How artists are reinventing themselves during COVID

After a year in a pandemic that made many industries shut their doors, it’s clear the arts is a resilient market. An industry linked to self-expression and human connections suddenly found itself having to interact with others through a screen. However, in a time when the world “stopped”, artists decided, once again, to get creative.

Art by Aniefon Ben Edet

“I discovered and reinvented myself during this pandemic,” says Aniefon Ben Edet, a Nigerian visual artist who, in the middle of a lockdown, was able to open up to the international community for the first time through online workshops and art exhibitions.


Aniefon likes to show his country through his art, a society he tries to change for the better.


“Trash is a big deal in Africa,” he explains. “We don’t know how to contain trash. It causes a whole mess. I turn trash into art.”


Aniefon regularly goes to dumpsters to find items he can transform into artwork. He is also an art teacher, and his students are now learning how to do the same. Their last project was to bring trashed gallon water bottles to class, where they were transformed into face masks and shown in a canvas.

Art by Joseph Gretsch

“Find yourself and be honest with yourself,” is the advice from Joseph Gretsch, a retired psychologist from Portland who had decided to pursue arts at a professional level when the pandemic hit. He took this moment to focus and work even more on infrared photographs, going to the streets and taking photos of the city, which he calls “pandemic photos,” and is now creating a series of photography books.


He also analyzed the psychological effect of pursuing arts.


“It’s more effective to be a serious artist than it is to be a serious psychotherapy patient because if you’re a serious artist, you have to come to know and express yourself truthfully, and that’s mental health. You can't teach someone to be themselves. That is totally a personal event,” he says.


Padmashree Nuggehalli Badarinth found herself in a similar position. The landscaper portrait artist moved from Toronto to Vancouver in 2019 and was hoping to connect with the local arts community when suddenly meetings were no longer permitted.

Art by Padmashree Nuggehalli Badarinth.

She then decided to do art at local cafes and restaurants on the weekends.


“I'd order food and drinks, in an effort to keep their business alive and at the same time finish a complete piece of artwork, and those around got engaged," she says. “[They] asked about the different mediums, from charcoal to pastels, and they loved the feeling of being involved with the process of creating art. It was a different experience, one which made me happier than if I would have sold an artwork.”


Since then she has been contacted by several restaurants to do murals and is exploring new opportunities.


Finally, Tori Swanson, an intuitive artist from Vancouver, followed her intuition in times of uncertainty. She practises the law of attraction and participated in the Artist Support Pledge where artists from around the world would post their work for a maximum of $200. She sold more than 400 pieces of artwork in 2020.


“It helped to build momentum around my brand and I started to build an E-comm shop,” she says.

Tori Swanson Painting

Despite the success, Tori realized money was just a bonus.


“I'm an artist because I can't not paint. Connecting to the purest intention I have and sharing my work and being real, honest and integral with my paintings became the reason. I stopped painting for the sake of sales and created from the heart, more profoundly.”


You can meet them and see their work in Art Vancouver. The exhibition runs Sept. 23–26.




By Cindy Vezga


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