Artist Maggie Nowinski’s “A Whole Recollection,” displayed in the Von Auersperg Gallery from August 30th until October 25th, is a visual story of Nowinski’s experience with the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 10th, Maggie Nowinski visited campus to introduce the new exhibit, and to answer questions from the greater Deerfield community.
“A Whole Recollection” features two components, one project entitled “Divoc Daily Drawings” and the other “Be Spilled, My Heart.” The former covers three of the four walls in the gallery, highlighting a gridlike arrangement of 366 black and white drawings, one created per day over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its layout is chronological, with the first drawing representing March 13, 2020, and the last representing mid-March of 2021.
Nowinski experimented with black ink as her medium, and worked with layering techniques to create a more complex and nuanced outlook. She allowed herself to spend a week working on each drawing before storing it away, though each drawing from the collection took around 45 minutes to an hour to create.
An artist from the Deerfield area, Nowinski began creating art at the high school level, and has garnered 25 total years of experience.
In the wake of the March 2020 lockdown, Nowinski started to work from home. She realized that, in order to continue pursuing art, she needed to downsize her canvases from those in her large studio. Both accommodating her smaller space and using easy-to-find materials, she practiced artistically viewing the world through a smaller lens. The coronavirus also provided Nowinski with a subject from which she could draw inspiration.
Reflecting on this initial inspiration, Nowsinki said, “I was having a hard time visualizing what the virus looked like, you know, and sort of felt like it was this invisible thing we were supposed to believe in, and of course I did believe in it, but I needed to see it. So I started with just making visual representations of it as a way to kind of come to terms with it, identify it for myself, and then I just kept going from there.”
The many components of Divoc Daily Drawings attempt to create such a sense of visibility, many drawings containing sharp lines and edges with the effects of containment and agitation. Others include words, such as “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” representing the current events unfolding on TV throughout the pandemic. The drawings follow a variety of themes, such as solitude and pursuing passions even when resources become less accessible.
Visual Arts Instructor Mercedes Taylor described the work as “an artistic exploration of time.” She cited History and Social Sciences Teacher John Leistler, saying, “Mr. Leistler talked about art as a way of coping in a time of uncertainty, and he spoke about emotional resilience in the way this artist tried to understand the moment that we were living and the uncertainties of the pandemic. From that perspective, it is a visual journal.”
“Be Spilled, My Heart,” an example of one of Nowinski’s larger scale works, is displayed on the back wall of the gallery. More than 160 circular donut-shaped black and white drawings are spread across the floor and up the wall, altogether creating a 30-foot installation.
“I’ve been drawing small versions of these for a few years,” Ms. Nowinski explained, “and they’re kind of like cells of the other drawings I do, I think of them as like large versions of cells,”
“A Whole Recollection” offers an artistic interpretation of the COVID-19 pandemic directly as it related to the artist, but also serves as a mirror for the viewer.
For Maria Vieira ’22, Nowinski’s experimentation was key. Vieira said, “You see the progression from a very typical centered composition to ideas and creativity processes that wouldn’t have happened if she didn’t take these explorations. I think there’s a lot to learn from viewing other people experimenting, that initiates your own curiosity to explore.”
Vieira added that her Topics Tutorial art class drew inspiration from Nowinski’s emphasis on nuance to establish its first assignment: “In dialogue with the artist.” She said, “It’s all about opening up your perspective and mind to new ways of viewing things. Everyone has something to learn.”