Many galleries are having to change how they exhibit the work of artists in the time of COVID-19. Flatlanders Sculpture Supply and Art Galleries in Blissfield, MI, is leaning into the possibilities the changes create.
Flatlanders‘ new online-only exhibit, “2020 and the Challenge to Create,” debuted July 15 on both the Flatlanders website and Facebook page. The show, which is on view indefinitely, features 26 artists presenting work in an array of disciplines. Painting. Sculpture. Quilting. Graphic design. Music videos.
“As opposed to doing just visual arts, which is predominantly what you expect from a gallery, we decided to integrate a lot of different kinds of form, because the internet allows for that,” said Toledo artist Steven J. Athanas, the curator of the exhibit.
Gallery owner Ken Thompson asked Athanas to curate two shows for him in 2020. Plans were well underway before COVID-19 changed everything.
“Ken had the idea after we realized the constraints of doing an actual gallery show, of doing an online show,” Athanas said.
“He suggested it, and I mulled it over and said, ‘You know, this could be fun.'”
The result is an eclectic mix of work that coalesces around the idea of creativity in isolation. How does an artist adapt to a time where the world he or she reflects closes off to them? Athanas argues that solitude can help a creator focus.
“Having this time alone— or as alone as compared to a pandemic— I think it helps the artist. It does get a little crazy, the isolation— and I’m speaking broadly for all of us who are abiding with this stuff.”
A variety of styles
A long-respected artist himself, Athanas has contributed three pieces to the show— two unique pieces of sculpture and a watercolor painting. But the work on virtual display goes far beyond what you’d expect in a gallery show. Graphic designer Penny Collins submitted several single-panel comic strips. Poet Joel Lipmon has contributed three visual poems. Songs by several musicians feature, including My Kid Brother, featuring Athanas’ own son, Sam.
“The artists will have their information on there, so if people are interested in a purchase, they can get in touch with the artist,” Steven said.
The show has rolled out in installments, with the last batch added on July 31. On the Flatlanders website, viewers can take in videos spotlighting the work, featuring comments from each artist. On the Facebook page, they can view each piece’s images at their own pace.
“The one on the Facebook page, you have the option of clicking to full screen, you have the artist’s name, and the medium, and the price is on there too,” Athanas said.
“With the video, you basically have to put it on pause if you want to look at it longer than the image is allotted.”
The flexibility available to both artists and viewers in this new environment is something that Athanas said he hopes virtual attendees will take away from the show.
“I think that what they’ll see is that there is another alternative to viewing art,” he said. “I like the idea that there is something that people can, in the comfort of their home, or if they’re cheating at work or something, they can look at it.
“The variety is also something. I mean, a gallery is prone to keeping to visual arts, 2D and 3D work. But this is another way of looking at it and seeing it through a different sort of lens.”