Thursday, May 21, 2020

Art in the Time of Pandemic, Part 3

In the Corona series:
The Corona Sidestep: A Virtual Exhibition
Art in the Time of Pandemic, Part 1 
Art in the Time of Pandemic, Part 2
Coming: Art in the Time of Pandemic, a Postscript
All art (c) 2020 the individual artists

What’s a series on art and the Corona virus pandemic without a visual acknowledgement of the virus itself? Objectively speaking, that spiked orb is a beautiful form. One of many corona viruses, it is so named because of the corona, or crown, projecting from its surface. The spikes that comprise the crown enable this particular virus to grab onto a host cell and then fuse itself to a cell wall in the respiratory system. The artists here are inspired by this viral form and and, relatedly, by other pathogens around us. Their paintings and drawings make visible what is normally only seen under an electron microscope, mutating it into something powerful but non-lethal.

Andrew Werth
Self Concern, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

"This painting was actually made in 2018 and so was not about the Corona virus, but now when I look at it (or show it to others), it’s almost impossible to see anything else."

Dee Shapiro
It’s Covid Everywhere, 2020, mixed media on panel, 24 x 18 inches

"In this piece I was taken by the beauty and color of the Covid viruses in contrast to their deadly 
effect . . . Obviously I am using pattern, geometry, line, and color in each piece all a harking back to some earlier pieces of intricate patterns."

From Whence it Came, 2020, mixed media on panel, 24 x 18 inches

"I responded to the probable source of the virus: the bat and the animal it infected." 
The piece below, says Shapiro, was inspired by Dr. Fauci's advice to control the virus.  

Below: Test, Isolate, Trace, 2020, ink and cut paper on Stonehenge paper, 9 x 12 inches

Mira Schor
A Pandemic Flower Grows, 2020, ink and gesso on paper, 12 x 16 inches

"In work since 2019, an important subject has been the space of the artist’s studio and mind in relation to the end of history. Since #productivityinapandemic #artinapandemic the time has moved up from 10 p.m. to midnight. The work is small, contagion cannot be contained, yet the roots of flowers push through the floor of the apartment."

Bascha Mon
Is this Virus Contained or Spreading and Popping Out All Over Our Land?, 2020, carbon pencil and gouache on Arches, 12 x 16 inches

"Too much uncertainty remains. I found out this afternoon that another person I care about has been ill for five weeks. She is recoveringstill coughing and weakbut managed not to go to hospital. My fears are still there. Not sure when I would feel safe to go out. Some I think are pushing their luck. I will be painting 'Corona Virus World' for some time.

"One strange day follows another. Now our ‘leader’ proposes we inject ourselves with disinfectant to cure the virus. Others suggest we no longer need social distancing. Others say, 'Let us just let people die as long as we’ve rescued the economy.'  So many wonderful options. No wonder my creatures are back in my paintings. They are not real and our lives are surreal."

Stephanie Roberts-Camello
Under Cover, 2020, encaustic relief over old letter with ink and casein, 8.75 x 8 x 2.5 inches

"I noticed recently a large piece of paper on my studio floor that I use to catch ink drops looked like corona virus. I have started to incorporate [the ink drops] into some small paintings."

Below: The Storm, 2020, encaustic relief over rusted paper and ink, 6 x 6 inches

Holly Miller
Sketchbook pages, 2020, watercolor and colored pencil sketches and drawings

"As horrible and devastating as this virus is, I find it visually beautiful. I’m inspired by its shape, form, and color. The virus has permeated every part of my mind and soul in the past two or three months of my life and my reality. I feel lucky and grateful to not have been affected by it physically, but my heart goes out to all of those who have been affected by it. How can something so beautiful be so deadly?"

Below: Corona, 2020, acrylic and thread on linen, 12 x 12 inches 

Jo Yarrington
Untitled (pathogens), 2020, nine cyanotypes, each  10 x 10 inches

"For this ongoing cyanotype series, I have been using household/found glass objects to create shapes that allude to microorganisms. Their placement in a grid is suggestive of mitosis, migration, and mutation. As I continue this series through the pandemic, the work has gained more contextual depth within the general framework of pathogens."

Laurel Garcia Colvin
Hydra: Lace + Constellations series, 2020; white conté, white pencil and acrylic paint on handmade indigo paper; approximately 17.5” x 22.75”

"Our thoughts and perceptions define who we each are, and at the same time connect us to something greater than our individual selves beyond our collective humanity. The delicate threads woven together to create a lace pattern, the crisscrossing lines between a group of stars in the sky to create a mythological figure, the arrangement of sub-particles to create the molecular structures of all things in the universe, the billions of neurons interconnected by trillions of connections called synapses in the human brain sending up thousands of signals per second to produce a single thought or perception in each of us . . .This virus and its spread underscore the interconnectedness of all humanity and where those threads are broken in our society that need to be repaired in the future once this virus is vanquished.

 "I created this piece in April and felt the creature Hydra from Greek mythology (and its constellation) was the best visual metaphor for the virus and the continued Herculean effort by physicians, scientists, enlightened leaders, and citizens to finally rid the world of this virus and fix the brokenness of our society."

