Artmaking in the Time of COVID-19

Artmaking in the Time of COVID-19 features artists who previously exhibited with Gallery 263. We created these posts to see if artists’ practices are changing due to the global pandemic. In a time of physical distance, we hope you enjoy learning about other artists’ experiences and gaining insight into their practices.

Visit the main page for Artmaking in the Time of COVID-19 to access all of the artist interviews.


Artist Interview: Marla McLeod

Tell us about yourself and your practice.

Well, the basics are that I’m a multidisciplinary artist and I work mainly in paintings, textiles, and sculpture.  But it’s so much more than that.  Ha!  My own background is pretty diverse (black, Native American, Irish) but heavily influenced by my being black in America.  However, so is every single black person in this country whether they want it to happen or not.  And that is something I like to study in my research.  I like to approach the work by looking into history and paying attention to current events.  I try to figure out how these sort of macro level events (blacks in media, fashion, art, etc..) currently affect micro level events (black individuals personal lives).  And each life is different.  And that is what I like to put into my work.   

How has your creative practice shifted and adapted during the pandemic?

I certainly need to be more considerate in how I put together work.  Physically. For storage and portability.  I do find myself working in multiple drawing mediums however, the mediums in which I work have not been drastically affected, nor has my process.  Painting/drawing is something that can be done in most spaces.  Textiles also.  Something I have always tried to consider in my material use is how my access can be affected.  I ask myself, “If I have nothing, can I still create?” and the answer will always be a yes.  It just so happens that I did not have to change my materials during these modern, unprecedented times. 

I do get more time to work from my home studio/livingroom.  Which is like an extravagance though it lacks drastically in desirable space. But I miss dearly the interactions in the studio with my fellow artists.  People like Mia Fabrizio coming by to tell me to fix something I’ve been trying to ignore, or Jeannie Simms just checking in is priceless!  Ha ha.  However, the ample use of video conferencing works to keep me in touch with the outside world on a regular basis. 

How has the content of or approach to your work shifted because of current events?

Honestly, I believe I feel more confident in my approach now.  My work has been received well by a larger community, outside of academia, and I appreciate that. That is important to me, that the audience appreciates the work.  I believe I’m still headed in the same direction of looking deeper into the personal histories of the people I paint and discovering new ways to incorporate the unique attributes of those histories into the work. 

Current events like Kamala Harris becoming the first female, and black person to hold her title makes me very proud to do the work I do.   Societal events like the blatant negative effects of the current healthcare system on the black community are also things I look into.  It seems that eyes are opening a little wider to what it means to live while black in America.  These events, and their relation to history and the black individual will touch my work in some way shape or…fashion! Wink! 

Do you have plans to transform your work or approach in 2021?

I believe a lot of artists go through some sort of continuous transformation throughout their careers. I for one will always be. Right now, the information really has begun to inform/transform the materials, staying within my sculptural, painting, textile realm of course. How I use the materials may be different, but I don’t think I’ll be doing laser prints anytime soon. HA!