Art in Marin: Artists adapt to life in the pandemic

Hannah Morgan

Small groups of people stroll through an art exhibit, noting the skill of the artist on display whose themes of comedy and politics shine through her work. M. Louise Stanley, a Bay Area artist, has work currently on display until April 18 at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Novato. The MOCA is one of many places in Marin whose doors are open in the COVID-19 red tier, and it is one of a myriad of opportunities for local artists to continue their work during the pandemic. 

Susan Sharmon, the marketing director at the MOCA, explains that Stanley’s work is featured through the MOCA’s “Legends” program, where they select a local artist’s work to feature in a temporary exhibit in their gallery. The selection process can begin up to a year in advance, as the board chooses an artist in light of both their skill and their impact on the Bay Area. 

 Local artists are also able to find ways to show their work without a location like the Marin MOCA. Lisa Swerling, a local artist in San Anselmo, started selling her work online and has re-evaluated the focus of her pieces during quarantine; in order to reflect the social justice movements sweeping the country, such as BLM, Swerling has tied in themes of social justice to her work. Swerling has the ability to make these choices about the direction of her art because of the freedom of owning a small business. 

Another local artist, Carol Ponzio, is a board member at the Marin Society of Artists in San Rafael. Ponzio utilizes a studio within the Society to create her work, as do some other members who have the opportunity to exhibit their work in the Society’s main gallery during the pandemic. 

Within Redwood’s campus, Claire Henry, co-president of Art Honors Society, recognizes art in the natural beauty of Marin as well as the work that the club itself has contributed. Mosaic pieces within the art garden near the ceramics room and on lunch tables display the club’s work to students passing by. 

Despite the variety in style and display across the different artists and exhibitions, Marin presents unique ways for residents and visitors alike to appreciate local art.