Center on the Square Member Relies on Art to Ease the Pain of Living Through a Pandemic

August 10th, 2020

Sarina Meones wearing a necklace she made at MoMA that was shown at MOMA Education Center Gallery

Sarina Meones is using quarantine as an opportunity to devote more time to art. A member of Center on the Square, she is submitting her original paintings every week to the Virtual Art Show. Inspired by her abundance of creativity, we got to know Sarina a little more with an interview about her art and how being part of a virtual artistic community is easing the stress brought on by the pandemic.

How did you first become interested in art?

My father was very creative. He was a very talented painter, and while he didn’t teach me to paint he taught me to sew. He electrified a sewing machine himself, he was an immigrant. Through college, I made all my own clothes, everything. So my father was the impetus for the art, he was creative and talented and he played music and he spoke many languages. I speak four languages, too.

Sarina’s artwork from throughout her life

You had a career as a fine artist, could share a little about your path?

Yes, it was my first career. My undergraduate degree was in Painting, my Masters was in Printmaking, and I taught high school art for a little while. Then I left the art world because I got laid off from my teaching job and I decided that I wanted something a little more intellectually stimulating at the time, so I went first for a PHD in therapy and then I went to the Analytic Institute and graduated with a degree as a psychoanalyst. I’ve been practicing for the past 30 years. I continued to make some art, so I’ve been involved with art for a very long time but not as seriously as I was in the beginning. Dealing with the galleries and the business of art was not something I was too fond of.

I started to do art again a little while ago because I have more time, especially right now while we’re all stuck at home. I’ve been playing around. I have been taking classes now and then at Greenwich House and SAGE senior centers. Recently I’ve been really wanting to get back into painting, and I’ve taken some classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in painting, but it’s very difficult to get into the classes there. Then when I do I’m there with the twenty-year-olds!

Most of the paintings you’ve been contributing to the Virtual Art Show have been Chinese painting, which is a new style for you. Why that direction?

I dance a lot, and one of the teachers of a dance class I take is Chinese and teaches Chinese painting, so I said I wanted to learn from him and he said okay and set up a Zoom class back in early spring. We meet weekly. I knew nothing about Chinese painting. I was an oil painter and also worked in acrylics, so working with watercolors is something I did not have much familiarity with. But at home I don’t have the space to do a big oil painting or make a big mess, so I decided watercolor is a good idea. What I’ve been sending you is sort of Chinese painting; I take off and do my own thing with it. When I do landscape I add a little color because with Chinese painting a landscape has very little color. It’s almost all black and white with just a little hint of color, and I find that a little frustrating because I love color.

When I worked in oils and printmaking I used a lot of color. You can use color in watercolor too, it’s just not as vibrant as oils, so now we’re starting to play with that by focusing on flowers; I use my the exercises that my teacher gives me as a starting point and run with it on my own, because that’s what you do as an artist.

Sarina’s artwork created during the pandemic

Besides your Chinese Painting class, how have you been staying connected with people throughout the pandemic?

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of the Greenwich House online exercise classes. I’m also taking folk dance classes about three evenings a week. I’m still working part-time, and then I’m doing my own art when I have time, so I’m very active. I’m a hiking leader, so the other week I made a slideshow of a walk I took alone around DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights to share with my hiking group. I miss being with people in these little communities, and taking my art classes where I have the space to really spread out and work. But I’m doing what I can.

What has art and making art meant to you during this period?

It’s an escape, for me it’s an escape. I’ve taken a few workshops online and a lot of the people are doing all of this political art and I kind of want to get away from that. I want to get into the world of beauty and color. It’s not that I don’t care about the political stuff, but when you’re surrounded with so much of it I want my artistic world to be one that I’m happy to be in.