Throughout the quarantine, students enrolled in the Museum’s Coding Club collaborated with digital artist Roz Dimon to give voice to their experience during the COVID era. The results—a 7 minute, multi-layered digital canvas entitled Vida en el Tiempos de COVID—authentically captures this historic moment in time as viewed through the lens of Spanish-speaking students. We recently spoke to Roz and were delighted to learn more about her background, her creative process, and what it was like to collaborate via Zoom.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I originally grew up in Atlanta, GA, a shy introspective kid in a big, boisterous, loving family. After graduating from The University of Georgia armed with a BFA in painting and drawing, I grew up again when I drove my VW beetle to NYC to become, alongside a gazillion others, ‘a great artist.’ What an adventure. New York City was electronic for this southern belle — in just about every way. My paintings filled with pixels shortly thereafter and I took the first courses in digital art in 1984 at The School of Visual Arts. This threw a curve ball into my work. Changed my life.
How did you end up on the East End?
My husband and I were making gobs of money in the digital dotcom splurge of the late 90s – enough so we looked at each other and said, “Hey, let’s get a weekend place away from NYC.” We ended up in Shelter Island. Of course 9/11 and the dotcom crash forced NYC and many of us to our most humble knees — whereby Shelter Island became home base.
What exactly is a DimonSCAPE? Can you describe your process?
A DIMONscape is a process I came up with after many years working in the forefront of digital media in the city, in both fine art and corporate arenas. It’s a true testament that sometimes our greatest gifts can be only be ignited after our deepest losses and sorrows. Post 9/11, when I was going through a very dark time, I was awakened by an exhibition of Byzantine iconography that spoke of icons as offering comfort to a nation besieged. I thought how does my work as an artist working in cutting edge media speak to people? This led to the completely foreign experience of creating a work of art through prayer and servitude to something larger than my own expression. Several traditional icons later I came back to my studio and made my first contemporary icon called PALE MALE. Similar to Byzantine Icons, it is a piece that invites people into its symbolism and experience. It is now in the collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I called these works DIMONscapes as why not? No one knew what to call them as they were a new kind of art and storytelling that connects the wall to the web, where one looks at a painting and peels back its many layers, almost as if they were the artist creating it. Picasso is purported to have said “I wish I could peel back the layers of my paintings and invite people in.” Well, DIMONscapes do that. And people like the name. It works.
You’ve described La Vida en Tiempos De COVID as being “of the moment.” How do you think the piece conveys what kids are experiencing right now?
LA VIDA is a DIMONscape that is as much about the kids as it is about DIMON. In this situation, I loaded my digital brush with their art, their stories, their voices and what a meaningful experience it was to create a painting composed of many paintings. The piece is a testament to the struggles these kids and their families are going through during COVID, as well as their patriotism, imaginative spirit, hopes and courage. It is also a beacon that shines a light on the close family ties and values within the Latino community. Our plan is to put it on the wall at CMEE as a 48”x36” backlit lightbox chrome with a QR code commemorative plaque beside it — so all can experience the piece as a final work-of-art while using their smart phones to explore and play with the layers and artwork of all the artists.
What was it like collaborating via Zoom?
Collaborating on Zoom was challenging – Luckily 1) I was fairly familiar with it having worked remote with my programmer and voice-over team for over a year in just this way from Shelter Island on other projects, and 2) I had the guidance and help of Leah Oppenheimer, Director of Community Outreach at CMEE and also Lisa Garrison, an experienced arts educator with children – both of whom were fabulous working with the kids. Plus the MAMITAS. ❤️
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to “just hang loose” no matter how wild and crazy it sometimes got — in spite of our scripting carefully for every class. That and transcribing artwork entirely from online screen grabs and chats on WhatsApp.
What was the biggest surprise?
The whole enterprise was an adventure — having been designed of course for the real-life classroom. And the work these kids created was truly inspiring, as well as their stories. A hush could be heard around the online world as they worked on their art during ZOOM – 25 little bowed heads appeared on-screen, all in deep concentration. What’s not to love? And of course, little surprises every class like an appearance by “WHITEY” the rabbit, live baby chicks, Leah leading us all in a dance to the tunes of Salina — For all the challenges, it was delicious fun — and meaningful work.
Would you do it again?
You bet! Especially working with this team. We had something special going that I’d love to see continue.
How can people see more of your work?
People can see more of my work at rozdimon.com and artstory.net (an ongoing visual blog about all things rozolutionary!) You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.