone Leigh, Brick House, one of the recent High Line Art installations. Photo courtesy of the High Line.
2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for serving
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek yogurt, for serving
Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in plenty of water, at least 6 hours.
When you are ready to make the stew, drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse them well. Leaving them in the colander, dust the chickpeas with the baking soda (which serves as a tenderizer) and then toss them to incorporate the baking soda, using your hands. Let the chickpeas sit for 30 minutes and then rinse them very well, 3 or 4 times, in order to remove all the baking soda.
Place the chickpeas in large, heavy pot filled with enough water to barely cover them. Bring the chickpeas to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes. The chickpeas will start to give off a white froth. Skim this 2 or 3 times, and then don’t worry about it.
Mina Stone’s “Spicy Chickpea Stew. Courtesy of Cooking for Artists.
Cover and simmer until the chickpeas are very tender but not falling apart, about 30 to 40 more minutes. Meanwhile, generously drizzle some olive oil into a medium sauté pan. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapeño or serrano pepper to the pan. Sauté over medium-high heat until everything is just starting to soften, about a minute or two. Add a generous pinch of salt and then add the bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander, hot red pepper flakes, and chopped parsley. Sauté the onion mixture until it is soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and stir, cooking sauce for another 5 minutes.
When the chickpeas are done, remove enough of the cooking water so that the top layer of chickpeas is dry (think 2 inches of water below the chickpeas). Add the onion/tomato mixture to the chickpeas and give a good stir. There should be just enough liquid to barely cover the top of the chickpeas; add more water if necessary. Simmer for about 30 minutes so that all the ingredients meld together. Let the stew cool for a few minutes and then add cup olive oil, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. Serve with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of parsley in every bowl.
This 500-year-old rock art is among the rarest in the world. Found at a site called Yilbilinji near northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria—and depicting a humanlike figure holding a boomerang (right), surrounded by more boomerangs—it’s a type of stenciling that involved creating miniature outlines of humans, tools, and other shapes. Similar, much older mini-stencils have been found elsewhere in Australia and around the world. Now, scientists think they know how ancient people made them.
Australia’s Aboriginal populations have been creating rock art for at least 44,000 years. Typically when stenciling, the artist held their hand or other object up to the rock and sprayed pigmented liquid onto it, leaving behind a life-size negative on the wall.
But the red-rock overhang at Yilbilinji features much smaller figures: 17 minihumans, boomerangs, and geometric patterns—all too tiny to have been modeled after a painter’s hand or a real object. One of the new study’s co-authors remembered seeing Aboriginal people using beeswax as a kind of clay for making children’s toys resembling cattle and horses. Might the ancient rock artists have used beeswax to form stencils?
Working with representatives of the local Indigenous Marra people, the researchers attempted to replicate the ancient art using only materials native to the region. By heating and molding beeswax, sticking it to the rock, and spraying it with a white-pigment paint, they managed to produce rock art exceptionally similar to the originals found at Yilbilinji, they report today in Antiquity.
The miniature art may have served a spiritual or ritualistic purpose, the researchers note. Or, they suggest, because many of these stencils are positioned relatively low on the rocky overhang, it may have just been child’s play, the ancient equivalent to children scribbling on the walls.
Weiss is a Rural and Suburban Mail Carrier with Canada Post and he has been working since the Covid-19 virus was first detected.
“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stops the mail from being delivered,” Weiss said.
You could also add ‘virus’ to his statement.
Weiss delivers to the communities of the Peaks of Grassi, Mineside, Homesteads and Prospect Point. People depend on their mail even more than before the virus disrupted normal routines.
“I’ve definitely been much busier during the pandemic,” Weiss said. “My parcel delivery is up almost 40 percent for this time of year increasing the workload to Christmas-like volume. This is probably due to all the online ordering of goods during the lockdown.”
Working through the -30 C cold snaps of the last few winters has been challenging though, he said.
The thought of taking a break from work now because of the coronavirus hasn’t crossed his mind.
“I’m not worried about the virus or getting sick due to the low numbers in the Bow Valley,” Weiss said. “And being equipped with the proper PPE and taking all necessary precautions.”
He is outside for most of his workday and happy to be there, he said.
“I love this job as it lets me be outside getting exercise and interacting with the community,” Weiss said. “I’ve been doing it for almost two years.”
The community has been appreciative that he is still on the job.
“People have been awesome to me during this time,” Weiss said. “Very thankful and supportive that we are still delivering their letter mail and packages during a time when they have limited access to the town and its services.”
The community mailboxes can fit a wide variety of parcels, he said.
“What does not fit I gladly hand deliver to customers’ doors to ensure they receive their goods,” Weiss said.
It’s been business as usual with not much downtime at the job. And the typical stereotype of dogs versus mail carriers does not apply, he said.
“I love cats and dogs and I am always happy to have interaction with them while working,” Weiss said. “Never had any bad experiences with them.”
When he isn’t working, he skateboards, snowboards, mountain bikes and tries to keep up with his cross fit workouts, despite the gym being closed for the time being, Weiss said.
“I started skateboarding in the early 70’s skateboard boom and rode my board to school in Calgary at elementary, junior high, and high school,” Weiss said. “I recall getting chased by teachers down the hallways while riding it back in my younger years. Carving and grinding the bowls in Canmore and Banff is a passion of mine that will never die. Both parks are killer and open now and I hit them whenever I have the time and weather permits. I’ve made countless friends skating at them over the years.”
Weiss carries the nickname Snaketrick, because of the boa constrictor cowboy boots he wore in high school. But he doesn’t mind if you call him that.
“I feel very fortunate to live and work in Canmore as it lets me pursue all the outdoor sports that I love,” Weiss said.
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