Artist Ray Monde standing on a giant stump at La Push, Washington

Year of Wonders: 2020 in review

With 1.6 million people dead from COVID-19, it’s hard to imagine how 2020 could be described as a year of wonders. I’ve borrowed the title from the incredible book of the same name by Geraldine Brooks. Inspired by the true story of Eyam, Year of Wonders evokes a village infected by the bubonic plague which shuts itself off from the world to reduce the spread of infection.

Moving from infernos to icicles.

In many ways, despite everything, I have many things to be thankful for this year. Moving to Seattle was strange. Leaving a place that was on fire and relocating to one in a perpetual state of dampness.

The Good Arts Building in Seattle at 110 Cherry Street
The Good Arts Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA, United States of America.

Before COVID-19 hit us and we all needed to hide in our homes, I found a beautiful studio in the Good Arts Building run by Jane Richlovsky. As COVID locked down Seattle and shopfronts were boarded up, those hoardings gave me the largest canvas I’ve ever worked; an 18m wide mural.

A new way of working inspired by Chinese landscapes.

Me with one part of my 18m x 2.5m high mural at Swannies.

Like many artists, the global pandemic became a source of inspiration. To deal with the threat of death, I created a whole new suite of works. Having just visited the Seattle Asian Art Museum, my work became infused with Shan Shui style Chinese landscapes.

Shortlisted for a host of art awards that I never thought possible.

Off the back of the new style of working; overpainting paper with acrylic glazes, muted palettes, using lots of negative space, I became a finalist in the National Works on Paper prize, the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, the Blacktown Art Prize and the Blake Prize.

Plus, I was awarded the Veolia Creative Arts scholarship which led to the creation of bushfire artworks. They healed a deep set anxiety and let me put on a stunning show at Purple Noon Gallery and the Braidwood Arts Centre.

A year of roadtrips across America with my husband.

With the rest of the world out of bounds, we did a lot of exploring of the USA this year – Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona and Illinois.

We hiked snow capped mountains, walked with bison, bathed in lakes in the craters of collapsed volcanoes, kayaked with seals, caught trout in glacial lakes. We’re our best selves when we’re on the road – and I even created a studio-in-a-box. I could work from wherever we stopped for the night. Many of the artworks I made this year were made on coffee tables, kitchen tables and work benches in Eugene, Big Sky, Ellensburg, Boise, West Yellowstone, Los Angeles, Carefree and Baker City.

And now as daily deaths from COVID-19 hit an all time high in the USA, a grim tally of 3,600 deaths today, it’s a good time to pause and give thanks. It’s been a totally unexpected year. I’ve been fortunate that for me, it’s been a year of wonders. And even though I haven’t been able to see my friends or most of my family, and even though the novel corona virus has robbed me of making new friends here or opening my studios and showing in Seattle, it has in so many ways been an absolutely, extraordinary year.

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