Last year was a time, for sure, many of us are more than willing to leave in the dust without so much as a second thought. But Doris Cordero had a particularly difficult 2020 even beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Cordero was diagnosed with cancer, leading to both physical and mental difficulties in the midst of the pandemic-era social isolation and distancing. But like many great artists often do, Cordero turned to her medium of choice — painting — creating something beautiful out of something terrible.
That painting chronicled part of her journey, aptly titled “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” And along with the work of many of her friends and colleagues, it appears in the Riverdale Art Association’s ongoing exhibition, “Moving Forward.”
Cordero is the association’s president, but she recalled the plan for the exhibit was a team effort. While she and her colleagues were keen to leave 2020 in the past, some of the pandemic’s restrictions are still alive and well. This meant an in-person exhibition would be difficult, if not impossible.
So the association made the decision to turn “Moving Forward” into an online exhibition, viewable on its website.
While many of the association’s members merely needed to paint, draw or otherwise craft their hearts out, some of the other work was happening behind the scenes. The association’s exhibits chair — and “Moving Forward’s” curator, Diana Catz — was in charge of compiling all of the completed pieces and putting them into a playable video, the online exhibition’s chosen form.
Catz presented the finished video to the art association’s members, who gave notes for tweaking and tune-ups here and there in order to make the exhibition all it could be. And in the absence of an actual gallery, that’s all the more important.
But unfortunately, pandemic-era art itself is nothing all too new for the Riverdale Art Association. It previously hosted the exhibition “Art in a Time of Quarantine,” displaying work produced in the earlier spring and summer months of the pandemic.
But for Cordero, the sentiment behind “Moving Forward” is a bit different. It’s dealing with the current reality and soon-to-be aftermath of nearly a year of social distancing, mask-wearing and overall isolation. Nevertheless, the world needs to carry on, even while the pandemic remains a reality.
“This year, we realized we still have the pandemic, and we are having to move forward, even though we are still sheltering somewhat,” Cordero said. “So we thought we’d do a second version of (‘Art in a Time of Quarantine’) … looking ahead to when this is over. And then looking back. And then looking forward: Where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
Much of Cordero’s piece, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” centers around her cancer diagnosis. But already, much has changed — at least visually — from when she created the piece.
“That picture has hair on it,” Cordero said. “I lost all my hair after radiation. But I had my hair then, which would look totally different now. My image is about today, the now. Here I am now. Here we are in the future. And this is what happened in the past.”
Some of the association’s members prefer a more mathematical, 21st century approach to their artwork. Vice president and show producer Myra Joyce’s preferred medium is fractal art. She inputs an equation into an online application, and adjusts and tweaks its output until she’s satisfied with what it produces on her screen.
While her work is more abstract than Cordero’s, Joyce believes that viewing all of the association members’ work together in a video will help inspire positive feelings from its viewers regardless of an artist’s medium of choice.
“What I would like for people to get a sense of is optimism,” Joyce said. “Even from the title. We’re getting out of this mess, in more ways than one.”
While “Moving Forward” might deal with such an upsetting subject as the coronavirus pandemic, Cordero thinks the message behind the exhibition will be anything but. She hopes those who view it — albeit virtually — will feel both hope and determination.
After all, those were the feelings which helped inspire her group to create art in a time of upheaval and personal tragedy like this one.
“There is hope in our determination to be artists,” Cordero said. “It really has pushed us forward, to be more mindful of our work, and to use it for a purpose.”
CORRECTION: The Riverdale Art Association's virtual exhibit "Moving Forward" is an oingoing exhbit with no closing date currently planned. A story in the Jan. 21 edition stated otherwise.