In Response: Jacqueline Surdell



Studio View


Do you think art matters during a crisis?

I believe art plays a critical role in society. In times of crisis even more so. Particularly when the crisis is microscopic with massive, life altering consequences. We see the disastrous and terrifying results of this disease and the only advisable action, stay home and do nothing, is paralyzing. Art can show that we are not alone. That we are seen and heard and that there are reasons to go on. It’s hard to know how to go about the tiny ups and downs of everyday life when answers about the future do not exist. But I have to believe that just making an effort is important. And my effort takes the form of making art.



Works in-process


How is the crisis changing your practice?

We’ll see … I fear we are just as the beginning of this crisis (and crisis simila). I hope to be able to continue making art to help and work through these current and potential traumas. I am working on new bodies of work influenced by where we are now and where we might be going. Or, rather, about coming to terms with anxiety and overwhelming ambiguity.



Charybdis / 2019 / braided cotton cord, enamel, stain, 84 inch barbell / 74 x 75 inches


Do you work with others in your practice, or as an educator? How has this changed?

I really miss the people. While the making of my work is not collaborative, I see the way in which art fosters community through the behind-the-scenes labors of making, organizing, and installing art exhibitions as collaborative. This is changing drastically. I’m used to seeing members of the arts community out and about at openings, friends coming to the studio, others reaching out to visit the studio. All that has stopped. Independent arts administrators and curators have been laid off and their projects cancelled. Large scale place events such as shows, lectures, and studio visits have been cancelled. All these essential components of the arts ecosystem, cancelled. Without these people and without these events the fabric of what we’re doing feels at risk. This sudden lack worries me.



Studio View

What are you doing to adapt?


I am MILKING social media for all it’s worth. I’m hosting virtual studio visits through Instagram and have met some amazing people. I talk on the phone with at least 5 people almost every day — on my way to the studio, in the studio, and on my way home. Just to check in. Eventually I hope to start a virtual critique group.



Delicate / 2020 / braided cotton cord, enamel, stain, 84 inch barbell / 60 x 72 inches


Do you think the meaning of your work will change in the context of this crisis?

Yes .. but I’m not entirely sure how at this moment. All I know is that we are so far from where we were in January 2020. I feel like the meaning of my work has to change in some way.


Jacqueline Surdell Artist Page