My lockdown before COVID-19 was hell.
Guest Post by Susana Aldanondo
I refer to it as my time in ‘inferno,’ a time spent in a tiny miserable town in the middle of nowhere, where I turned a room inside an uninhabitable house into a studio. But that is a story for another day.
With the onset of COVID, I felt deceived. I felt like I would never get to paint my way out of the difficult place where I was, that place I call ‘inferno.’ All of the sickness and suffering all around was disheartening, yet in some selfish way I was focused on how deceived I felt by life, by the world, and by COVID.
My hope of moving back to New York City–out of ‘inferno’–which had kept me alive seemed to vanish when the pandemic began. As it turns out, my mom’s need for assistance brought me back to the city anyway. A temporary arrangement for me to be in her apartment was the only way back for me. Unfortunately, it was a place where I could not paint. It was also a place that she had denied me in the past, which forced me to sleep in my car whenever I’d be in the city to paint or collaborate.
I eventually realized that my time with my mother during COVID was probably not just a temporary arrangement, but maybe life’s way of making things right…
I eventually realized that my time with my mother during COVID was probably not just a temporary arrangement, but maybe life’s way of making things right (at least for me it seemed to be that way). All the darkness and dark moments often hide some kind of light or blessing, if we can see through the darkness.
During the slow reopening phase of COVID, I didn’t attend any gatherings, but I was able to exhibit some of my work at different locations in the city. Such opportunities generated a way for my mother to get out of her apartment to accompany me to drop off the paintings.
I’d drive and take the long way to wherever we’d be headed, as I’d listen to stories from my mother’s past: her childhood, her youth, and her early years of marriage to my father. All those stories were treasures she was giving me, while I drove the car and we listened to tango.
She’d sing and I could see her face lighting up, her youth returning to her inner being. It was like witnessing her past come alive whenever she’d listen to a particular tango. Those moments with her became a timeless gift she was giving me. I learned so much about the person behind the woman I had always seen hiding behind the title of ‘mother.’
A new and refreshing version of her had emerged: one that even included the frequent use of the ‘f’ word, which gave us both a good laugh. Who would have guessed that the beautiful old lady with white hair rolled up in a neat bun, with the most beautiful green eyes and grandma-looking semblance, would raise her middle finger and use the ‘f’ word repeatedly to signal her exhaustion when faced with life’s endless daily nuances? I was fully embracing the chance life was granting me of spending time with my mother, with open arms, through a door only forgiveness and an open heart can lead to, recognizing those moments as the light in times of darkness.
Art and painting were the excuse, the wrapping paper decorating the memories that we were making.
Art and painting were the excuse, the wrapping paper decorating the memories that we were making. They were memories she’d take with her when she died, and memories that are alive in me now and for many years to come. Driving on the FDR is no longer a mere way to get from lower Manhattan to the Queensborough Bridge. That drive now holds memories that I treasure, memories of me and my mom, art, tango, laughter, companionship, and how we were given those special moments together during COVID. Those moments became a path within for both of us, a time for reconciliation, a time for when we got to know each other as the strong women we both were.
COVID eventually took my mother from me. It was the one battle in life that she was not strong enough to withstand. With my mother’s passing not too long ago, life hit me with a new low, leading to a new place of loneliness and darkness you only experience when you lose a loved one.
I stopped painting.
Then, after some time, I felt the need to paint again, the need to honor my need to be where I needed to be. It was not just a geographical location or place. It was more of a ‘place where I belong’ kind of place. This place was far from ‘inferno.’ It was the place I cherished: New York.
That is something I would never like to trade for a lonely studio filled with just the silence of my own perceptions and some walls. The interactions, the emotion of painting inspired by being where I want to be in the moment and not so much from a memory, makes a huge difference for me: it makes me happy.
All those moments now make up a new joyful memory I can revisit should life get lonely, or dark, or cold again.
I choose to hold on to the good, to the light, to the gifts that life gave me and my mother by allowing us to spend time together, making new and important memories that each now echo joy, laughter, and forgiveness. Art was the accomplice of life and COVID was the dark place behind the hiding possibility of cherishing what was good. It ended up being a part of making so many of those memories possible.
© Susana Aldanondo (10/7/22) — Special for FF2 Media
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To check out Susana’s artwork, visit her website.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: Susana painting live on the streets of NYC.
Photos Courtesy of Susana Aldanondo for use by FF2 Media. All Rights Reserved.
She studies art at The Art Students League of New York with art master Ronnie Landfield, and where she recently gained recognition after being awarded a Merit Scholarship and winning the Leonard Rosenfeld Merit Award. She is a juried member of the New York Society of Women Artists and The Art Students League of New York.
Susana can often be found on the streets of New York City painting in public. She also loves to write and express emotion through her writing.
Her work can be found in private collections in NYC, Westchester, the Hamptons, Los Angeles, Australia, Denmark, Brazil, Germany, France, London (UK), and Iceland.