Still Here

Still Here: Hikmet Sidney Loe

With our “Still Here” series, we are checking in with members of Utah’s art community to see what the past six months has meant for them. Hikmet Sidney Loe, born and raised on the east coast, Hikmet Sidney Loe fell in love with the arid desert lands of Utah and the environs of Great Salt Lake. She is an artist, writer, and teacher whose work draws inspiration from the smaller patterns found in the larger environment and from the changeable nature of land, water, and sky. ​She is the author of The Spiral Jetty Encyclo: Exploring Robert Smithson’s Earthwork through Time and Place (2017), which won the 15 Bytes Book Award for Art Book in 2018.

“That first Thursday in March, I shut down my office, went to my last physical therapy appointment, dropped hundreds at Costco to get me through “two weeks of self-isolation,” then topped off the day with an iced decaf at Starbucks. It all made me nervous — was it safe to be near so many people? But I got through those first two weeks (earthquake notwithstanding) with jigsaw puzzles and lots of phone calls with family and friends.

Those calls led to weekly Zoom meetings that are still going strong. Because, so is Covid-19. It’s remarkable to think back to March, when one person in Utah was infected. Here we are in fall, in what is called “the third wave” of the virus. When does this end? On social media, I began keeping count of the number of days of isolation … I gave that up within a few weeks or so. Time started to stretch in uncomfortable ways: it seemed silly to count days like there was an end to counting.

In March, I swore to myself I would be in this state of self-isolation for the long haul. Of course, back then, the long haul was going to last a few weeks or a month at the most. It’s mid-October now and there’s no end in sight. I’m singular by nature: I have plenty of pastimes and there are the two girls in my life who keep me active. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get worn out by what’s going on. Or enraged. Or lonely. I miss the buzz of people, going to a gallery or museum opening, bumping into friends and strangers, sharing in the shared joy of creativity and expression. I’ve been to two exhibitions since February, under very strict conditions (alone, with mask, etc.). It’s been such a balm to see art again in person, but that buzz isn’t there. NYC friends say the same thing — going to newly opened museums is wonderful, but strangely odd to see so few people in the galleries. This month there are exhibitions of works by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson in London, and in Paris. I can’t remember what that freedom feels like (acknowledging privilege) to get on a plane to see an art exhibition. I can’t even imagine getting in a taxi to get to the airport to fly somewhere; my mind just shuts down.

On the brighter side. My time is spent teaching art history (Westminster College) — with three classes this fall. Other projects have been welcome: starting a curatorial project that will be realized in 2021 and writing a book chapter on the intersection of architecture and Land art. I’m in the research and early writing stages of “The Sun Tunnels Encyclo” manuscript. My go-to place to escape life has always been through books; I am so grateful that my solitary life of ideas is getting me through the pandemic.

Other acknowledgements of gratitude: I can work home to stay safe. My personal library, and of course the internet, get me to the works I need to teach and write. My life has slowed down exponentially, which I relish — I can’t imagine going back to the hectic day-by-day, rushing from one space to the next. Over the past few months, I’ve been so grateful to see a few people, with all of the caveats: briefly, outdoors, from a distance, wearing masks. It’s not ideal, and it’s not the life I used to lead, but then I remember the promise I made myself in March: it’s for the long haul. With my very good girls, Runa and Skye.”

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