Cézanne in the Age of Coronavirus

Permit a bit of fatherly pride, from a baby boomer whose daughter has skills she surely didn’t get from him. The father is BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs. The daughter is the clever creator of canvases that capture the lives we’ve been living during the coronavirus crisis.

In one of the first columns I wrote for BoomerCafé after our country turned upside down and its death rates turned tragically up, I said, “We can either laugh about it, or cry. I’ll choose the laugh. In times of crisis, all kinds of things get us through, first amongst them natural human resilience. But humor helps too.”

From what you’re about to see, my daughter Amy agrees.

Amy is a professional artist — Amy Nelder — and when she had to shelter-in-place in her San Francisco home, she went down to the garage and started painting. Her first was drolly titled, “Sorry I can’t come to the phone right now, I’m Lysoling my bananas.” She wrote me that she had to paint this at a different pace than she normally would because, “I had not been able to get fresh fruit from Instacart for several days, so I had to paint this very quickly as I needed to feed my family the bananas!”

When she sent me a photo of that first banana painting, I saw it as a metaphor for the new world with which we’re all learning to cope. Which also fits with Amy’s second painting, whose title is, “Sorry I’m late to Zoom, I was disinfecting my (organic) oranges.”

Amy and her husband Greg (hmmmm…. karma?) own an art gallery in downtown San Francisco. But since mid-March, like millions of small businesses in America, it has been closed. And adding insult to injury, because other stores in their part of the city have literally boarded up their windows to discourage break-ins in what has become a ghost town, theirs is boarded up too.

But Amy has kept painting, and although she’s in the garage at home rather than the permanently outfitted studio at the rear of the gallery, it hasn’t hurt her work. Or her humor. Or, since her life in lockdown hasn’t changed since mid-March, her theme.

Thus, the third painting: “Lemons with Blue and White Pottery and Lysol.”

To my eyes (admitting no fatherly bias), my daughter’s work is like Cézanne in the Age of Coronavirus. Still-lifes that tell the story of our lives. The fourth painting to come off Amy’s easel is simply titled “Garden of Eden, Spring 2020.” I haven’t done the research to back it up but I’d make a fairly educated guess that this is the first time in the history of art that a container of Comet and a Lysol Disinfectant Wipe have been paired with an apple. (She had to paint this one fairly fast too, for the same reason she gave for the bananas.)

Finally, “Lust and Longing in the Kingdom, Spring 2020.” I told my daughter that if she wanted to shorten the title, she could just call it “Fort Knox.” After all, lots of store shelves where tall stacks of toilet paper once stood are (inexplicably) bare to this day. So maybe Amy’s title is better… especially if we’re still lusting and longing for TP, whether one-ply or two-ply or three, much longer.

I hope you’ve gotten a kick out of what I just showed you. We’ve living in a dark era right now, but thank goodness for those who still manage to find a bright side. And even more, to paint it.

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(For inquiries about these paintings, whose prices are in the range of $4,500 to $9,000, or about prints of a few which will also be produced on canvas, write to YourStory@BoomerCafe.com)

9 Comments

  1. What a wonderful, talented artist your daughter is – with a wicked sense of humor! You should be a very proud papa! Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I will be able to stop by her gallery and see her work in person the next time I’m in San Francisco.

  2. Thanks for featuring this excellent and uplifting artwork. You have every right to be proud of Amy! Here’s hoping she and Greg will be able to soon open their gallery.

  3. Definitely the lining of light in the darkness. At first they are only paint on canvas or panel, but with a bit of time spent considering the conditions inspiring them, their juxtapositions start to speak in a more meaningful way about the dimensions of our current reality. Yes, pandemics and plagues have occurred before, but never in the history of the world has the entire globe been beset by the same problem at the same time. Your daughter’s still lives were precipitated by forces ironically too fast-moving to be well captured in media Commonly devoted to movement. So her talent and, shall we say, aggravated humor, have borne her art— an art that has employed one of the most contemplative types of painting to capture one of the most disturbing curses we can imagine.
    Congratulations on Amy’s take on this terrible time and the gifts to tackle it with painterly humor.

  4. These beautiful depictions remind me of a famous painting from the 1930s: “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. That iconic 20th-century painting became a metaphor for the Great Depression and depiction of a steadfast American spirit standing firm against the crisis … as well as a frequently parodied image of a father and his daughter.

  5. I love these! I’m thinking we can all change the messages on our devices with “sorry I’m Lysoling…”.

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