Katherine Jennings ’84: Contemplating the Future of Urban Landscapes

Part of our “Art and Artists are Essential” collection and invitation.

“The social distancing necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic has caused a mass upheaval of societal norms. Living in the New York City metro area, I have always taken for granted the accessibility of the city. But now what was always there for the taking is suddenly out of reach. With the coronavirus crisis, city streets are devoid of activity and the bustle of the city has come to a disturbing halt. An eerie silence has taken over the urban landscape that is only broken nightly by the 7 pm tribute to essential healthcare workers. In this time of unprecedented change, I created “Urban Distancing” as a comment on the fragility of life as we know it. As a landscape painter, I often paint cityscapes and bustling urban interiors while working en plein air and from my own photographs. But suddenly the street scenes and bar scenes I have taken for granted no longer exist and may never be the same.

The coronavirus crisis has caused me to contemplate the future of the urban landscape. I question whether such densely populated areas such as New York City will exist after the pandemic. Or if they do exist, will they ever be the same? Residents are fleeing to the suburbs to escape the urban lifestyle. Being forced to live in the confines of their apartments without the respite of a backyard and nature has caused many to question their way of life. Perhaps the future lies in smaller, less densely populated cities such as Durham.”

As we endure the crisis, we should take the time to contemplate what was and what shall be. The world has literally come to a stop. This is a rare and unprecedented opportunity to reevaluate our lifestyle and the enormous toll it takes on the environment. Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, we will be able to reflect on how this period gave us the clarity to enact meaningful change. — Katherine Jennings ’84

Katherine Jennings is an expressive realist painter living in the New York City Metro area. Influenced by the work of Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent, Jennings worked until the pandemic in the childhood home of Hopper in Development (Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center, Nyack, NY). Involved in numerous art advocacy groups, Jennings is an attorney as well and practiced intellectual property law in NYC.

Painting by Katherine Jennings ’84.
Painting by Katherine Jennings ’84.