‘Art is as important as anything’ during COVID-19 madness

May 21, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Peter Dusek, art photographer, is “taking a huge break and doing a lot of thinking.”

Earlier this year, his wife Victoria “broke her arm, on some ice where we were going for a walk.” 

Mr. Dusek told the Citizen, “We were worried they wouldn’t do a non-essential surgery but the arm was so badly broken, it was semi-essential, and her primary hand. 

“They cleared everything,” he said of the hospital. “There was nobody there, almost no one there. And, since then, I’ve done a lot of the work, shopping, walking the dog. The art world world is closed. All the shows were put on hold.

“I was planning on doing a show with a friend, in the summer, in Creemore. We were about to plan it but we had to give it up – luckily we hadn’t paid for anything yet. A lot of people I’ve talked to – people have had it; they want out.”

However, as he said, “I’ve know people who have died – one in Orangeville. That brings the message closer.

“One thing I’ve really noticed, is people have really separated themselves from nature and the world. The land and trees haven’t changed at all or, if anything, it’s improved for the better. It’s only the world of humanity that’s suffered. Animals are ok; I went for a walk and there was a lot of droppings from coyotes..”

He commented, “I think a lot of people have already started thinking about their trips to Italy or Spain or somewhere: nobody seems to be satisfied with where they are – they want to travel to somewhere. 

“In the first five weeks, everything was beautifully silent,” he told us, happy to be where he is. “I could go for a hike and not hear any traffic. I noticed one Saturday, suddenly, the traffic was back. Nothing was open but the traffic was back, especially the motorbikes. 

“I’ve been taking this time for a long motorcycle ride, this past weekend to Lake Huron – you’re keeping a distance on your motorbike. It’s a cheap way to travel and really fun

“The one thing I’m worried about, is art being put aside. A lot of people have been trying to get the message out, that art is as important as anything. Surely, it’s as important to open a gallery as it is a clothing shop – people have so much clothing. 

“I’ve been asked to jury an online exhibition,” he said, giving the opinion, “online is not an experience at all – you lose so much. To open [a gallery] in a safe way, there’s lots of room to spread out. You don’t touch the art. 

“I don’t think that each business is ready. They’re trying to do what they can to bring people in.”

Mr. Dusek opined, “Galleries should be one of the first things to open. They’re one of the places people can keep social distance. And being with art is important to us.”

He told us, earlier in the year, “In the end of January, I was on a retreat with an art group, near Haliburton. I went out shooting [photographs] but, still in the distance, you could hear snowmobiles. I’ve worked hard to find the silence. You notice the sounds are gone and it matters. It gives me a different feeling of openness. You could hear Nature’s sounds – you could hear the wind.

“People who live in cities have so much noise, they can’t get away from it,” he described the horror of it. “The other thing I’ve realized, in the cities, people are crammed together – here we still had hiking trails – especially -another thing I didn’t understand is the Bruce trail was closed but the Town of Mono kept the trails open. So, people were forced to go on more crowded trails – there was even a trail the TRCA kept open.”

Meanwhile, this pause in life’s action, has “it’s given me a lot of time to think about photography, lots of new ideas and processes I want to try but, one thing I thought, it’s just as important not to practise the art. They are times that you can plan and get new ideas. Time away from the camera, to hike and have new thoughts, listen to music that creates thoughts about almost everything. I have a huge breadth in music of what I like. 

“Lying awake, interesting and new ideas to take me away from all the bad news that means you don’t have a chance to think your own thoughts.”

He talked about the online life. “Reading the news from clicking, I’ve been really torn about social media because I could promote my photography. In Japanese villages, where they live the longest in the world, basically all of them in Japan, people are busy but not hurried; they have really strong social science, a social and support club. They do everything together, so, a lot of personal interaction. They almost never just sit around – there are ball games for people over a hundred and they live up to 110 years old. They’re very active but never in a stressful way.

“I’ve been looking at things differently from the past- the spaces between things, called ma in Japanese. The last few months I’ve been doing a lot of house clean up and throwing things out, not be cluttered. For every person, there’s a different balance – it’s been good to be at home for so long, get rid of so much stuff from my past, like dead skin,” reflecting, “Maybe, now, people will know and care about how the elderly are treated in seniors’ homes..”

He noted, “It’s tricky right now to have plans. I’ll be able to start shooting soon. I’m going to start going out shooting up north – I have a website with all my work. I’ve been thinking of looking into people buying on line but nothing replaces looking at it in person. The costs are high for printing and framing; my last exhibition of new work was in Toronto and in Louisville, Kentucky and that was very high overhead. 

“I think there are a lot of parallels between art and life. Step back from what you’re doing and think – university professors get sabbaticals to think about their subjects. Everybody should do that on a regular basis – to get their own ideas and not society’s. Ideas that only can come from you.” 

He pointed to the opportunity, “COVID 19 has given everybody the chance to do that. For a lot of people to just stop doing what they were doing, force them to think about their lives. Nobody’s ever accomplished anything great, using other peoples’ ideas. You can synthesize ideas but the original has to come from you.”

He said, “What we are is art. My motivation is my goal, is to show people what their world looks like, in a new way – to see nature in another way. The curve of my motivation is to think about: not what, but why. If you ever lose your why, you might as well give up.”

Mr. Dusek put it this way, “People might have a chance to think about why they’ve been doing what they were doing. If you have the motivation because people have told you; align your sense of purpose with your own internal compass.”

To see Peter Dusek’s collection of art work visit

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