Artist Karen Fisher credits pandemic with opening up a whole new world

The Leader’s Wendy Gibb has undertaken a series of articles focusing on the visual artists who live and create here in our own community, discussing with them how their work and experiences may have been “influenced” by the “new reality” of a COVID world. Many of the artists also discuss how they perceive the future of the arts post pandemic. Previously featured were artists Jan Mills, Elsie Gallinger and Gene Ward. Those articles can now be found online at morrisburgleader.ca. This week Gibb spoke with Karen Fisher.

IROQUOIS – In a world of COVID-19 reality, artist Karen Fisher, who makes her home in Iroquois, found herself actively seeking out new creative outlooks and approaches. And she discovered, ultimately, that her efforts were taking her in interesting directions.

“In some ways,” Karen said, with a laugh, “COVID hasn’t had a profound effect on me as an artist. In fact, I have been able to get very focussed on new ideas.”

Among other things, she found herself enrolling in a number of online courses, taught by artists literally from around the globe, and coming from many diverse artistic backgrounds. “Frankly, these courses have opened up a new world for me. There are many art forums out there, and the courses, and the artists who teach them, can really get you engaged. These on line courses also give you the chance to hear lectures on every topic imaginable. I would say that COVID hasn’t limited me: it’s sent me in new directions, got me out of my comfort zone and given me an opportunity to do new learning, to experiment with new things.” Karen speaks highly of Llewellyn Skye Art and ArtWk.Ca, which actually originates in Brockville.

The closure of galleries and the end of studio visits and tours have certainly affected her and her fellow artists, however. “I still say that it is important to see and experience art directly. To view pieces just on line – well, a photo on line has to be exceptional to have anywhere the same impact on a viewer.” She sympathizes with the plight of many in the performing arts. “I don’t know how the actors, singers and musicians are coping. Even for visual artists, there is nothing like getting close up to a work of art, studying the brush strokes and colours, reacting directly and personally with a piece.”

However, Karen comments that many visual artists have had to accept current realities; they have found ways to adapt. Many are now presenting their work on line in virtual galleries and shows. She herself has entered her works on line. “I post on Instagram, present my work and get feed back and critiques. Some of the commentators I have later connected with. My work is certainly “out there” far more than it was before COVID: people are turning to social media because they can no longer go to galleries and exhibitions.”

For a showing, Art in the Yard, “a pop up art show,” Karen has done two series of works. Eight pieces are abstract flora. “I’ve become fascinated with the movement and the colours of flowers,” she explained. Her other series is one she calls The Big Ditch, a landscape part of her world, growing up in Iroquois.

“When I was a child, there was a “ditch” which lay beside the road to Iroquois beach. Years ago, it was much bigger than it is now, but it is still there. As I have walked my dog along that ditch, studying the foliage, the reeds, the cat tails, the sumac and poplars, and seeing how they changed with the seasons, I was inspired to paint. I went into my studio and produced a series of works that reflect those wonderful changes. Despite the realities of COVID, I haven’t been driven from my studio. I have ‘got my fire burning’ and I have created.”

She is not sure of the long term effects of the pandemic on the arts. “Perhaps the way we are taught and instructed may change. Probably there will be no more large groups in small spaces. But I take a positive view. People will, I think, actively seek out art, and appreciate it. And you just can’t replace the face to face experience.”

Karen Fisher continues to paint in her home studio, open to new ideas and approaches, establishing and maintaining new contacts with fellow artists. “I believe that we are a community within the arts, and painters have been luckier perhaps, and more able to adapt through social media,” she said. “But unfortunately, the arts – painters, actors, musicians – don’t have quite the same connection right now: we need them back. Talent shouldn’t be wasted.”

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