As a self-taught artist and illustrator, Jaqui Falkenheim has always used art as a means for finding solace. And now, as the region grapples with social unrest and a global pandemic, the Arlington resident’s whimsical projects carry more significance than ever.
Here, Falkenheim, a mother of three daughters, shares how she’s found balance at home, what her newest mixed-media creations consist of and more.
How has the coronavirus impacted your day-to-day routine, both as an artist and as a mother?
As terrible as the coronavirus is, it has given me a little more time for art and my family. Time has always been very scarce for me because I have three daughters and a full-time day job as a research analyst. This job has been online since the start of the pandemic and I have gained a few hours a week from not having to commute. I typically work on my art in my home studio on weekends and evenings. I have a teen and two young adult kids, and it’s been inspiring to see them take charge of their studies to finish the school year online.
I had work in two exhibits that were scheduled to start right before we began to shelter in place on March 15, one at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory and another with SheDC at Shop Made in DC. I had the chance to see the shows in place for the openings in mid-March, but unfortunately they had to close soon afterward. I was happy to learn that my artwork sold at the Torpedo Factory.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this new reality for you?
The most challenging aspect of the pandemic has been missing being around friends and family members in Northern Virginia and beyond. On the one hand, I’m grateful to have access to Zoom and FaceTime so we can talk to each other frequently. But on the other hand, I miss seeing them face to face. I miss celebrating my kids’ birthdays with a big group of their friends. And, in terms of art, I miss seeing artists’ work in person. Overall, it’s been hard to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing when, whether and how we will go back to our “normal” lives. Also, right now, I am deeply saddened by the killing of George Floyd, other acts of racism and the violence against peaceful protesters.
Do you feel your artistic style or the subjects of your work have changed since the pandemic began?
I am a curious artist who enjoys experimenting with different techniques and materials, which I continue doing no matter what. I am no stranger to tragedy; I grew up in Argentina during the dirty war and the atrocities of the military regime. But my work tends to be whimsical and lighthearted no matter what the circumstances. During the pandemic, it felt as if people needed some more brightness in their lives. I have paused posting daily in response to the recent acts of violence, not wanting to draw attention from the important issues at this time, but that is something I was doing.
You are participating in the #100dayproject2020 on Instagram. Can you explain the projecct?
The #100dayproject is an online challenge where people pick a personal project to do every day for 100 days and share it on Instagram. It celebrates creativity in every form. It encourages us to show up and do something every day, no matter how big or small. The 2020 project started in early April. This year, I decided to participate to mark the time we are living in. Because I normally juggle making art with family and job responsibilities, I decided to give myself permission not to do it on consecutive days, but rather focus on completing 100 pieces, even if it takes me longer. For me, this project works as a kind of personal time record for 2020.
I am working on small, mixed-media collages to focus on curating my large and growing collection of papers that I eco-dyed or hand painted, and then I turn them into simple collage pieces. With collage, I can find freedom within the focus and constraint. I can make a collage by just cutting and pasting papers into shapes, I can add paint to them and I can also scan the hand-painted papers and use them to make a digital collage. I use the hashtag #100daysofcollagebyjaqui when I post, because that way all my pieces can be together in one place and I love seeing that. I really enjoy making these pieces, sometimes as warmups, and even on days when time is tight, I feel that I got something done.
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Day 33: one-third of the way in my #100dayproject ☺️! Thank you for all your comments and DMs of support! I confess I didn’t think I was going to get this far and many times I thought I would stop at 30 days. But seeing all my pieces together makes me happy and I can see the point of continuing. I’m now challenging myself to get to 50 days. . . . . . #100daysofcollagebyjaqui #100dayproject2020 #collage #collageart #abstractshapes #abstractfloral #plantsmakemehappy #sketchbookexplorations #handpainted #mixedmedia #cutandpaste #paperart #makingmarks #mixedmediaart #mixedmediaartist #creativeexercise #creativelife #mybeautifulmess #calledtocreate #calledtobecreative #abmlifeiscolorful #nothingisordinary #createeveryday #dstexture #dspink #carveouttimeforart #doitfortheprocess #showyourwork
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What activities have given you solace during this uncertain time?
Painting has always given me solace and it has been crucial in helping me to keep calm and carry on, particularly in this moment. Spending time with my family in our backyard, planting seeds, growing my garden and going for bike rides have also helped me.
Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell readers about?
I recently started collaborating with Singulart, an art gallery representing international artists, where I’m currently working on a collection of abstract art. I also collaborate with Minted and have several abstract art prints available through them.
As we prepare to enter into phase two of reopening, what are your most prominent thoughts?
I am excited for my kids to be able to see their friends in person, despite having to keep a safe distance. But I also worry about having the right systems in place, like widespread testing and contact tracing, that we all need in order to keep the coronavirus out of our communities.
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