In this five-part series, we go behind-the-scenes with some of RPAC Gallery’s resident artists to learn about the inspiration for their Seeing 2020 exhibit artwork, now on display at RPAC Gallery. From quarantine to Black Lives Matter, emotional turmoil to natural disasters, each artist created amazing artwork that will be shown in the Gallery now through November 29th, 2020.

Today, we’re spotlighting Will Cook, resident artist at RPAC Art Center & Academy. To view the exhibit in person, visit the gallery at 410 Main Street in Ridgefield, CT. To experience the exhibit from the comfort of your own home, take their virtual tour.

What (specifically, about 2020) was your inspiration for this piece?

The year 2020 has been a very claustrophobic time for me, and for many others. I wanted to represent that through the use of the gas mask. The colors of red, white, and blue “gas” represent our country and the toxic atmosphere. COVID 19 is one obvious ingredient, but there are also many others; political discord (red and blue represents both parties), a sensational and biased media, social media addiction and some of the many different challenges we are experiencing here in the US in 2020.

Understanding that art is often subjective, is there a takeaway you hope people come away with after viewing your piece?

I think there are a lot of overt implications, meanings to this piece.  The mask is obvious, in terms of the virus. But it also represents the “toxicity” in the political environment brought on by the election, and the malignant nature of both parties.  We need to see how bad it is, and see the 2020 experience as a “tipping point,” something that needs to get so bad that it eventually tips over into something good.

As a creative takeaway, I would like to teach people about the art of “light painting photography.” In this shot, all of the effects were created “in camera,” not Photoshop. Through the magic of long exposure photography, I was able to “paint in” the red and blue colors using fiber optic brushes. The exposure time of this photograph is 17 seconds.

How has 2020 impacted your art, whether good or bad?

A friend once said to me, “What are you going to do with your restlessness?” With all of this uncertainty, my creative self has remained in constant vigilance – nervous, aware, with ideas pouring out of me. During quarantine, I bought a bunch of light painting tools, and started with a lot of indoor, long exposure photography. The themes were very much ethereal, deep, representing in detail what my emotional process looked, and felt like. The sublimation of these intense energies has been cathartic.

What is your primary hope for 2021?

Covid 19, political discord aside, it is my hope that people use this time of uncertainty, as “an invitation for change.” This is a great time to work on ourselves, to be the change they want to see in the world. No president, policy, or situation outside of you, is really going to be the difference maker. If you want to change the world, change yourself.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m a resident artist at the RPAC Gallery in Ridgefield Ct. This photograph, along with a few others, will be on display until the end of November. I will be cycling in new works there every 8 weeks.  You can see my work on my web site at:, or on Instagram: @willcookphotography.

RPAC Gallery | 410 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT | (203) 894-5609