Koplin Del Rio
May 21, 2020 8:10PM




Where are you spending this time? What do your days look like?

I’m at home in Venice Beach with my husband and fellow artist, Kenny Harris. I was very close to spending this quarantine back home in Hawai’i. I had a ticket to visit my family in the middle of March just when things were ramping up here in California. It was a bit of a dilemma because I really wanted to go home and even had a photoshoot set up, but I was worried about getting stuck there. On the one hand, being stuck in Hawai’i with my family would be quite wonderful, but being apart from Kenny and my studio for an unknown amount of time would not have been so great.

I’m doing pretty well with our new coronavirus lifestyle for two main reasons… first, my days aren’t much different during the quarantine than it normally is – I generally spend a lot of time by myself, my studio is in our garage so I have no commute and no coworkers, and aside from Kenny, the gym and grocery shopping, it’s not unusual for me to not speak to anyone on the “outside” for days and sometimes a week at a time. Secondly, as it happens I was well set up for this situation. I had surgery in December and was laid up for a couple of months and I didn’t get back to ‘normal’ until the beginning of March, so I was already in a mindset of not going out, not being very active, of basically having a smaller homebound existence. Fortunately, it’s been a relatively easy transition for me.

Missing our normally active lifestyle, we’ve rearranged our living room so we can have our yoga mats out all the time. This way any time of the day we feel like a stretch or lifting weights, maybe a little pilates routine, we can do it without any hindrance, which I find very helpful to getting it done. I also go on frequent walks throughout the day – it’s really nice out there without so many cars and the cleaner air! In a way, we are doing things we’ve been aspiring to do with our lives but just couldn’t quite get done.

This is the view out my studio door. It’s a refreshing sight when I’ve been in my cave for hours… it’s so LA to me!

What are you working on in the studio?

I had been away from the studio for three months because of my surgery and I can tell you I was ready to be back making art! I’ve mostly been focusing on ideas I had going earlier - I have a wall of studies that are begging to be made into larger paintings, or there’s my partially completed paintings from our Ireland trip last summer. At this moment I have a medium size figure painting on my easel, and I’m playing with different approaches to painting from my norm. Actually, in this quarantine, my mindset has shifted from making a “body of work” to feeling freer to experiment, to jump from one subject to a totally unrelated one. It’s wonderful!

I also did a photoshoot of myself for a painting that’s been percolating in my head for some years now, ever since I got this rad leather facemask – no doubt our current situation of wearing masks spurred me on. Normally my photoshoots are set amongst large rocks but I had to get creative in our courtyard—a chair and small bag of gravel stood in for large rocks!

There is a poetic calm (which comes through in your work) of growing up in Hawaii, somewhat isolated. You continue to live close to the ocean in Southern California, what does that provide, if anything, in your coping/comforting with covid-19?

I’ve found that I’m wanting to make paintings of home (Hawai’i) more than usual… I think with my canceled trip and not having access to nature I’m desiring to at least imagine the ocean and mountains of home and painting helps facilitate this. While painting imagery of beaches, I can feel the breeze caressing my skin as the sun warms it, and then that refreshing shock when I dive into the crisp ocean water, that yummy feel of warm sand between my toes...

Now that the weather is warming up I’ve set up a beach lounger in our courtyard so I can get some sun and feel a little like I’m in nature: I’m next to my plumeria trees and ti-leaves, both of which are abundant plants back home. I also have a small, low-stress garden, currently with green onions, basil, cilantro, Italian parsley, tomato, and I’m attempting celery. It’s enough for me to get my hands in the dirt.

What work of art in your home means the most to you?

Right now I’m extra appreciating this painting by our friend and fellow Venice artist, Gary Palmer. It’s a large (4x4 ft) abstract color field—I see the ocean and the sky, it’s rain and it’s light, it’s grass. I can get lost in it, or just passing by I feel calm and happy.

Any books or recommended reading, listening, watching for these times?

These are my current books, representing 3 categories:

1. While recuperating from surgery I started reading the Earthsea Series by Ursula K. Le Guin and I’m now on the last book. Ursula is a very important fantasy/sci-fi author whose career spanned sixty years beginning in the late 1950s. Somehow as a young girl, I missed reading her even though my sister was a huge fan and we had her books at home. This series is quite different from the majority of fantasy I read – the stories are small and personal, not epic with large battles. The main character and peoples aren’t white, and I find myself constantly recalibrating my internal imagery – heroes and wizards are always white males, right? But not here.

2. I’m in a book club of female friends, aptly named the Ladies Book Club. Our only criteria are that we read female authors. This has opened me up to genres and authors I would have missed or put into my I want to read, but never get around to doing. We just finished All the Birds in The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, which I highly recommend. It’s a little bit fantasy and a little bit sci-fi, but set on earth and very accessible. I’m looking forward to our next book Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips, it's a mystery taking place in Russia.

3. The other books are what I’m reading next: Underland: A Deep Time Journey, and The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane – a wonderful thinker and writer exploring landscape, place, travel, and nature. I highly recommend listing to this interview with him on Krista Tippett’s "On Being" (there’s an edited and unedited version, though it’s long, I recommend listening to the unedited version). Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami – really looking forward to this book about an artist. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – this book came out a few years ago but has been brought up again due to our current situation. It’s supposed to be very good and I like the idea of reading about a pandemic right now, we’ll see how it goes…

Podcasts I’m enjoying right now:

Pheobe Reads a Mystery: Pheobe Judge from Criminal reads a chapter a day from classic mysteries such as Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes

Criminal: the theme is “criminal” in its broadest sense, not all murder and mayhem

Imaginary Worlds: for those who love sci-fi and all genres of fantasy

The Allusionist: “Adventures in language,” could sound dull, but it is very fun!

Koplin Del Rio