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A Socially Distanced Chat with the Brains Behind Covid Classics

Sam Haller (a.k.a. the Girl with a Pearl Earring) from the infamous Instagram account @covidclassics answers some questions put together by Lucia and Emilia from Art Pot Magazine!

1. What was your favourite piece to create and put together?

There was something about Old Woman Frying Eggs. A combination of props, costumes, camera work, and the sheer fun of the painting, that makes it our masterpiece. 

2. Do you relate to any of the artworks you picked?

As someone commented under Allegory of Taste (The Pasta Eater), "this is all of us now." So little pleasure to be had, except, for the lucky, in good food.  3. What does the study/appreciation of fine art mean to you?

None of us studied art, but me personally, I'm a devoted amateur. I used to work in a bar (RIP) and in the daylight hours I often took spontaneous tours of the local museums, seeing old favorites, trying to discover something overlooked or something new. All art is marvelous, even if it's not to your taste. Art is a record of the human spirit; its study, preservation, and continued creation is vital to the species. I think there's very little purpose to life beyond what art can dignify. 

4. Considering you also proposed art as therapy (from Covid boredom), are there any other kind of art-related projects or activities you do to keep you busy and also relax?

My roommates are very outdoorsy. I am the opposite of that. So while they spend most weekends tramping in the great outdoors (this weekend: Mt Washington) I like to stay where it's cool and shady and read till my eyes hurt. The more I understand about the world, the most confident I feel about my place in it—and the deeper my understanding, the more prepared I am to change it for the better. 

We did collaborate in making a short film just recently. Part of a film festival we've participated in the last few years. The best part was being near our friends again (but not too near), close enough we could almost forget the last five months.  5. Most random object used in a piece? 

A torquetum made of folded tortillas. As seen in The Ambassadors

6. How did you choose which pieces you were going to recreate? Were there disagreements?

We were always limited by our props, the color of our textiles, an indoor setting and the number of subjects (three at most!). Those that obviously required a lot of work might not get picked for a Tuesday night shoot. But we never had any serious disagreements!  7. What advice would you give to people who would like to start a creative project but do not have any artistic experience?

People are always far more creative than they give themselves credit for. They think because they can't hold a note like Whitney Houston that no one wants to hear them sing. Every artistic endeavour requires practice (Caravaggio once drew stick figures) and, even then, not every creation can (or should) be perfect (Shakespeare sometimes falls flat). Art is worth undertaking for its own sake. "Ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better."  8. Did you start your initiative after the Los Angeles Getty Museum launched their artworks at home challenge, or is yours completely unrelated? In any case would you consider collaborating with any art institution for an eventual promotional campaign?

The Getty actually launched their campaign after we launched our Instagram! (Coincidence? I won't speculate.) We are far from the first people in the history of photography to recreate famous art, but we did commence this project independently, one tipsy Wednesday night in March. We would love to collaborate with art institutions, if they've got any good ideas. I've been dreaming of a life post-plague in which we do a world tour. There's a lot of art I haven't seen or that I'd like to see again.  9. What have you guys been up to since lockdown has been lifted? Visited any of the paintings that you recreated? Has quarantine been lifted? The United States is one giant plague pit. Even here, in New Haven, with zero deaths recorded this week and a transmission rate <1%, none of the art galleries have reopened. We see our friends more often, we're more mobile, but our lives are essentially unchanged since March.  10. If you could interview any artist, alive or dead, who would they be? What would you ask?

Have you ever read Vincent Van Gogh's letters? They're marvelous. A fantastic writer with a big personality. Well-read, highly opinionated, hot tempered. A lonely romantic given to alcoholic excess. And, despite his reputation, lucid as fine crystal. I'd interview him, though I suspect he may be a difficult subject, and we'd just go for drinks instead. If I could, I'd ask his opinions on abstract art. What would a man who thought art should be nourishing, vital, accessible to everyone, think of Mark Rothko? 

So there we have it! It was a delight to get to know a bit more about arguably one of our favourite forms of artistic entertainment that has kept so many of us inspired during the tedious quarantine period.

[All images taken from @covidclassics]



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