RIDGEWOOD/HAWTHORNE, NJ - The isolation and extraordinary circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic inspired Kristina Van Dyk, a ten-year wardrobe stylist for advertising campaigns, to venture into creating her own art exhibition and sharing it with others.  A graduate of Houghton College in New York, she has traveled around the world studying art and overseeing her business.  Just prior to the coronavirus outbreak, she came back to New Jersey from California and set up her own outdoor art installation at her father's home in Ridgewood.  The artwork on display is her own work, with some exhibitions from her cousin and local children. 

Wearing a mask, Van Dyk said, "Because of everything that's going on with the coronavirus, I thought it would be fun to create an art installation outside."

Her mini-gallery was found at the end of her driveway, flanked by colorful posts that had been painted with messages of encouragement and thanks for the healthcare workers, especially those at the Van Dyk Park Place Assisted Living Center in Hawthorne.  A garage-turned-studio showcased her work inside, while the exterior wall showed off a number of paintings created by kids in the area.  Her own pieces of art, skillfully mounted and displayed on the walls of her open-ended studio, had display cards alongside, bearing a title and description.  Most of the pieces were examples of abstract impressionism with an underlying religious theme.

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"I just wanted people to have a chance in this time of uncertainty and isolation for families to be able to come together and to be able to experience art," Van Dyk said.  "I think art is healing, creating it and experiencing it."

Her own artistic credentials were recently bolstered further after a trip to Italy.  "I went in the summer to Florence and I studied classical art at the Florence Academy of Art.  I decided to take a hiatus and see what would happen if I just created art.  That's essentially how and why I'm here."

Her displayed pieces are of varying sizes and mixed media, but the pandemic influenced her most recent creations.  "Because of this quarantine, I've never done texture pieces like these.  All the pieces are from the scraps or edges, because supplies were more limited and I couldn't just go to the store.  Normally I would throw them out, but I saved the pieces and started creating these textual pieces.  To be honest, I thought about how everyone is alone, these individual pieces, and we've all been united because of things going on in the country.  They all have some religious meaning as well, like how God takes all these pieces and makes things new."

Van Dyk took the painted driveway posts and brought them to the Van Dyk Park Place Assisted Living Center in recognition and thanks for the healthcare staff looking after the residents.  The pandemic has affected such facilities hard, and loneliness is something the Van Dyks have tried to combat.  "My dad created a communication window, since so many people can't talk to their families in assisted living, he created it on the first level," Van Dyk said.  "There are comfy chairs outside and right inside there are windows, so they open up the windows, there's a screen.  Everyone sits with masks, and they can talk to their families."

Kristina Van Dyk has a website which can be found at www.kristinavandyk.com and also at @kristinavandyk on Instagram.

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