Sonya Sklaroff, MFA Fine Arts ’00 and Faculty Member, Paints the Pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic began in the United States, New York City quickly became the epicenter for the virus, with strict lockdown orders that saw people turn their homes into offices and mini restaurants. People also began taking daily walks, where they undoubtedly saw paintings by Sonya Sklaroff, MFA Fine Arts ‘00 and a current faculty member, dotted around LinkNYC stands throughout the city.
Artists selected for LinkNYC campaigns often capture feelings of joy, serenity, and hope through their depictions of iconic places in New York, and Sklaroff’s “Pandemic Paintings” series was no exception. Her paintings in the campaign reflect the new normal created by the pandemic by playfully subverting daily life, as subjects are seen dancing naked on their rooftops, or exercising outdoors by taking a dip in the East River, the Manhattan Bridge illuminated in the background. Sklaroff also captured the intensity of the Black Lives Matters protests, as well as the loneliness of quarantine.
“It was thrilling for me to see my work presented on 3500 LinkNYC digital kiosks around New York City, as seven of my pieces from my new series rotated every 15 seconds flashing on these digital billboards for two weeks on street corners in all five boroughs,” explains Sklaroff. “I gained more exposure than I ever had being exhibited in a gallery or a museum. I also created a limited edition print series of two of the featured images, and donated a portion of the proceeds to City Harvest.”
Sklaroff finds inspiration in daily life, noting that her work can be about something as mundane as trying to capture what she sees in the mirror each morning, or rooted in her international travels. During quarantine, she was living with family and didn’t have access to her studio, so she set up her easel and began painting in the living room.
“During this time of isolation and fear, it felt unnatural to continue to work on the art that I had been doing in my studio previously,” said Sklaroff. “Instead I embraced new ideas that were emerging from my mind, and decided to paint them. It felt liberating because my work took on a more personal direction.”
Like many faculty members at Parsons and The New School, Sklaroff has found the pivot to remote instruction both exciting and challenging. She teaches classes live on Zoom, where her students discuss their upcoming projects, and any difficulties they may be experiencing. She also provides pre-recorded painting and drawing digital demonstrations, a valuable resource for many students that allows them to watch something as many times as they need.
“Through it all my students have continued to work on their art, which has inspired me,” said Sklaroff. “And now over this past Fall 2020 semester, I’ve watched my students persevere and ultimately adapt and thrive during this challenging time which has not ceased to astound me.”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Sklaroff is continuing her “Pandemic Paintings” series, and collaborating with different creative people to develop expressive portraits for a new body of work. She is also experimenting with new ways of creating, and regularly posts new work and behind the scenes updates to Instagram.