KENDRA SOLLARS: DARK DAYS, BRIGHT SKIES, ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE.
We are at a time when art practice has been in crisis, or rather, it has encountered a crisis, and some artists have faced this fact of life head-on. Kendra Sollars entered this camp of artists who are making art about life, and art about the end of life, when she began working on a piece that started on the day that the US death-toll from COVID-19 hit 100,000 cases. Entitled “Dark Days, Bright Skies: Isolation and Quarantine”, this video piece presents us with a rather poignant and autobiographical examination of what it means to be isolated from the world using a time-based, structuralist approach to the documentary form. Toward this end, it captures a singular viewpoint framed only by a circle, which is set looking up at the sky, not far from a windows edge. It is here, that we find the unflinching kino-eye of an inerrant gaze, poised and waiting for whatever comes into view, with hours passing, days, weeks, months... the first year.
And yet, during this estranged experience of time passing, where deaths tripled, then quadrupled, then passed half a million, filming never ceased. Even as an election went up for grabs, and the results rolled in only to be denied by the sitting president, the camera was still there at the window as the rioters descended upon the capital. A number of vaccines have been developed since this piece began, some with different storage temperatures and of course, the conditions to qualify for getting the two-shot cocktail felt a little ad hoc to say the least. This wider lens of cutlural concerns emerged alongside a narrower scope of personal ones, not wholly unrelated to underlying conditions, surgery, immobility and the hard fought work of healing at a time when physical therapy had become a new practice in self-obsevation. This was life on earth for a just one artist, but on many days, it neither felt much like "a life", nor did one see get much of the earth. Nevertheless, we still all shared one thing in common, a picture of the skies above.
Sharing that view is part of experiencing Sollars's film, which is one of the first visual histories of the days that passed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was recorded from the viewpoint of looking out and up at the world, but in a way that suggests a place of doubled confinement nonetheless. The title is meant to describe how the dark days that came to dominate the daily news eventually turned into a dark night of the soul for many politicians, who had to choose whether or not to cross party lines as concerns about the ongoing struggles faced by frontline workers and the numbers of family members who lost loved ones grew with each new wave. But of course, the survivor stories, the restoration of the democratic process and the first signs of medical relief, all still have the ability to make the future seem brighter than yesterday, even if at the best of moments, it still has the tinge of being a rather fleeting feeling. These stark contrast in life, not to mention the formal and real contrasts portrayed in the film, make up what Sollars has described as a very intimate “piece about my personal experience during the pandemic, being very isolated, and often lonely, anxious, and scared, and yet, looking out the window was a calming mechanism for me.” Most importantly perhaps, this work is still ongoing, and does not have an end in sight. It is a document in-progress, because there are sure to be more tribulations ahead, and Sollars is the cartographer par excellence of time-passing, until "the new normal" beomes something of the recent past.
Bio: Kendra Sollars is an Arizona native currently working in video-based public installation. She received a B.A. in Art from The Ohio State University (2009) and claimed two National Championships in varsity synchronized swimming the same year. Sollars was a highly competitive synchronized swimmer for fifteen years. Her competitive swimming turned creative and professional as she worked as a head choreographer for the Arizona Desert Dolphins synchronized swimming team (2009-2012) and worked as an Artist/Athlete in the prestigious production of Cirque du Soleil’s O, in Las Vegas, Nevada (2011-2012). As a synchronized swimmer, Sollars explored narrative and form through movement and performance. She has adapted that experience into an interdisciplinary art practice that includes video, photography, performance, and installation. Sollars’s work explores our human interconnectedness with the natural world, particularly with water, often using her own physical form as the subject of her work. Her most recent work has been displayed at the Tempe Center for the Arts and Mesa Arts Center. Her collaborative work with artist Lauren Strohacker, Animal Land (2013), was awarded the Contemporary Forum Emerging Artist Grant (2014) by the Phoenix Art Museum and the Artist Research and Development Grant by the Arizona Commission on the Arts (2015). Sollars’s technical experience includes Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Lightroom and Premiere Pro. Sollars currently lives and works in Tempe, Arizona and was named one of the top 100 creatives in the city by the Phoenix New Times (2014).