Visual arts online

Pandemic shifts art shows to the internet

click to enlarge Claudia Knight's work incorporates body art and eccentric backdrops, in this piece she depicts a phoenix. - CREDIT: CLAUDIA KNIGHT
Credit: Claudia Knight
Claudia Knight's work incorporates body art and eccentric backdrops, in this piece she depicts a phoenix.

At 23 years old, Claudia Knight is an artist, a barista and a new parent. The Springfield resident had her daughter just before stay-at-home rules took effect. For her, the lack of visits from family and friends also meant a lack of help with her newborn. But she's proven resilient.

For Knight, art is a form of catharsis. "I've made more work and I think better work in the two months that this has happened than I have in my whole life put together," she said. She took on the mythology of the phoenix in one of her latest projects. She said she wants to show her daughter "that you can grow from a crumbled world."

Knight creates artwork using a wholly unique medium – herself. With body paint, she creates whimsical stories and sets the scenes, herself as the main character. She shoots and edits her own photography. The current state of the world has influenced her latest work. "I've been trying to channel a lot of that energy, a lot of my anxiety from new motherhood and becoming a new person and having a new body and having a new life."

Starting about a year ago, Knight curated art and fashion shows in Springfield. She picked various themes, artists and venues to collaborate with. Now, she's working with some fellow artists "on a fully virtual art gallery that we're going to be opening up soon. We're finding different artists here in town to submit their work and it's been exciting to see what everybody is making during these times." Knight said the plan is for an immersive experience for viewers. "You're going to be able to actually 'walk around' and interact with a ton of people's art. Even though you're stuck at home."

Digital art shows are in vogue given the inability to have them otherwise. In March, Illinois Times reported on Dim Art House, a new Springfield venture by three established artists. Their first show was scheduled for March 19 but was canceled as a precaution. "I think that we had a similar experience to a lot of people in a lot of industries. For the first month, we were just kind of regrouping and trying to figure out what was happening," said artist and Dim co-founder Joey Wallace.

On May 16 the trio pulled off its second online gallery tour, with video and posts of artwork for sale. With an exhibition titled "May Distance," Wallace walked through the house that serves as a studio and gallery and filmed various works and their descriptions. More than a dozen artists were represented. "People have been doing virtual art shows for a while. This is not a brand new concept, but it was certainly brand new for us," said Wallace. He added that the sense of community, albeit community at a distance, has him feeling fortunate. "I think people are hungry for live experiences, especially now," he said. Video of the latest show, which began as a live stream people could watch in real time on Facebook, had several hundred views.

When the Dim project was getting started, cofounder Jeff Williams said he wanted to help highlight artists who had never shown before, but who he had discovered through their online presences, such as Instagram accounts. Indeed, for some of the artists featured by Dim in May, it was their first time having work in an art show. What Williams couldn't have anticipated was that for now, their art is largely stuck to the confines of the internet.

You can contact Rachel Otwell at rotwell@illinoistimes.com.

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