Alexander Shundi

During the pandemic, when time left. 

When the pandemic hit, the prospect of being safe and keep living became an obvious goal. Staying in the house-studio without the usual “escapades” to dinner parties, work in NY, etc. was a necessity, but a challenge that was almost welcomed. Why? Perhaps it forced, or, as it turned out, welcomed a total immersion in my art, in food exploration, in studying what interests me, normally related to art. My wife, ditto. The phone-Zoom-emails sufficed to keep communication enough with family, friends, and students. The thought that so many people were in my same condition was warm and cuddly, with zero guilt in feeling that way. 

I taught art history and drawing, gave consultations, and lectured all on zoom, with a big tablet, and glasses of wine. And the company of my cat. Comfortable, at first dubious, but trepidations slowly dissolved to become an easy habit. 

The studio was my divine imprisonment, the place where fantasy and craft, discipline and passion, chaos and order, intellect and intuition all invited me to a feast, and to explore and experiment. No pain in the ass appointments, no interruptions, no need to procrastinate, but just swim in that miasmatic art making, effortlessly, continuously, harmoniously. 

The house we live in, an 1852 church, is totally filled, and I mean totally, with objects of interest, collections of masks and Amerindian stuff, from floor to ceiling, but strategically, beautifully. Furniture from my childhood in Italy and some bought in Syria, or Egypt, or Iran, or Peru etc., much long ago when I was rallying off the road, racing all over, from Spain to India, Nepal and Afghanistan. I say all that because all these objects, being beautiful and interesting, serve as constant inspiration, with concrete memories and intriguing stories. Meanwhile, all this pleasure and involvement was punctuated with a constant drum beat of death announcements, danger, struggles and insane political games. But all framed with the pleasures of studying for my lectures, and painting, from early morning to night, a paradisiacal involvement while contradictions ruled my soul. 

Upstairs in the studio, I am just finishing the 12th (36”x36”) painting of the Zodiac accompanied by food. So, here’s the "Covid count”: since March of last year, I made 51 paintings and 16 drawings. BUT, what a strange situation, just standing there with a furry stick in my hands dreaming and realizing the illusions, lassoing imagination and dragging it on a canvas, almost mechanically, intuitively, no strategy of relevance or judgement as to their “place” in the art world, but done in a frenzy of release, ideas flooding in to be swept on a canvas, inevitably demanding more. I actually felt like an automaton just fulfilling the desires of some abstract specter that somehow controlled me, outside of who I am, like acting through strings played by a mysterious puppeteer. Let’s hope it was the Muse, and not just some goof-ball. So, the garden is overflowing with magnificent flowers, the grandchildren are growing in size and whimsy, my wife is knocking out fantastic paintings, the birds-concert is constant and magic. This strange, wonderfully confined period of pesky content, with time dissolving and at times totally disappearing and being so aware of the insanity “out-there” is coming to an end. What it added to my experiences is more than interesting, a period filled with contradictions, with paranoia and joy, with impossible desires and sad commemorations, with unfulfillable wishes and so much love. All that and the chance of discovering so much. 

And art, the indescribable joy and struggles of it, magnified, revealed, accepted and honored.