Issue 36 May 2024

Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Louis Stern Fine Arts
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Turn and Return: The Artist’s Practice During Trauma

Leer en Español

Photo: Erin F. O’Leary.

In early 2022, I headed to Skylight Books, my favorite Los Angeles bookstore, in search of a novel that might help me demarcate the passage of time. The two-year anniversary of Covid loomed and my crumbling personal life was now competing with global events in terms of daily pain and dread levels registering in my body. I picked up Ling Ma’s 2018 novel Severance, remembering that it had been a major debut release but having no recollection of the synopsis. I proceeded to inhale it, incredulous at its prescience. 

The book is a satirical, dystopic story, set in the mid to late 2000s, that follows Candace Chen, a 20-something woman and one of the few survivors of Shen Fever, a fictional fungal disease originating in China (Chen’s childhood home country and a place she often traveled to in adulthood for her publishing job) that kills or zombifies most of the world’s population. Chen, who works dispassionately in the publication of Bibles and is ambivalent about her annoying white boyfriend, is disaffected long before Shen Fever arrives in New York City, where she lives and works. As the city empties and deteriorates around her, she continues to show up to work, eventually moving into her towering Manhattan office building to wait out the end of the world. 

Ma’s acclaimed novel hits differently two years into our real-life pandemic, but a passage in it made me spontaneously weep. Chen, Ma’s protagonist, eyes an empty Times Square, vegetation springing up in the absence of tourist hordes, and spots a permanently off-duty carriage horse walking along. In disbelief, she snaps a picture on her phone and wonders how and with whom to share it. Everyone, it seems, is gone. She decides in that moment to resume her photography practice and (this being the aughts) resurrect her old blog, NY Ghost. Chen tasks herself with photographing an emptied, apocalyptic New York in hopes of making her experiences real for herself—her observations reflected back at her—and with a desire to connect to someone else, somewhere. 

Enter: my tears. 

For a dozen years now, my professional life has centered around counseling artists, supporting them as they try to maintain a practice, build a career, balance their life, and grapple with internal and external obstacles—all while financially navigating an impossible economic system that doesn’t value artists or acknowledge artmaking as labor. The nature of my work, which is rooted in my background in Counseling Psychology, bent drastically in March 2020; career consultations for artists transformed into full-blown crisis counseling. 

The foundational belief of my professional relationship with artists is that they must make their creative work to have a fully realized life; when artists stop making work, they quickly begin to feel terrible. I’ve seen this over and over for more than a decade. Step one in my job is to make sure my clients have their creative practice to turn and return to; first and foremost, an artist’s practice is an essential way in which they take care of themselves, process their lives and experiences, and connect to their deepest parts. If the artist wants their work to be publicly available for audiences, for it to bring in money and professional opportunity, I help them in that regard, but in my experience, it is the practice itself that is most central to their wellbeing. 

Supporting artists in maintaining their practices throughout the pandemic has felt, by turns, like the noblest calling and the most absurd delusion. I know firsthand the political, financial, logistical, emotional, and physical conditions they have struggled to overcome, having experienced financial devastation, the loss of childcare, cultural chaos, state violence, and the death of loved ones. Illness, depression, crushing anxiety, fear, rage, helplessness, and judgment from themselves and others. Career opportunities evaporated or were postponed indefinitely. Projects and entire bodies of work were abandoned as artists lost their studios or lost steam or questioned their work’s relevance. Creative stagnation and existential despair ensued.

Some artists have recovered their practice and managed a career during the pandemic, even blasting off into wild, new success. Perhaps they were buoyed by sudden free time and solitude, the absence of physical and mental illness, unemployment checks, an ability to detach from news and community conditions, not having kids. A quick scroll of Instagram will show outward, edited success anytime. But so many others are grappling with interior and exterior hurdles that aren’t broadcast on social media and struggling to understand what life and artmaking can be now. Some have experienced both—their public success belying the pain at home or within.

I questioned myself and my work constantly: Was urging artists back to their practice during a global pandemic an ethical suggestion? Maybe I should tell them to take a break for a few months, even a year. But my instinct was always to nudge them back toward their work.

This instinct proved true with every case study. Practices changed, they halted and restarted. Some artists needed levity, to have a creative task unhooked from an outcome, something that could function as an emotional balm. Others learned that the time and energy they could make available for creative work had plummeted, so we worked to adjust their expectations of output and what is considered “enough” artmaking in a week. Many had irregular or no access to essential components of their practice—live audiences, privacy, equipment, residencies, dance space, an in-person community—and we looked for alternatives, austerity measures that could allow them to continue their work and regain a connection to the deepest part of themselves. Every client reported back to me that after they did something, anything, that put them inside of a creative practice, they felt more like themselves: less hopeless and more grounded. It didn’t matter yet whether the work would go out into the world, have an audience, leverage opportunity, or make money. For the moment, its effect on the artist was enough. 

