I came across the paintings of Los Angeles-based painter Alex Selkowitz earlier this year, whose work is inspired by the city's juxtaposition of urban sprawl and green spaces. There was a haunting sense of isolation seeing the stillness, the lack of human figures. Yet something oddly comforting in the lonely chairs, abandoned houses and suburban landscapes he paints.
In conversation with Alex about the year that was:
How has this year been for you?
Well, this year has had a lot of ups and downs for sure. Obviously the pandemic overshadowed everyone's life to some extent or another. My day job in the film industry got shut down from March to June. I have been back at work for awhile now and that has been quite an ordeal filming a TV show during a pandemic.
I spent a lot of time at home with my family which was great. I feel like the pandemic brought us closer and I certainly got to bond more with my son Jameson. There were tragedies too. We lost our second son, Milo, at 20 weeks. It was heart-wrenching and we are still trying to make sense of it. My wife, Alana, has fully recovered physically which I am truly grateful for.
In terms of my art, this year has actually been pretty interesting. I made some great headway in getting my art out in the world. I was in an art fair in Palm Springs in early February before the shutdowns. I have made more sales this year and had time to revamp my website. I have been pushing myself to try new techniques and new concepts in my practice and so far, it has been rewarding to do so.
Overall this year has been a roller coaster. As a family, it was bittersweet but we are healing. In my painting practice, I have been able to move forward and look into 2021. I am confident that next year will be better.
Did you learn anything new this year?
I am a lot better at setting up zoom meetings than I was before! I live in Los Angeles, California and my parents live about 400 miles away in Northern California. It’s not safe for my parents to travel right now for obvious reasons. So I had no choice but to become an amateur video conference specialist.
What was your routine like during the pandemic?
For the first couple of months my wife, son and I spent almost all of our time at home. My wife and I both work in the film business so we were both out of work. My routine really revolved around family and making art. We would wake up early, have breakfast, do some arts and crafts activities, go on walks etc and by the evening time we would have dinner and put Jameson to bed. Usually, I would then go out to the studio for a bit. I have been back at work since August, so now my schedule has become a lot more hectic.
What dish did you cook the most in 2020?
Scrambled eggs! I am not much of a cook but we all love scrambled eggs, so I learned how to make them better.
What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome this year?
The biggest obstacle that I overcame was “recalibrating” my painting practice once the pandemic really took over. The stress of simply existing during that time and not knowing when it would be over threw me off my game at the beginning. Thoughts began to seep into my head: should I even be making art right now? What is the point? Eventually, I adapted to life in quarantine. I don’t remember how long it took but I started spending a little time here and there slowly getting into it. Within a couple of weeks, I had resumed my normal practice.
What was one of the moments you were most proud of this year?
My son achieved a lot this year: he is riding his balance bike well, he became water safe in the pool and he is beginning to read. I am immensely proud of him. On a more personal note, all the work I have been putting in to my practice is paying off finally by getting a little recognition here and there.
Who really enriched your life this year in a big way?
My wife. We both went through a lot with losing our second son during the pregnancy. Of course there is a level of pain that she went through that I will never understand. She also works a full-time job, is an amazing mom and is there for everyone when they need it. Showing me how to be strong in the face of immense challenges and finding a way to keep it all together is one of the most enriching things I can think of.
The nicest thing you did for someone in 2020?
To be honest, I have no idea how to answer that. I would like to think that I did a lot of nice things for people throughout the year. Trying to remember the nicest is pretty tough.
The book that helped you the most in 2020?
I finally got around to listening to the audio book of George Orwell’s 1984. A brilliant book and shockingly relevant in the current political landscape.
The song you heard on loop this year?
I can’t think of a specific song but when I am in the studio painting, I listen to a lot of ambient music or synthwave. Helps loosen my mind up a little bit.
Favorite film/TV show of 2020?
The Mandalorian. For a big sci-fi nerd like me, it's the perfect show.
What's a lesson that this lockdown has taught you?
Before the lockdown, I took for granted how nice it was to simply get together with people without worrying about masks or where they have been recently.
What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year?
Is this painting done?
A recent epiphany you've had?
During the pandemic and with the personal things that happened in my life this year, I developed an even better understanding of the distinction between the things we really need and things we just want.
What’s your number one bucket list item for 2021?
My number one bucket list item for next year is to try and get my paintings into a physical gallery.