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Coronavirus pushes Peterborough artist to create

  • James Aponovich was experiencing a sense of loss after being the coronavirus pandemic prevented his yearly move to Italy for three months each March. So the Peterborough artist put those feelings into a new piece he calls, 'Siena Daylilies'. Courtesy photo—

  • James Aponovich was experiencing a sense of loss after being the coronavirus pandemic prevented his yearly move to Italy for three months each March. So the Peterborough artist put those feelings into a new piece he calls, 'Siena Daylilies'. Courtesy photo—

  • James Aponovich spent the last few months painting ‘Siena Daylilies’ to express his feelings due to the change created by the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy of James Aponovich

  • Peterborough artist James Aponovich sits in front of his latest piece, ‘Siena Daylilies’. Courtesy of James Aponovich

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/16/2020 5:01:49 PM

James Aponovich was looking for a way to deal with the new reality the coronavirus pandemic had created. So the Peterborough artist threw himself into his work.

But the 30-inch by 28-inch oil painting on canvas titled “Siena Daylilies” isn’t a commission or something for a future gallery show, but rather just a way to get across his feelings in what has been, and continues to be, an uncertain time.

Aponovich and his wife Elizabeth Johansson have spent half of their time in Italy for a number of years, going for three months at a time in March and again in the fall, but just before their latest adventure to Panicale, the coronavirus made travel to the highly impacted country impossible. But the purpose of this trip was different, as Aponovich and Johansson planned to live in Italy full time for a couple years, to truly absorb another culture, but now they are uncertain of when – or if – they’ll be able to return to their home away from home.

“When we realized we wouldn’t be able to go, I wanted to do something to deal with this loss,” Aponovich said. “And I didn’t want to do a painting of people with masks on.”

While Aponovich is typically under some sort of deadline to finish a painting for a client or an upcoming exhibit – such is life as a well known artist – the pandemic has provided more time to truly immerse himself in this piece.

To those who are familiar with Aponovich’s work, the vase of pink lilies dominating the foreground with a classic Italian cityscape in the back might seem to be yet another in his long line of classical Italian renaissance influenced paintings. But “Siena Daylilies” captures much more meaning than what a quick glance might provide.

Now Aponovich knows that most people don’t look at art for very long. He said the average time spent looking at a painting is three seconds, as viewers are quick to move their eyes to the next work, but the feelings that this piece invokes is more for him than anyone else.

“This is all internal to me,” he said.

Aponovich said that he chose Siena’s cityscape for a very specific reason.

“It shows the human condition of how we live on top of each other,” Aponovich said. “We have this population density that makes this virus spread so easily.”

A white cloth sits on top of a railing overlooking the city with classic Italian roof tiles and buildings as far as the eye can see. The cloth is partially covered by another, this one black adorned with colorful flowers. On further inspection, the flowers were created to resemble a coronavirus lookalike. The pink lilies, which are placed in a black vase with a diamond pattern, exhibit all stages of a flower’s life – from some in pristine bloom to others that are showing signs of coming to their end and new buds creating e a sense of new life emerging. 

“There has to be a positive rebirth,” Aponovich said. “And things are going to continue.”

The cityscape is captured in both shadow and emerging sunlight and is meant to give a sense of transition with the light taking over, as Aponovich tries to convey the hope that a new age is coming.

“Society has kept going, kept moving, and I wanted to capture that,” he said.

The thousands of tiles that adorn the rooftops “is way beyond my usual output,” Aponovich said, but the details are what make this painting so special, so unique.

Way off in the distance is a plume of smoke and “it is a symbol that there’s this sense of danger,” Aponovich said.

Aponovich recently read “The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time” and its impact on Italy was devastating. And as the coronavirus made its way through the country in March, he couldn’t help but hurt for the people and way of life he has lived for so many years.

“It’s so much a part of our lives,” he said. “And then this thing just blind sided most of the world.”

It’s what led to this painting that has so much meaning behind it.

“I’m not doing this for money, I’m doing it because I’m doing it,” Aponovich said. “What I do care about is making a statement.”

So if viewers take a chance to truly look at it – for longer than three seconds – they might get a better sense of what went into it.

“There’s a certain impact,” he said. “You may not know exactly what’s going on, but you know there’s something going on.”




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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