My Corona Escape Painting

Translated into English by Alex Brown

In March 2020 I was in British Columbia. There on the little island of Salt Spring, I had a fellowship as an artist in residence.

My apartment, equipped with its own studio, was situated directly on the harbor of the small town of Ganges. I had my own wooden deck and could see seaplanes taking off and landing. I watched seals, sea-otters, and a number of birds of prey.

The artists on site warmly took me in, showed me their studios, and wanted to compare notes on ecological and abstract art. I gave a lecture. At the end of the month, there was an exhibition planned. After that my husband Daniel wanted to join me and travel around with me for two weeks. I was totally happy and content.

And then CORONA came.

Excerpts from my diary (edited):

4 March 2020

Artist talk. 35 people are coming. Half of the room will remain empty. According to Patrick, Youyao and Perusha have canceled due to this Corona Flu. Maybe that’s how others are handling it, too? I can’t understand the panic.

6 March 2020

I’m painting all day. In the evening there’s an event at the harbor: a marimba band is playing for a bunch of hippies. I take my shoes off and dance as hard as I can. After all, nobody knows me here…

7 March 2020

Paint making workshop: all the artists were there, and some interested people, but nevertheless there were only 16. Melanie says that many older people don’t feel safe leaving the house anymore because of the virus issue from China.

10 March 2020

That big paintint is now complete, I think. Concert at the town hall: John MacLaughlan sings Lightfoot. Every last seat in the hall is sold out, the concert is really great.

11 March 2020

There’s no more toilet paper at Thriftys and barely any pasta. I’m hearing the same from back home. What do people want to do with so much toilet paper?

12 March 2020

Trump has instituted an EU->US travel ban. Wild! No school in Lower Saxony! Everything really seems to be rather serious.

Facetime with Daniel. What happens if he isn’t able to fly?

I don’t feel like painting anymore. The restaurants and cafes downtown are all closed. At least the swimming pool is still open.

13 March 2020

Friday the 13th. My final exhibition is canceled. It’s apocalyptically crowded in the gas station at the Country Grocer. In the news, Europe is being designated the epicenter of the Corona Pandemic.

15 March 2020

Daniel isn’t coming. His flights are canceled. A strict ban on visitors is apparently in effect at my parents‘ assisted living facility! I facetime and talk on the phone and ultimately decide to book myself a new flight for this Saturday. Who knows whether I’ll be able to get out of here otherwise? Lufthansa is already only flying 10% of its long-haul flights. The hotline is constantly busy, of course, so I can only book a single new flight, pretty expensive. Joan purchased the blue color field from me so that at least one of my pictures will remain on the island.

16 March 2020

It’s like being in a movie. Breathe and do lots of Yoga. Watch a lot of news, google around, sign up for a list at the embassy in case the flight is canceled after all.

17 March 2020

I buy myself an extra suitcase for materials and paintings at the thrift store. Check flight and ferry. Both still there. The swimming pool is also closed now. Take a long walk. Alone because everyone is in self-isolation.

18 March 2020

I listen to Merkel’s address. „It is serious,“ she says. I go shopping one more time, but almost nobody is out and about. I take a couple sunny photos to remember Ganges. Almost without people in them. More and more, everyone is saying goodbye to me; by email and text or by phone. Only Melanie feels safe to come over one more time.

19 March 2020

I take all of the canvases off of their frames. With a heavy heart I fold them in order to get them all into the suitcase. I’ll have to leave all my materials behind. I am writing Gillian an email that she is very welcome to have the dry pigments and the half-used liquids. In the evening I fall into self-pity and cry for a while. Not even Yoga can help that anymore.

20 March 2020

I’m spending the day packing, lazing around, a lonely walk and Netflix, then putting my suitcases in the car in the evening because the ferry to Vancouver leaves at 6 am. I can barely sleep. What happens if the flight ends up getting canceled?

21 March 2020

I’m the first one at the ferry, much too early, the staff are completing a very thorough disinfection process. I leave the island behind with a few tears and drift forth on the empty ferry into the gray morning twilight. In Vancouver I return the car and have to spend a couple hours‘ time at the airport. It’s full of crying au pairs and exchange students. Many are anxiously trying to get a replacement for cancelled flights.

22 March 2020

A few days later I hear that my flight was the last commercial flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt. There, ghostly emptiness reigns. A few Asian people in Hazmat-Suits. Never have I ever seen the ICE to Hannover or tramline 10 to Linden so empty.

I am remaining in quarantine for 2 weeks before I can see close friends or my family again. I meet up with my mother „illegally“ at a park bench for a couple weeks. I have numerous playdates to tinker around with my niece, who isn’t allowed to go to daycare.

It takes weeks until the art supply store opens again and I can buy stretcher frames for my paintings. I’ve stretched them all back out, except for this one here. Perhaps it has to stay this way until I’ve processed all of this.

My Corona Escape Painting.