Stories of Social Distancing 7: Nicole Lattuca

During this temporary postponement of FIA residencies and programs, we have invited former artists-in-residence to submit texts, images, stories and thoughts exploring how they are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; how their daily life or community has been disrupted; how they are dealing with isolation and the concept of social distancing; as well as how they are looking ahead to healthier and undoubtably transformed times. Thanks to all who have contributed to this ongoing series and stay safe.

Nicole Lattuc
a, May 5
FIA artist-in-residence, 2014 

These are indeed strange and unprecedented times. I am currently living in Newburgh, New York, a growing art city on the Hudson River directly across from the Dia:Beacon and 15 minutes from Storm King Art Center. New York is the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and we have witnessed complete closure of all businesses except grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and some restaurants for take-out. I go shopping every two weeks to limit my exposure to crowds. When I leave for these trips into the public, I wear a handmade cloth mask and disposable pink gloves meant for hair dying. The supermarkets and Target have not had toilet paper, paper towels, or disinfectant wipes in weeks. A lot of the shelves are sparse and now meat is being rationed. I am fine though. I recently moved into a beautiful, sunny apartment in a yellow Victorian house. I live with my cat (who I almost brought with me to Fogo Island in 2014!) and we don’t need that much to survive. I have been spending my days doing yoga from videos on Youtube, trying new recipes, teaching online art lessons to kids ages 5-13, going for long walks down to the water and through my new neighbourhood, listening to audiobooks, listening to the daily press briefings from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and deeply cleaning and purging my apartment and studio. I have revisited twenty-year-old letters and undergraduate artwork, many things I saved that now I can let go of. I am making space for the unknown future, making space for something good. It is my act of hope. I am also very lucky to have one of my best friends with whom to “isolate together.” She can escape the overwhelming cooking and homeschooling of her home life for dinner and drinks at my apartment, and I can join her family on canoeing trips and for pancake breakfasts. It is truly saving my life.

Reflection on my residency on Fogo Island comes up often in my life. But something in particular has been resonating while I am here now, limited to my neighbourhood and my immediate region, having all travel plans and projects canceled for the summer. Prior to my residency with Fogo Island Arts, I had never considered living in one place for the foreseeable future. I imagined a life for myself that was itinerant and led by opportunities of jobs and residencies and other experiences. A way to see the world. Somewhere in the six months of my stay on Fogo Island, somewhere in looking at the same ocean view out of the Squish Studio window, in following Norm and Iris inland over frozen ponds, and visiting life at the art studio and farm of Winston and Linda, I began to see the magic of a singular place. I began to notice how the ocean changes daily in fact; in the directions it flows, its intensity, and once even freezing over enough to ice skate on a particularly cold day. I learned the value in truly knowing a place intimately. What it means to love and care for the land, and to become part of it. In my new riverside city, I am currently in this space of discovery. I now know what each week of spring looks like for this one particular magnolia tree, one street over from mine. From bud to blossom, to a temporary death, I have been witness. I watch the sun move through my apartment from my front windows to the back, my cat following the warmth.

The summer ahead for New York looks like the continuation of lockdown. It is unlikely I will be able to take the Metro North train into the city to go out to eat with friends or see a musical. There will be no gallery openings or open studios. It can be tiring but I can be patient. There will be a day again for meeting new people, haircuts and museum visits. And an even better day for revolutionizing education, health care and standards of wages in America. But for now, I am semi-content with hanging out with trees and in creeks and taking inventory of my studio, making room for the work to come.