By Joe Giddens
Posted with permission from Tucson Weekly. Original story can be found at: https://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2020/10/22/local-artist-participates-in-national-painting-project
As the drums ring out the Chinese New Year in a Singapore market, two young women wearing face masks watch the celebration. It’s a scene characteristic of local artist Jacqueline Chanda’s work, which often allows the viewer to construct their own narrative of a scene.
“I like to catch these those kind of scenes where people can say ‘I wonder what they were thinking?’ or ‘I wonder where was this guy is going?’,” Chanda said. “Did he have intent or was he was he simply taking a stroll?”
Chanda’s painting, “Girl with a Turquoise Face Mask,” is based on a photograph she took while on vacation in February. The artwork is featured in the “Great American Paint In,” a new collection of works which shares artists’ experiences of living through the pandemic.
“The Great American Paint In,” now available online, documents the emotions felt by professional artists across the country, with 48 states represented in over 250 pieces, according to project founder, artist and engineer Bill Weinaug.
“I put a lot of effort into trying to make sure I did not lose my business at the end of the day, because I had no clue when the end of the day was coming,” Weinaug said. “And my daughter’s telling me ‘Dad, you just can’t shut down you need to stay relevant. This will be over with someday.’”
His daughter pitched him the idea of taking the “plein air” painting events he hosted at his eco-resort Wekiva Island in Longwood, Florida, and moving them online. Arists gather for plein air painting events and simultaneously paint their outdoor environment.
“In our case they go out into the wilderness and they paint for a week,” Weinaug said. “So they come with blank canvases, every day they add art and we build a temporary art gallery.”
Thus, “The Great American Paint In” was created. Artists paint their response to the pandemic and the emotions of quarantine, and submit the work to a jury who decides if it merits inclusion in the project.
The concept was a natural fit for artists nationwide with ample time to practice their craft but without access to galleries or events. The project’s website allows the artists to be able to sell their work and promote themselves.
Weinaug said he used his training as an engineer to investigate previous pandemics and said he didn’t see much art being created at the time of the outbreaks.
“We wanted to document what was going on in America during this pandemic so that future generations could look back and see it through the artist’s eyes,” he said
Through the eyes of Chanda’s since returning to the United States somethings that haven’t changed is she goes into her studio to paint but finds herself accumulating more of her work.
“It’s really been that sense of isolation, not being able to be connected with my friends, my daughter lives with me and my mother is not too far from here … So I see her often enough, but it’s been a different sense of isolation, it’s an unwanted isolation,” she said.
Weinaug’s vision for the project is for it to serve as a textbook example of how to paint emotion. He intends to publish the collection as a book and is in the process of selecting a publisher but noted: “We’re still in the middle of the pandemic and the story is still being written.”