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Pauline Shaw Sheds Light on Her Silver Linings

On view through tomorrow in Manhattan is a show by Half Gallery that you can view from the street. Through glass, the show “Under Glass” greets guests to a group exhibition of works by artists like Daniel Heidkamp, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Tanya Merrill, Anna Park, Richard Prince, Tom Sachs, Chloe Wise, and Pauline Shaw.

Shaw has a colorful piece in the show—Untitled (plaid 2), a felted hand-dyed wool, silk, and vegetable fiber creation that’s mounted on wood frame—that grabs your attention, drawing you in from the sidewalk.

While still isolated at home in New York, Whitewall spoke with Shaw to hear how she’s passing time what she’s reading, cooking, and planning for the future.

WHITEWALL: How are you doing?

PAULINE SHAW: We—my partner Andrew and I—are doing well. In the grand scheme of things, we are very lucky. Andrew was able to keep his job and is working from home, and both our families are healthy. I am fortunate that my schedule has not yet been terribly altered. I had two solo shows scheduled in the upcoming year and so far they seem to still be set. Fingers crossed!

One strange issue for me has been sleep. As much as I try to get on a normal sleep schedule, it’s seemingly impossible right now. I’m up all night, and then often sleeping past noon. I don’t like this and need to figure out how to fix it. Something larger that I think is a ‘double edge sword’ about the COVID pandemic, is how it has brought to light many issues, one being the latent racism towards Asians that I feel can often times be overlooked and in that way is almost more insidious within a western culture.

I personally have had things shouted at me as I’m walking around the city, and although it hasn’t come to anything physical, that fear begins to creep into all aspects of living, it makes you scared to get groceries or even take a walk alone. The silver lining though, is that I see so many grass roots initiatives coming together, from town halls and outlets to share experiences, to small relief funds from different organizations. It’s not nearly enough, but it is encouraging.

WW: What are you listening to, reading, watching?

PS: In terms of reading, I just finished Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong. It was great and I highly recommend it. I’m listening to lots of Patsy Cline, John Prine, and Taj Mahal (a favorite song being “Satisfied n’ Tickled too.”) And I’m watching Fassbinder (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), NOVA: The Planets, and “The Last Dance” series on ESPN.

WW: What are you cooking? 

PS: With all this extra home time, I have been able to slow down and cook a bunch of complicated or time-consuming dishes. Some recent favorites are an herb salad with hard-boiled quail eggs, dill, cilantro and watercress with toasted almonds, sesame and nigella seeds. Another is blanched asparagus, haricot verts and edamame beans with spinach and shallots in a sesame vinaigrette.

I’ve also been making lots of homemade Caesar salads, “make your own” Vietnamese spring rolls, and most recently, fresh steamed little neck clams with white wine, parsley and garlic. It was simple and delicious! I know that baking has been a big COVID-19 activity, but I’m not much of a baker. I attempted cookies once, but other than that my oven has stayed off. Our neighbor, Tom, is a master baker, and he has been very generous with his creations. We’ve had apple galette, rosemary focaccia, and peanut butter cookies, just to name a few!

WW: How are you staying connected?

PS: When New York initially went “on pause,” I found myself socializing and staying in touch with friends even more so than life before quarantine. We moved from Los Angeles about two-and-a-half years ago, so it was really nice to catch up with some old friends that I hadn’t spoken to in a while. As the weeks went on, and the sense of time was lost and an isolated routine set in, I’ve been Facetiming and Zooming less. The sounds get clipped, people are muted, and images become frozen. We drift in and out—we’re together, but we’re not.

WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?

PS: My studio building has remained open, but I’ve limited how much time I spend there as a safety precaution, since the bathrooms and kitchen area are shared spaces. I’m spending more time in a place of free exploration—whether that’s sketching or going on long walks and taking pictures of spring, light and birds.

There’s also some pretty bizarre and strange things in the city which I love stumbling onto, like this one house in Boerum Hill that’s fully bedazzled with sea shells and is mermaid/beach-themed. It was beautiful and shimmering in the afternoon light. In the beginning of quarantine, I was finishing up a piece that is now in a group show currently on view at Half Gallery. You can visit and see all the works in the show through the glass and from the street.

Although I’m definitely making less work than is typical, I find myself thinking a lot more openly about ideas for my upcoming shows, I suppose allowing myself to plan for the future in a way.

WW: Where are you finding hope/inspiration?

PS: Hmm, it’s hard to say… I’ve had some heady conversations with people about art, existentialism, mystery and consciousness. But I’ve also felt disoriented and perhaps a bit lost in all this. There is hope and inspiration to be found in relationships, conversations, our natural surroundings, and our dreams for the future. Yet there’s also a real, visceral, pervasive sense of hopelessness that a lot of people are feeling these days, for reasons related and unrelated to COVID-19, and I think it’s at least useful to not ignore that sensation, and instead perhaps investigate it further.




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Minjung Kim




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