Marty Husted's paintings have become brighter, warmer and more experimental during the period of reflective isolation

Since her time of isolation began, Marty Husted has missed interacting with the other artists represented by Studios on High Gallery in the Short North. Normally, Husted said, the 18 artists spend a lot of time working together and supporting each other. It feels like a community.

But the time away has also been good. “I have more time for soul searching, which has changed my art,” Husted said. “I've been thinking more about what I want to express and why I want to express it.”

For years, Husted was an illustrator, which required a certain work ethic and discipline. “I focused on selling my work. Now, it's more about what I need for me and my art. It’s become my meditation. It’s nourishing me,” she said.

Two of Husted’s larger pieces will be featured in Studios on High’s new exhibition, “While We Were Away…,” an all-member show of works completed during the COVID-19 quarantine, ranging from watercolors and oils to ceramics and jewelry. The show opens Saturday, May 30, with a virtual component on Instagram and Facebook, as well as small, in-person viewings during limited gallery hours. (Masks are required at all times in the gallery, and groups will be limited to 10 with social distancing guidelines in place; the show will also be mostly visible from the street for those who would rather remain outside.)

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While Husted has been away, she has spent time in a cabin in Hocking Hills — a setting that provided plenty of creative fodder for the artist’s nature-inspired paintings.

Husted’s work has a surrealistic quality, with fanciful hues enlivening her woodsy depictions. “I usually start from a photo that I've taken. Then I put that aside and I just go into this whole little fantasy world,” she said. “I add some whimsical elements. I don’t stick to a literal scene.”

During this time of isolation, Husted has found herself leaning into the experimental side of her art even more. “I use color as a tool to bring me joy, and also to bring joy to the viewer. … My colors are getting warmer and brighter," she said. "I’m using them to uplift."