Fallow fields around my rural town always captured my attention as a kid, and I remember asking my dad why some fields had crops growing in them and others were just dirt. He told me soil needed time to rest and rejuvenate, then farmers would plant seeds in the fallow fields the following year and expect good crop production.
Production drives us humans these days. We have tools to manage ourselves with any number of apps or software so as individuals or as work teams we can produce more, more, more, faster, faster, faster. The call to productivity became louder when the pandemic hit as we were to stay home and stay safe, “What are you doing with all that down time? It’s shameful to waste it! Get busy!”
Have I been productive and created lots of art? Have I wasted time? These aren’t the questions I’m asking because they don’t lead to an answer.
I made the decision to lie fallow.
Making objects and installations depletes my creative resources, and I feel drained. Then processing the raw images depletes me even more. I have to rest and rejuvenate after I’ve been productive and accomplished what I set out to do. (I had a solo exhibit last January through March, which I had deinstalled just before the world shut down.)
Resting and rejuvenating is different for everyone, and for me it doesn’t mean I haven’t created anything at all. I’ve allowed myself to simply be in the world, observe and take in my surroundings; read, try something new, indulge in watching creative TV shows, and meander down idea trails that have no specific destination. I’ve created things unrelated to my art that won’t be seen by anyone but me. My husband and I have done house and garden projects to make our home the place we want it to be. My day job as a graphic designer and exhibits supervisor requires me to be creative on deadlines (constantly productive), and I work with creative people, so my creativity hasn’t disappeared while I’ve been lying fallow.
The “normal” we humans have known has changed, and it will be different when we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and political upheaval of late. (I hope we eventually emerge as a more empathetic and kind species.) I’m not sure how, if, or to what extent my art work will change, but after lying fallow I’ll be ready to go where it takes me.
Image above: my memory of fallow fields as a digital watercolor sketch, created using Adobe Fresco (free app) with an Apple Pencil on my iPad Mini.