The words like a quick drawing for a painting that never ends on the canvas, an internal reflection I marked with astrological patterns, a now-past Venus retrograde and an overlapping mercury retrograde, but mostly the realities of work and the covid-impacted winter left my words like a whispered echo rather than an a coherent account beyond some social media musings and scribbled lines in my journal. I’ve been writing (“not” writing) this reflection for months; there was travel and challenges and the instability of change that I tried to tend as movement forward even as the weight of anxious hypervigilance left clarity fleeting. At the start of the new calendar year it felt like an extension of an unending pandemic-impacted academic year that began in March, 2020, and all the usual cycles of school life continue to be upended. I noticed how hard it was to celebrate what an incredible professional art year I’d manifested, but the challenges of trying to manage work and life obstacles and exhaustion continued to erode the sense of accomplishment or progress. 

As I started to feel more on the ground again, I unexpectedly ended up directing another show at school, rehearsals quickly filling my already crowded schedule, just as the violent invasion of Ukraine filled a global newsfeed with fear, grief, resistance and trauma, while the anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion rights legislation across the US sought a disturbing escalation of hatred from the same population that raged about masks and “cancel culture” and other hysterias, but now turning the policing of other people’s bodies to renewed extremes. 

Detail photo of “A Love Spell in the Midst of a Pandemic” by Michael Sylvan Robinson. Textile collage (2020) 61″ x 16″

During the Venus retrograde period, we’d escaped the omicron wave in New York with a previously scheduled trip to California; I’d not been on a flight since we’d postponed, and postponed again, and then finally canceled our honeymoon in those first months of the pandemic. Vaccinated, boosted, and masked we navigated the flight, for me with raised anxiety as school had closed early for winter break due to the steady increase of positive covid testing. The return to Brooklyn brought news of losses, deaths in community circles and family. There were viewings and newsfeed remembrances and a cold but sunny graveside funeral in a short cycle of days followed by a delayed and complicated return to school. 

At the end of the Venus retrograde, my “Venus Rising: a Contemporary Invocation” returned from Italy where it had resided since before the pandemic started, and is now exhibited in “Adorned: Inspired by Fabric and Fashion” at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center (Feb. 11-May 7, 2022) in an exhibit curated by Scott Andersen. This sculptural garment explores the rising Venus presence needed in our activism and healing trauma stewardship during this time of injustice and environmental crisis, embodied through a lifetime commitment to feminism and Queer community-building. Hand-stenciled poetic text fragments both within the garment on the lining and on the outer textile collage surface name intentions and affirm a call to loving action.

“Venus Rising: A Contemporary Invocation” by Michael Sylvan Robinson. Sculptural garment 28″ x 38″ x 2″ (2019)

In 2019, “Venus Rising…” broke a drought of opportunities and was sent off to Felicity Griffin Clark for my first international exhibition during Rome Art Week 2019. It resided in Rome throughout the first two years of the pandemic, working its healing magic, and showed again at the Palazzo Velli Expo in Rome Art Weel 2021 with the Society for Embroidered Work. We weren’t able to get to see the piece installed either time, and are likely to miss seeing the current showing at Annmarie, but today, we leave for a trip to Italy including several days in Rome before heading to the Amalfi Coast and a day trip to Pompeii.