InLiquid Artist Rachel Blythe Udell has been spending her time gardening, Facetiming relatives, and sewing masks. Most of all she reports to us that she is remaining calm during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
What are you doing to stay sane during this time?
I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately- I’d recently moved to a new house and was looking forward to starting a garden here. We had done some prepping over the winter and started to stock up on garden supplies along with groceries and necessities once the COVID-19 closures started taking place. Having some beautiful bursts of color to look at and doing the physical work in the yard has definitely been helping to keep me sane! Also, whenever a niece or nephew calls me on FaceTime or Messenger Kids, I feel intense joy- it helps to balance things out. I also use the Calm app daily. They have a great selection of music that I find really helpful to relax and help me sleep.
Do you have any advice for others?
I guess just keep making art if you can, or otherwise do whatever you can to stay safe physically and mentally. Maybe give yourself a break and realize this is a crazy, stressful time, things are going to go wrong, and sometimes there’s really not much you can do about that. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Tell your loved ones that you love them.
Do you have any TV or movie recommendations?
I really liked Avenue 5 on HBO- it was hilarious and has been providing some much-needed laughter. Same goes for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and, because one can never get enough Tony Shalhoub, I am re-rewatching Monk. I was always Team Sharona, but Natalie grew on me too. On a more serious note, I’ve also been watching The Plot Against America, which is terrifying in its parallels to things going on in today’s sociopolitical sphere. I had read the book when it came out, and though it was scary then, the series now feels even more vivid, as though this story of alternate history might be closer to reality than even Philip Roth could have imagined. As for movies, I just watched Blow The Man Down on Amazon Prime and thought it was really good.
Tell us about your usual studio practices!
I’ve found myself creating less than is usual for me. I, like so many others, have been juggling ongoing and new responsibilities during this time. But I feel lucky in that I have a home studio, so there was no major disruption there for me, unlike many artists I know who have had to give up their studio spaces and find space at home to work. I have definitely felt more distracted and challenged to keep my anxiety in check- between calls to my dad and his care team to make sure he is doing ok (his health concerns put him at high risk) and compulsive scrolling through sad, infuriating, and terrifying news stories daily, I am finding it hard to focus. My father-in-law is also very sick right now.
I’ve been worried about my family and friends in New York. But I do feel that as an artist and particularly in the way that I work, I’ve got a few advantages too- I’m totally used to being alone and in my house for long periods of time- this is how I work generally. Also, I’m a stitcher, so I’ve been hand-stitching some masks for my family. It’s a little strange (for me) using this medium for an immediate-need utilitarian function, but was glad to be able to do it. Times are strange and difficult indeed. It’s hard not to be able to see people in real life for happy celebrations or to come together in times of mourning. And so days are filled with darkness and light. As always they are, but in times of high stress and tragedy and trauma, the chiaroscuro feels all the sharper, more pronounced. The dark is, of course, darker, but this also makes the light that much more luminous.