Art and Aestheticism Amidst the Pandemic
By Liliana Lopez
A candle. A wax seal, ink, and fountain pen. A Grecian bust and a pair of Victorian tintypes. For the umpteenth time, I’ve purchased random pretty items on Etsy to add to my collection of antique decor. I’m not the only one. Over the course of the last seven months, many people have been unable to participate in activities that they love, such as sports, travel, or concerts. We’ve had to stay inside, often with little or no opportunity for diversion. As the months of social distancing have stretched over more and more pages of the calendar, many people have decided to learn a new creative skill, or to make, buy, and sell items that are aesthetically pleasing. In March, Instagram was flooded with people posting their baking, and by June everyone was redecorating their room or fixing up their garden. Something had shifted.
Why? Lisa Cooperman, Pacific’s University Curator, says that “Aestheticism…may have an uplifting message and satisfy the maker’s desire to create…. I also think it stems from a desire to control the materials of our everyday world when so much else is out of control.” Before, we were busy, doing errands and chores in and out of the house, concerning ourselves with tasks that took our attention away from the physical spaces around us. Now, the walls look bland, or you’ve had that same Star Wars bedspread since middle school. Or maybe all our hands are just itching to be doing something busy again, so we take up photography, illustration, or sewing (stores like Walmart or JoAnn’s have been out of sewing machines for months. I know. I checked already.).
Students are not alone in finding new creative hobbies. Pacific has also hosted a number of virtual events dedicated to making art, and encouraging creativity among our community. Kaelani Valdez-Nawatani, Studio Art and Art History, ’21 has seen “many people set up virtual workshops, open mics, exhibitions and so much more in both the Pacific community and the greater Stockton areas.” She herself has created art that is inspired by the coronavirus, and has displayed it in virtual art shows. Both Cooperman and Valdez-Nawatani believe that art can bring people together and can help them cope with the situations at hand, a sentiment that they have described using words such as safe, gentle, impassioned, and silly.
While engaging in art, creativity, and aestheticism will not make the pandemic end, it will certainly make the wait sweeter to the palate. Buy that print. Or make one. Get rid of the old Star Wars bedspread. Or upcycle it. Nothing is barred in beauty.