Waunakee artist Gina Hecht was recently selected to take part in the Great American Paint In, a nationwide project documenting the work of artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s a great project,” Hecht said. “It reflects the emotional space that all of this chaos in the world has brought. It’s caused us to turn into ourselves and look for those peaceful spaces, and things that make us happy. And I think the art reflects that.”
The project was founded by art collectors Bill and Mary Weinaug, owners of the Gallery CERO under development in Central Florida.
The couple’s collection has aimed to capture the emotion of artists affected by the pandemic.
“We have always been huge supporters of the arts,” Bill Weinaug said. “Seeing the pieces these artists are producing during this time of isolation is incredible. Each piece we add to the collection is a new facet in the story of this pandemic. That’s what we hope to document.”
Hecht was one of six Wisconsin artists to have their work chosen for the project.
Her piece, “Returning to Home,” has been featured in the curators’ online gallery. The 18-by-30-inch, oil and cold wax painting depicts a narrow stream winding through an open field of grass.
“Hecht’s piece is a beautiful representation of something positive this pandemic has given us – time to reflect,” Weinaug said. “We wanted to give artists the chance to express their emotions and hopes through art during these times. Hecht does that beautifully and eloquently in her work, exploring the concept of home through a vast landscape and big sky.”
Hecht said the painting was inspired by nostalgia she experienced at the onset of the pandemic.
“My paintings tend to reflect how I feel,” said Hecht, who grew up on a farm in Illinois. “And I noticed this transition where I was painting a lot of these landscape themes that felt like home to me – meandering creeks, big skies – just this feeling of peace and stillness in my mindset.”
Hecht later heard about the Great American Paint In from fellow artist Pamela Grabber, a painter with whom she was a member of the Dane County Plein Air Painters (DCPAP) Association.
The group regularly met outdoors to paint landscapes like the one Hecht submitted for the project.
“I enjoy her work,” Grabber said. “And she’s able to speak to my work, too. It’s very impor-tant, as artists, to have people who can speak encouraging words to you about your process and about the work itself that you’re doing. So I appreciate her for that.”
The Mazomanie artist said it was only fitting that she reach out to Hecht, inviting her to participate.
Grabber had been selected for her own piece, “Resilience,” a 16-by-20-inch oil painting that depicts a vase full of daffodils which had survived the unseasonably cold spring in her garden.
She said the hardship faced by the flowers reminded her of those faced by many in the pandemic.
“They had to contend with three different frosts,” Grabber said. “And the night before one of the frosts, my husband ran outside and picked an armful of these daffodils. He brought them in and said, ‘I don’t want to see them go — because they’re the one thing that hasn’t been cancelled.’”
More than 160 other artists have shared similar stories on the Great American Paint In website.
There, the artists have been afforded an opportunity to showcase and sell their work when most other art galleries remain closed to the public.
“It’s a wonderful outlet for artists,” Hecht said. “Art reflects what’s going on in your headspace. So as we’ve been confined to home, that is how I’ve reconnected with myself – by doing art... And apparently, I’m not the only one.”
Hecht’s and other pieces can be viewed online, at www.thegreatpaint-in.com/the-collection.