Carnegie Mellon University

View looking out of Mincemoyer's window at a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds.

Looking Out

Artists Respond to COVID-19 through Artists' Windows and Their Wisdom

written by
Margaret Cox

Since March, life has been far from normal. The pandemic has opened up a space for reflection, a platform for awakening, and as evidenced by the recent protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, this is also a time when people are articulating how they are not interested in returning to "normal."

This is a time of making the invisible, visible.

Alex Young, in collaboration with co-workers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Institute for Contemporary Art, came up with an idea to view this time through the eyes of local contemporary artists. “Looking Out” is a photo and video program on Instagram and IGTV featuring new works by Pittsburgh artists.

“’Looking Out’ was conceived as an empathetic space to make the experience of sheltering-in-place one less of isolation and more of collectivity and solidarity. Featuring local artists, this project asks participants to share the view from their window —meditating upon our simultaneous nearness and farness, sameness and difference, while providing profane illuminations for our times.” Young said.

“The artists in ‘Looking Out’ have risen to the moment in a manner that is as immediate as it is profound.”

Alex Young

Miller ICA Director Elizabeth Chodos responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a new ePublication called “Remote Control.” “Looking Out” is a series highlighted on the platform.

“Artists have a real role to play in times of crisis, by processing the trauma caused by loss, revealing the unseen forces at play that impact our daily lives, and by making meaning out of the seismic socio-political shifts resulting from the global lockdowns,” Chodos said.

Looking out of Clancy's window, through a rainbow-hued transparent window cling.
Closer up of the view through the rainbow-colored window cling.

The series has received attention in an article from WESA.FM and has featured works by artists Tony Buba, Shaun Slifer, Erin Mallea, Lindsey french, Chris Ivey, Steve Gurysh, Carin Mincemoyer and Kevin Clancy, with additional artists to come.

Local artist Carin Mincemoyer, who graduated from CMU in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in art, shares her work “Sky Notes, Looking Out #07.” In this series of photographs the artist takes note of the sky.

“During a crisis making art takes on a restorative or healing quality because it reconfirms that this is what I do,” Mincemoyer said. “I can see on social media other artists continuing to make art whether in their normal workspaces or on the kitchen table, and it confirms that this is what we do. Artmaking is an attempt to engage the world in a conversation about what it means to be alive in this moment, and the tools and skills to do that are just as important in bad times as in good.”

“Since the inception of the project, worldwide demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have taken hold and further confirmed the vital role contemporary artists play in social change,” Chodos said.

Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey talks about his video “The Reality, Looking Out #05” and why its message is so crucial in this time of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Many of us in the black community are dealing with the pandemic more boldly because we are so used to everyday trauma.” Ivey said. “Whether it be domestic violence, police violence or various other types of PTSD-inducing violence, the black community has been relatively quiet and resilient — until the tipping point of George Floyd's death. I believe it's because we are just used to rolling, literally at times, with the punches.

“We're living in an incredible time that has been brewing for decades. We're in a time where we need bold leaders who are not afraid to address the issues,“ Ivey said. “As an artist, I feel it’s my duty to always bring art, activism and people together, through my work.”

During this time, while business as usual is paused, we can clearly see that we don’t want to go back to what was once “normal." One concrete thing we can do is listen to the wisdom from artists' voices and their work as well as looking out for each other.

Follow the project on Instagram at #lookingoutpgh or @millericacmu.

featuring images from the following works:

 [Looking Out #07] Carin Mincemoyer, Sky Notes

[Looking Out #08] Kevin Clancy, OTHER WORLDS ARE POSSIBLE