Elizabeth Schwaiger, “Flooded Springs” (2019), oil, acrylic, ink on canvas, 39 x 48 inches
It practically goes without saying that most people prefer to view visual art in person rather than online. Virtual exhibitions have been necessary proxies for firsthand experience during the time of social distancing, but they can’t fully convey sensorial qualities such as texture, scale, and light. What’s more, looking at art in person is about more than just aesthetic experience. It can also be an occasion to spend time with friends, dialogue with gallerists, schmooze with acquaintances and strangers at an opening, get some light exercise, visit a neighborhood or city, or, for the influencers among us, snap some art selfies. The viewing experience was bound to feel diminished when shunted entirely online.
Dealing with the alienation born of secondhand knowledge may be a new phenomenon for the art industry but it has long been a core concern of eco- and climate-themed art.