A global pandemic was not how artist Karyn Gabaldon envisioned celebrating a milestone in the art business in Durango.
“This is my 40th anniversary, and I was planning on having a big 40th anniversary bash, and I was going to paint for that – I had prepped all my stuff, all my boards and my canvases and everything,” she said. “And then all of a sudden, life changed, like it did for everybody.”
But Gabaldon, who owns Karyn Gabaldon Fine Arts and specializes in contemporary paintings and landscapes, took advantage of the change that has enveloped the world over the past few months, going into a sort of artist sabbatical while staying home. She completely shut down the gallery, including online.
The result of her time away is a new body of work called “Earth, Sky and Soul of COVID-19,” a show made up of more than 60 paintings. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a fun show opening and artist reception isn’t in the cards this time, but you can still check out Gabaldon’s work at the gallery and on her website.
It’s a show, she said, she never intended to do; it just came from what she was experiencing this spring.
“I just went into ‘inner paint mode,’ and I just started painting all about what I was feeling and all the images that I could relate to. And then it just kept coming so fast,” Gabaldon said, “You know, we all thought, ‘OK, we’re in Week 1, that’s it, maybe another week. And then it was Week 2, then it was Month 1 and Month 2, so I just kept going.”
One of the benefits of staying home when she did, she said, was that, having the gallery for so long, usually by springtime, she’s done painting from the winter. This was the first spring she really got to be outdoors and be home to have a different view – including some pretty incredible skies, which are front and center in the new show.
And while for a lot of people, the prospect of time to focus just on creative work sounds like a lot of fun, for Gabaldon, her studio time took on a whole different tone that met a deeper need.
“I would say it was intense. I felt like this was a time that we’ve never experienced and hopefully, we will never experience again. And artists throughout history, it’s artists’ responsibility to record things like this, and so that’s what I did,” she said. “So what started happening is I started doing a lot of sky. I started doing a lot of the Sleeping Ute because the Sleeping Ute, they have a legend that if we ever get into trouble, the Ute will rise to help us. And I’ve always had this really special affinity for the Sleeping Ute. And I think part of doing that also kept me a little bit grounded, but it was also a prayer that I used a lot. And then of course I just tried to open up my soul to what was going on – the deeper meaning of all this and the whys and the mysteries and all of that. It was quite a journey! Totally unexpected, totally unplanned, totally in the moment.”
As Gabaldon, like the rest of Durango – and the world – slowly starts to emerge from lockdown (her gallery is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only for now), she’s planning to incorporate lessons she learned during the spring into her life moving forward.
“My whole mantra through this whole thing has been ‘day by day.’ And I’m still there, I mean, it’s still day by day,” she said. “I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, I don’t think any of us do. This thing could whip back and kick us in the butt. We just don’t know yet.
“And it’s interesting because I don’t want to move back into the old routine, I want to make it new because I did a lot of inner work during this time, like a lot of us did, and I just feel like it’s all new. In fact, one of my last paintings is called ‘It’s a new world.’ And I hope I can remember that.”