by Kat Ryals
Things are more or less the same for me. As a small business owner, my days were already spent at home, isolated behind a laptop, sometimes even going entire days without leaving my workspace. As both an artist and entrepreneur, I am particularly good at working long periods of time alone, without taking many breaks (my typical work days are 10-12 hours). However, in the last few months I’ve been learning to pause and take breaks, go on walks, look through old photos, etc and just enjoy more moments. I’d say my coping mechanism is just keeping busy and continuing to work as I had been. Another is having my “eye on the prize” – once I have finished or nearly finished some projects with the gallery, I’m planning to take a break from my work-work and get into my home studio. So that has pushed me to get through the days so that I can reward myself with personal time. While the pandemic brings a special new blend of stress, anxiety, and dread I have not yet experienced, the upside for me is that I’m feeling more productive than usual. Often, my day to day work is cut because of all the running around – for social & professional events, errands, etc. Since this is no longer part of my day to day, I spend more time getting work done, and actually begin to cross things off my list. It feels I’m finally catching up – peeling away at old built up layers. So I don’t really mind the lack of socializing because the running around added a different kind of stress to my life pre-COVID19. Before all of this, it felt like I was drowning a bit – like I had overloaded my life. Now I’m feeling that I’m starting to surface and begin to swim. But then… I’m not sure where I’m going or how long I’ll be able to stay afloat. I think that’s the best way to describe this newfound “gray zone” many of us are in.
Because all of our exhibitions with the gallery have been postponed, and because we are wrapping up 2 months work of intense marketing, rebranding, re-strategizing, launching new online initiatives etc etc, I’m now starting to get back to my own artwork. Today is the first day since end of February that I will go into my studio. Before February, the last time I worked consecutively in my studio was August, when I was at ChaNorth. I’m more excited than ever to get into my studio, because it feels like I might actually be able to get somewhere for the first time in years. My practice involves a lot of just playing around & experimenting, research (I have books on books on books), and then just sitting and spending the time assembling, sewing, and photographing. Quick bursts in the studio, during the “in between times” have never served me well because my process is a time consuming one. While I miss my family, friends, going out, and traveling(!!) so much – I am grateful for a pause. I have always put everything before my art, until there’s nothing left to give. Now there’s not as much to prioritize in front of it. All the thoughts and project ideas banging around in my head for months, even years, may finally find a way out in coming months. It’s at least giving me something to look forward to during these uncertain times, and it’s certainly keeping me motivated day to day.
Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Kat Ryals is a Brooklyn-based artist, curator, and photographer. Ryals received a BFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA & Adv. Certificate in Museum Education from Brooklyn College. Her work largely examines the enchantment of ornamentation & special effects and seeks to understand the relationship between power and illusion. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to her artistic practice, creating lens based and digital works, 3D objects, wearables, and installations. She is the co-founder of the arts platform Paradice Palase based out of Brooklyn, NY.
Featured photo: Kat Ryals from “Horror Vacui” curated by Valery Jung Estabrook, SpringBreak Art Show 2020.