For Sarasota photographer Nancy Guth, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020 meant much of her work—often shooting events around town—dried up. That was one thing. But then Guth came down with Covid-19 herself last April, and while at first she didn’t feel her symptoms were too severe, they persisted.
“I couldn’t beat the fatigue,” she says. “It took all I had to psych myself up to go to the grocery store for 20 minutes just to pick up a few things. If I tried to walk around the block or ride my bike, then I’d collapse again.” A year later, she says she is at perhaps 70 percent of her normal self, but as a Covid “long-hauler,” she’s not sure when or if she will ever reach 100 percent.
Stuck at home alone, with little energy and few outlets for her brain, “I wanted to do something; I needed something to keep my mental health intact,” Guth says. “So I decided ‘I’m gonna fiddle around. I’m gonna create art.’”
Her first step focused on the travel plans her friends had had to cancel because of Covid. “I took some miniature figures, less than an inch big, and glued them on a globe, just for fun,” she says, “all the places they had planned to go.” When she tired of the globe, she took the figures off and had an acrylic box made to hold them instead. “I made little vintage suitcases from matchboxes and sent them on vacation.” Guth found the miniatures she used (sometimes painting different skin tones and hair colors on them) online from Germany and as far away as Indonesia. Where in the World was the title of the 30-inch by 20-inch piece.
One day, feeling a bit better and being downtown on a rare photo shoot, she walked into State of the Arts Gallery on State Street and mentioned what she had been working on to the owners. “They asked me to bring the box in,” she says, “and eventually I did, with no intention of selling it. But a few weeks later, someone in New York City saw it on Instagram, and when they came to Florida, they purchased it for their new residence at the Ritz.” (The money, she freely admits, helped to pay some bills.)
Inspired by the “little bit of whimsy” that piece and another like it represented, Guth also found herself doing 12-inch by 12-inch resin pours that mimicked the oceans, while featuring paddleboarders, manatees and other water images. “I can control what I do in my little environment, and I can work in little snippets of time,” she says. “I can’t do it for long, because my brain just isn’t up to it yet.” But the amount of time she puts into each work is perfect for her right now. “I just wanted to sit at the table and play,” she says.
Having had her first Covid vaccine shot and almost due for her second, Guth says she’s focusing on the positive and hoping to feel better once completely inoculated. As far as the Covid long-haul situation, though, she says, “There are no answers” at this point from the medical profession. “The best thing to do is pay attention to each thing happening to your body, each day. I know if I ride a bike one day, I’ll pay for it the next.” But it’s worth it because, “It feels like freedom.”