The Art World Works From Home: Storm King Senior Curator Nora Lawrence Is Working on a Kiki Smith Show and Taking Up Birdwatching

During this unprecedented time, we’re checking in with art-world professionals to get a glimpse into how they are working from home.

The art world may be on lockdown, but it certainly does not stop. During this unprecedented time, we’re checking in with art-world professionals, collectors, and artists to get a glimpse into how they are working from home.

Storm King Senior Curator Nora Lawrence may be one of the only people in the world lucky enough to spend quarantine with a world-renowned arts institution in their backyard. While the 500-acre Storm King property remains closed to the public, Lawrence is sheltering nearby in upstate New York.

During a typical year, Lawrence’s job entails organizing exhibitions like 2018’s Indicators: Artists on Climate Change. Now, however, Lawrence is focused on making sure that shows originally slated for early spring will be ready on a moment’s notice when Storm King can safely reopen. 

Lawrence spoke with us back in April about her new hobby—birdwatching—and browsing virtual exhibitions for inspiration.

Where is your new “office”? 

A bedroom in an 1890s farmhouse. 

Nora’s home office, for the time being. Courtesy of Nora Lawrence.

What are you working on right now (and were any projects of yours interrupted by the lockdown)?

Most immediately, I’m working on an exhibition of flags created by Kiki Smith and the presentation of a new, site-specific outdoor work by Martha Tuttle. Both were slated to open in early spring and we hope to have these new works in place when we are able to safely reopen. I’m so accustomed to set deadlines and opening dates—it is interesting to realize I’ll just be ready on a moment’s notice this time!

How has your work changed now that you are doing it from home?

I’ve been trying to connect with people via video as much as possible, since I know I won’t see them for some time. I have a few coworkers who I love who sit right near me, but since they’re not in my department (curatorial), I don’t talk with them now—I need to change that. I need to figure out new ways to meet artists and other curators during this time.

Artist Martha Tuttle, whose show was slated to open earlier this year, on-site with conservation and curatorial staff before social distancing was implemented. Courtesy of Nora Lawrence.

What are you reading, both online and off?

Online—the New York Times, Gothamist, the Washington Post, Artforum.  Off—Rachel Cusk’s Outline. An extremely sweet mid-grade children’s novel called Pax, about a boy trying to reunite with his pet fox. 

Have you visited any good virtual exhibitions recently?

Brandon Ndife’s sculpture show at Bureau—we were due to meet and walk through it together on opening day back in March and we never got to—makes me sad. There’s a sculpture called Hygge that feels outrageous, and the staggering, overlooked organic growths he has created are just perfect for right now.

Have you taken up any new hobbies?

Birdwatching. We found a giant nest with two bald eagles. We’ve also taken to getting perfect natural spring water from a magical pipe by the side of the road—internet approved, and wonderfully ridiculous to my friends in NYC.  

Nora and her son in the woods near Storm King. Courtesy of Nora Lawrence.

What is the first place you want to travel to once this is over?

So many answers!

If you are feeling stuck while self-isolating, what’s your best method for getting un-stuck?

I’ve been listening to old podcasts—2018 or earlier. Memories of regular life!

What was the last TV show, movie, or YouTube video you watched?

I just started watching Unorthodox. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was recommended as well, and it was a wonderful distraction!

John Baldessari, Throwing three balls in the air to get a straight line (+ 12) , 1973. Courtesy of Artnet.

If you could have one famous work of art with you, what would it be?

John Baldessari’s Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (1973). I love looking at that sky, especially now.

What are you most looking forward to doing once social distancing has been lifted? 

I just want to do the same things, but in a normal way. I want to swim in the lake my parents live on with my dad, without feeling like I’m a danger to him.

Favorite recipe to cook at home?

Pasta with tomatoes, garlic, and warm, wilty greens.

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