Art and Text by Jane Weintraub
I am an artist living in the time of COVID. Life as we know it is on pause, but my senses are not. I can still touch, taste, hear, smell and especially see. In March, my serious studio practice was put on hold as I got used to the new state of affairs – learning how to live with lock down. One of the few things that did not change were my daily walks. I have been an avid walker for years and with less to “do” my walks became one of the central foci of my days. How do I evolve as an artist when my activity in the studio is contracting?
Part of my practice as a Jew encompasses Mussar, a Jewish mindfulness practice that cultivates one’s inner life through awareness of character traits. It involves the study of middot – the tackling of virtue-based ethics. One of the first principles of this study is hitllamdut which helps one develop a stance of curiosity and openness towards all of life’s experiences. It asks us to be present and notice. I remind myself each day to really see where I am, to appreciate nuances and subtleties – to not take things for granted.
And how do I tie this practice to my daily walks – walks which always bring me sense of renewal? I set intentions and document these intentions photographically. On the days that I choose to practice this heightened awareness during my walks, I pick a subject and see how many times that topic presents itself. So far, my subjects have been primary colors, secondary colors, lines, circles/spheres, and patterns to name a few. I would then come home and make a rather crude digital collage and post it on Facebook. Even though this does not fit in with my “serious” work, it keeps me looking and when I really look I perceive the world in a creative way. I forget for the moment about my current worries and relax into what is in front of me at that moment – mindfulness at its best.