Published on June 9, 2020.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Mara Sprafkin relocated to Charlottesville, VA in in 2011. Sprafkin holds a BA from Bowdoin College and an MFA from Columbia University. Mara has exhibited throughout the United States and locally at both Second Street Gallery and with New City Arts at WVTF. Mara was a 2013-2014 Artist-in-Residence with New City Arts at the Haven and has been a Community Fellow with The University of Virginia’s International Residential College. Mara is the founder of the New City Artist Exchange, an annual artist-led program that brings together Charlottesville artists to create and exchange a unique set of artwork with one another. She currently has drawings on exhibit in the Welcome Gallery window.
In the Working from Home series, Charlottesville artists are sharing about their work and life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mara Sprafkin is our fifth featured artist.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I moved to Charlottesville in 2011 from Brooklyn, NY (where I also grew up!) and and I think after nine years I can probably just call c'ville home.
2. How has the pandemic changed your daily life?
Ha! I have a three year old and a newly minted five year old who now are at home all day and need to be entertained and fed around the clock and my studio space is now our 'home school' and also shared with my husband as his new home office. I have always loved and cherished my alone time, perhaps now more than ever and I am very aware of how little of that time exists now. I am in a constant state of exhaustion.
3. Has it changed your practice? Has it changed the work you're making? How you work?
I mostly draw on my iPad, and when I started working this way five years ago it was when I became a new mom. Working this way lent itself to an unconventional studio practice which I really needed at the time. I don't have have much mess and I can start and stop as needed. This is helpful. And on the flip side, I am making more art than ever! It has really gotten wild. I am now pulling out all of the art supplies I have collected over the years and using it all to make lots of art and craft projects with my kids.
4. Tell us about something you're working on.
On the third day of quarantine I committed to making a daily drawing of an object. This is the most meditative and soothing thing I seem to be able to do for myself. I am currently in awe of the over 60 drawings I have managed to do. It is not easy, I don't have very much time and it is in addition to everything else I am already doing. At times seems like an additional chore that I don't need to take on. Most objects are my own, found in my house, found in my neighborhood and a few were things that jumped out at me in other people's social media feeds.
And as I mentioned earlier, I am also getting messy with my kids. I have been hoarding art supplies for years, I have kept everything from old projects and idea s well as various studio moves and it has been WONDERFUL to use all these stuff. I don't know what I initially thought I was saving it for, but now seems like as good as a time as any. My favorite ongoing project with my kids is a series of giant drawings that we work on in spurts. We have drawn on them, painted on them and just the other week I cut them up and it was awesome! It feel equally as great to be making art like this along side my digital work.
5. What is inspiring you/bringing you joy these days?
My kids. They are diving me crazy. I am probably driving them crazy, but spending so much time together is teaching me a lot and seeing and learning though them has given me some new perspective. Making art and doing open ended craft projects is also really fun and it is always unexpected. I think I had forgotten about taking time to just make things for fun.
6. Whose work are you drawn to right now?
I have loved following along with and catching up with all my artist friends remotely. I currently feel as close with really far away friends as I do with artists friends that are only a short walk from house. Our newly distanced world has opened up lots of new ways for artists to share their practices digitally. We are all shifting, it seems impossible to create in the same way we did three months ago. But as creators we have to continue making and creating and I love to see how people's work is shifting as we all kind of adjust to our new shared circumstances.
7. If you were interviewing artists, what is one question you would want to ask them right now?
In six months, or in a year, maybe even five, what do you want to hold on to/remember from now? This will no doubt change all of us and we will all move forward but what should we keep?
8. How are you staying connected to the creative community?
Social media. I like seeing lots of images of things people are making, what people are seeing, and what people are doing. It's a cheap thrill but I like it for the most part. It all has more meaning now than it did in the past. We can't see each other, we can't share physical space but we can share ideas. It has been nice time to reconnect with people that my old life had me to busy to connect with. I have also been sending things in the mail to friends and dropping of 'gifts' at their homes. I have always loved the idea of art as a gift and this feels like a really important time to give gifts to each other.
9. What is something you've learned about yourself through your creative practice in a time of social distancing?
I like being in control of things and this is a time where I feel like most everything (even in my own home) is out of control. I am learning to let go. It is not easy, I am not there yet. I am also learning more about time management. My own time is so limited and I have to make sure I use it the way I need to, as I don't always know when I will have time to myself again.
The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of NCAI.
See more of Mara Sprafkin's work on her website here.