Each time an artist told me they tried something—writing for 15 minutes, playing their instrument, messing around with new materials, rewatching the piece they want to edit, moving their body—I felt relief, a growing peacefulness about the rightness of something within the chaos. I also needed these artists in my life to resume their practices because their turning and returning to creative work restored my hopefulness and my belief in a future better than the present. Every time an artist returned to their work despite or because of calamity, I felt the world become possible again. 

It’s generous of artists to share their work with the public; there is great risk, enormous vulnerability, and often little reward. I am continually impressed when they are willing to do so, but also supportive of their decision not to. Throughout the pandemic, I have reminded artists that the work they make, should they decide to share it with the world, will have a crucial role in helping audiences move through, understand, and feel the full weight of the traumas they’ve experienced. Even as I write these words, I know how unfair this is: In an economy and culture that devalues living artists, that lauds their suffering, how dare I expect them to lead our collective healing?

Still, I rely heavily on art and artists for my own healing, and the last two years have only heightened my reliance. I have clocked hundreds of hours staring into the middle distance, listening to Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou’s piano solos on Éthiopiques, Vol. 21: Ethiopia Song. Searching for intimacy through a handful of radio DJs, I’ve approached the mirage of personal friendship with Sheila B., who hosts Sophisticated Boom Boom on WFMU, which I listen to religiously. In November 2021, on a grief-fueled trip through Mexico City with my best friend, the artist Chris Vargas, I wept my way through Museo Jumex and sobbed for a full hour outside La Casa Azul, the 

Frida Kahlo Museum. I scream-sang to “This Woman’s Work” at the Kate Bush singalong that closed out a recent Weirdo Night, the regular event performance artist Jibz Cameron presides over as Dynasty Handbag—a kind of freak church for the masked and the desperate who would do anything to laugh and cry en masse. 

Finding their way back to a practice is, I believe wholeheartedly, how artists find their way back to themselves, answering the Anthropocene’s unbearable question: How do we live? It’s the interior moment, the small but significant choice an artist makes to again encounter the creative self. This is where everything becomes possible. It is also their turns and returns to their creative work that guides me to answer the unbearable question for myself. 

An artist must make their work. They don’t have to share it, but, as someone who engages with creative work regularly to process my own emotions, I hope that they choose to. The reflexive question then is what can we do to support the creative work that we so badly need? This prompt calls upon audiences; it implicates me and the many like me who can recover and transform through experiencing others’ creative work. For the rest of my life, art will help me process, grieve, understand, and heal from everything that’s happened since March 2020. I want my work to contribute to an interdependent arts ecosystem that isn’t simply extractive of artists, but reciprocal. 

How can we—the public, the audiences, and the non-artists who are art-reliant—establish mutuality with the artists making the work we urgently need? Paying artists well for their labor would be a start. How can this go further, establishing a circle of mutual support between artists and audiences? If artists are valued for their work, for all of their risk-taking, vulnerability, and willingness to keep going despite all obstacles, how might that change their capacity to share their work with the public? 

As I write this, a memory from 2011 keeps calling: I’m in a San Francisco club watching supergroup Wild Flag play a show. It’s two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney plus Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole. Midway through the set, Carrie Brownstein asks for someone—anyone—to get her a whiskey from the bar. No one responds; the club’s din ensues. She asks again and, once more, nothing. A few beats and drummer Janet Weiss admonishes the crowd, “Can someone please get Carrie Brownstein a whiskey? She’s given you a lot of musical moments over the years.” The fourth wall down, the crowd seemed bewildered that these musical giants needed something from us, the sweaty, tipsy audience. I stood there, also stunned, but awash in realization. Maybe buying my ticket wasn’t enough, maybe there was more I could do. I didn’t buy the whiskey but eventually, someone did. It was just a drink, but that moment awakened me to the reality that the artists I loved needed to know I loved them, that I valued their work, and that I would give something back to help them keep going. We needed more from each other.

For the artist reading this, I want to say simply that you must make your work for yourself. You are not required to share it but, if you do, it could have a transformative effect on someone. It will help us feel, grieve, recover, and transform. Remember that Candace Chen, in Ling Ma’s fictitious pandemic, resumed her creative work amid annihilation. I realize now that my tears in response to Chen’s decision to resurrect her photography blog were responding also to something meta: it was both the fictional Chen’s turn to her art and Ma’s choice to have her protagonist do so that affected me. Through her fictive protagonist, the author indicated that healing from wild grief was possible when artmaking was used as a vehicle to move through catastrophe. 

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 28.

Beth Pickens is a Los Angeles-based consultant for artists and arts organizations. She is the author of Make Your Art No Matter What (Chronicle Books, 2021) and Your Art Will Save Your Life (Feminist Press, 2018). Her podcast, Mind Your Practice, is widely available, as is her monthly artist support service, Homework Club.

More by Beth Pickens