A year of reflection: Easthampton artist displays a year’s worth of drawings that reflect on the pandemic

  • Easthampton-based artist Maggie Nowinski’s art installation, “A Whole Recollection,” is on display at the von Auersperg art gallery at Deerfield Academy through Oct. 23. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Maggie Nowinski’s art installation, “A Whole Recollection,” on display at the von Auersperg art gallery at Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Maggie Nowinski with “Be Spilled, My Heart,” part of her “A Whole Recollection” project on display at the von Auersperg art gallery at Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Maggie Nowinski’s art installation, “A Whole Recollection” on display at the von Auersperg art gallery at Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Maggie Nowinski and her Divoc Daily Drawings project on display at the von Auersperg art gallery at Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Maggie Nowinski’s art installation, “A Whole Recollection” project on display at the von Auersperg art gallery at Deerfield Academy. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2021 2:37:20 PM

Many people were given time to reflect on their lives when the pandemic stopped the world in its tracks. Now, a new art exhibition lays out an entire year’s worth of drawings for folks to look back on.

Easthampton-based artist Maggie Nowinski started her project with a drawing on March 13, 2020 and drew each day until March 14 this year. The 366 drawings and an additional 30-foot installation of more than 160 circles make up “A Whole Recollection,” which she said serves as a chance for both the artist and viewers to look back on the pandemic-plagued year.

“The show is rooted in accumulation, for the individual pieces and in relation to the pandemic,” Nowinski said while standing inside Deerfield Academy’s von Auersperg Gallery. “The year feels like such a blur and having this personal record was moving. At most, it gave me that time back.”

The drawings entitled “Divoc Daily Drawings” — Divoc is COVID backward — are spread out across three walls like a calendar, and some drawings have clear indicators of when they were created.

The first drawing from March 2020 shows the coronavirus visualization model often used by TV news, another shows a raised fist in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in June, while others are drawings of natural beauty or Zoom screens. Nowinski said her source of inspiration varied from the mundane, like news reports or photos, to the feelings of isolation or unity.

“There’s clear markers of the year,” Nowinski said. “It was like, ‘Just play with the medium and relax,’ and I’d just start and something would happen.”

Each drawing is, perhaps fittingly for the tragic year of 2020, drawn in black ink, which Nowinski said was an intentional decision.

“I knew I wanted it to be devoid of color,” she said. “The simple parameters allowed me to explore. Ink is so loose and gestural.”

She said the inspiration for the drawings came from her inability to access her studio and they helped “anchor” her while giving an opportunity to reflect on her life.

“So much of the year felt insurmountable,” Nowinski said. “It was therapeutic, no doubt about it. … It made me realize how much I run around.”

Nowinski added that even the setup of the exhibit gave her a chance to reflect because the drawings were placed in cardboard boxes and she had forgotten about some of them until she was hanging them up.

“Something about looking through them,” Nowinski said, “it was like seeing an old friend.”

When someone walks into the gallery, the first thing they will notice is the 30-foot installation of 160 circles, entitled “Be Spilled, My Heart.” The circles, which Nowinski calls “wHoles,” climb and cover the wall like vines.

“I like that they’re so simple, yet they can be so evocative,” she said. “They remind me of lichen and fungus.”

She said fungus-like growth of the circles and the accumulation of daily drawings reflect the “transformation” of individuals over the course of the pandemic. She further explained the “paradoxical” nature of circles — they are complete, yet there is a hole in the center — and how they reflect the experiences of everyone.

“I’m drawn to paradoxical ideas,” Nowinski said. “Life is really imperfect.”

The exhibit is open to the public and small groups Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are available on the weekend. Larger groups will be welcome in October and the public reception is Oct. 10, from 4 to 7 p.m. The exhibit is open until Oct. 23.

Von Auersperg Director and Dean of Studies for Visual and Performing Arts Lydia Hemphill said she is “excited” for the gallery to once again host art instead of being a socially distanced classroom.

“It’s really fun for students to see this space in its intended use,” Hemphill said. “Maggie has been great to work with.”

Nowinski, who is a lifetime artist and teaches at the University of Massachusetts and Westfield State University, will be hosting gallery talks throughout the month and encourages people to contact her with questions on her website at bit.ly/3lucNKO or by email at maggienowinski@gmail.com.

“This is such a great opportunity,” she said. “There’s not another space I can think of regionally where I can install all this work.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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