Many Artists Began Painting Outside During the Pandemic—And They Might Never Go Back

Dodie Kanzanjian, Vogue Magazine, September 15, 2021

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I stopped going to my studio for several months,” says Patricia Treib, a Brooklyn-based painter of subtle, melodic, poetic abstractions. “Just traveling the 20 minutes on the train or the 30 minutes on foot seemed perilous at the time. I brought materials to my apartment, but it was difficult to concentrate. Eventually, I began to work outside at various parks in Brooklyn, and it was more of a meditative activity. For several months during the pandemic, painting outdoors was my only means of



Treib had worked in parks before—she and her best friend, artist Aliza Nisenbaum, had painted each other’s portraits in 2015 in Fort Greene Park. And as it happened, another portrait project turned into an outside adventure once the pandemic limited her movements. Patricia Treib’s former student, Heidi Howard, had planned to paint Treib’s portrait in her Long Island City studio. But when gentrification drove the artists out of the building and then COVID struck, Treib suggested to Howard that they all meet and paint in Prospect Park. “It was such a beautiful day, with the blooming trees,” says Howard, who painted Treib that day. (She often does her portraits in a single three- or four-hour sitting.) “I loved being in the park, discussing ways of seeing as a shared experience, without the baggage of the studio. Sometimes the art world can become too self-­reflexive, so actually experiencing the pleasure of sun and flowers together is very important.”


“I had been making small, abstract, nature-inspired paintings in my studio for many years, but when the pandemic hit things started to shift—I felt the need to paint from direct observation,” says Brooklyn-based Lumin Wakoa. “I walked through the cemetery near my house every day with my two daughters, since all the playgrounds were closed. Each day there were at least three tractors digging graves. Refrigerated trucks were parked around the block at the hospital to store all the dead. On the other hand, spring was beautiful, and somehow it was easier to pay attention to this, with the city so still and silent. I started painting and sketching in the cemetery on small 8-by-10 canvases. I’d forgotten how exciting and intuitive that was. For me, painting from life is incredibly freeing.”

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