Lenscratch – Linda Alterwitz


By Linda Alterwitz
December 13, 2022

©Renate Aller, Book cover “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Baby Boy aka Dan Frieber , 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the artists who were able to avoid severe illness or hospitalization were given a unique gift of time to respond to our world in a state of upheaval. Many were inspired to create new projects that responded to the unique time in our world.  Others had the opportunity to revisit archives and return to unfinished work. This week features photography projects created during this time, focusing on unique connections that emphasize a calling for empathy, friendship or love.

This project is in the spirit of Rainer Maria Rilke:

“… that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other”

Renate Aller

©Renate Aller, guardians of people’s hopes “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Aimee Good, 2020

Renate Aller is a visual artist born in Germany and lives and works in New York. Her project “side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020” was created during the COVID-19 pandemic as a response to social distancing. While people were physically separated from one another, Aller safely created a bridge of connectivity. On separate occasions, she invited friends and neighbors to visit her on her sidewalk or in their street, positioned her camera in a self-timer mode and photographed moments of their time spent together.  The setting included two people, two chairs, and a sidewalk. A sense of community is reestablished as Aller shares simple interactions bringing people safely together.

side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020” published by Kehrer Verlag, Germany, 2022 includes essays by Marilyn S. Kushner and Lara Pan.

©Renate Aller, from moment to moment “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Erica Baum, 2020

We are all looking at art and life now, more than ever before—through the lens of our times—art in the time of COVID -19 and our current sociopolitical awareness heightened by the recent events surrounding the murder of George Floyd and many others, as well as the Ukrainian people’s pain and isolation.

This time in history reminds me of the period right after 9/11. I took images of interiors as the drama was one of the exterior, the monumentality of this city was attacked and therefore I pointed the lens into the private spaces. We were all afraid for our own safety then. Today we are feeling pain and are more afraid for others. As a reaction to people’s lives in solitude … For most of April and May 2020, I created this photo project by hosting friends and neighbors on our sidewalk or visiting them in their street from a safe 6’ distance, with face masks, the camera in self-timer mode recording these encounters.

These sidewalk visits gave us a deep sense of community where community had been forced apart.

I would like to thank my husband Hugh and each of the collaborators who made our encounters special and meaningful.

©Renate Aller, Einsamkeit —living with solitude “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Alex Markwith, 2020
©Renate Aller, we are listening to each other’s heartbeats “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Jill Brienza, 2020

Born in Germany, Renate Aller lives and works in New York. Her project “side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020”, is in the permanent collection of the New-York Historical Society Museum accompanied by a monograph published by Kehrer Verlag, Germany with essays by curator and writer Lara Pan and Marilyn Satin Kushner, curator of prints, photographs, and architectural collections at New-York Historical who is also the curator for this exhibition.

Aller’s work is in the collections of corporate institutions, private collectors and museums, including Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Yale University Art Gallery, CT; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; New Britain Museum of American Art, CT; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany; Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI; Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle, Switzerland; Parrish Art Museum, Watermill, NY and New-York Historical Society Museum, where side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020 was presented as a solo exhibition from March – August, 2022.

©Renate Aller, muted voices behind masks “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Max Blagg, 2020
©Renate Aller, we are in a transitional world and the images of reality appear as abstraction “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Jacob El Hanani, 2020
©Renate Aller, courage “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with James Hall, 2020
©Renate Aller, together “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Peter Stampfel, 2020
©Renate Aller, promise “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Darius Himes, 2020
©Renate Aller, navigating the space between “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Dashiel Allen, 2020
©Renate Aller, reaching out without touching “side walk 6′ apart in NYC” self-portrait with Jil Weinstock, 2020

Article originally published on Lenscratch:

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