Barbara Fisher
Tiny Mutant Totem 62, 2020, acrylic and pencil on Yupo, 4.5 x 5.5 inches

"I have been painting virus-related imagery since long before the virus arrived at our gates.  I have been working on a series called Mutants since early last Fall.  I see them as genetic experiments gone wrong.  A lot of them ended up looking like viruses--a bit of a premonition, I think."

Above: Mutant 12 

Below: Mutant 51, both acrylic and pencil on Yupo, 14 x 11 inches

 Lorrie Fredette
The Great Silence, 2011, mixed media with muslin and beeswax, 6 feet 2 inches x 36 feet 9 inches x 5 feet 8 inches, suspended 8 feet 6 inches above the floor

"I've been asked if the corona virus is inspiring me right now. The answer is no. It isn't. It doesn't. Every minute it's too close. I'm not one of the artists able to work in her studio right now. It brings me no comfort. I find myself staring blankly at the building, the art, the tools and the supplies. They're unrecognizable. But your blog offered the chance to reflect on past exhibitions where the experience may touch today's lived experiences.

"The Great Silence was created for the Cape Cod Museum of Art. The undercurrent for the installation was the smallpox epidemic brought to Cape Cod by European settlers, which decimated 75 percent of the original residents of the Cape between 1614-1617."

Alternate view below

 Proper Limits, 2015, porcelain, 18 feet 3.5 inches z 178 feet 10.5 inches x 8 feet

"The Visual Art Center of New Jersey hosted this site-sensitive installation. The more than 14,000 porcelain elements are loosely based on the spirochete of Lyme disease, a debilitating and often mis/under-diagnosed disease. When will we as humans understand and respect the limitations between nature and ourselves?  When?"

Detail below

Sandi Miot
Covid Invaders 3, 2020, cold wax on paper,  7.5 x 7.5 inches

"Since I am both an elder and have multiple underlying health issues, I knew if I were to contract Covid, I would be a dead person. I decided very early on to self-quarantine and so I have been isolated since mid-February. At this point, I have not left the house in three months!  Definitely going a bit stir crazy. Dealing with the fear of this situation has produced doodling on anything that I could find. The result is what I call my Covid Invaders. They are meant to be a bit humorous."

Below:  Covid Invaders 1, 2020, encaustic and ink on paper, 6 x 6 inches

 Kay Hartung
Macroaction 14, 2009, pastel, 19.5 x 26 inches

I had Hartung's work in mind when I conceived this blog post since she has been working with microscopic imagery for some years. Although these works are not specifically about the corona virus--she has not had access to her studio--I wanted to include them. Here's what she has to say:

"My work is related to my fascination with the microscopic world. I have been looking at electron microscope photographs and am inspired by the abstract organic shapes and intense color of this hidden world. I am exploring the connections between science and art, conscious of the profound effects that these minute biological forms have on the universe."

Below: Microblast 5, 2007, pastel, 14 x 16 inches


Sean Capone
THEO TW'AWKI (Dialogues from the Inner Life)

"This is [one in] a series of philosophical/absurdist monologues about nature, art, life and death from the point of view of a cartoon 'virus'. This is kind of all there is to see right now-- I'm working on developing the animation and the sound--I've been working at a snail's pace despite having literally nothing but time. . . ."

P Elaine Sharpe
Go Out and Find a Girl, 2020; acrylic, gouache, and pencil on paper; 12 x 9 inches

"I've been stricken by the aesthetics of this murderous and stealthy little killer from the first moment I saw it. This is my first pass at capturing the sublime portent of unforeseen death; a state of electric, psychedelic shock, in turns oscillating, floating, falling."

Hot Town Summer in the City, 2020, flashe on Yupo, 25 x 35 inches

Detail below

Joan Stuart Ross
Counterweight V, 2020; ink, collage, crossword paper, pastel; 15 x 11.25 inches

"I had stressed myself out with anger and grief at the Federal mishandling [of the pandemic] and their inexorably base behavior, but am trying to not be so miserable—to make my drawings, read my books, breathe and calm down.  I'm working in my small living room/dining room/guest room area, on a loaded-down portable table."

Below: Counterweight VI, 2020; ink, collage, crossword paper, pastel; 15 x 11.25 inches

Lisa Barthelson
aii8, family debris, 2020, monoprint with mixed media, 10 x 10 inches

"During Massachusetts' stay-at-home order, I’ve been using materials I have stockpiled in my house. Since March I’ve made nine small mixed-media ‘art in isolation’ pieces by layering printed collage and stitching on remnants of Family Debris monoprints. The circle is an important part of my visual vocabulary; incorporating the spiky circular Covid symbol in my current work memorializes this strangely timeless period when the world and our lives have changed suddenly, profoundly, and irrevocably. The work is reflective of my internal chaos, going around in circles in the time of Corona. But I’ve found comfort in the meditative building of these small layered and colorful compositions. Making art for sanity, I’m thankful that it works for me."

Below: aii9, family debris, 2020, monoprint with mixed media, 12 x 12 inches

Karen Nielsen-Fried
Seeing Red. 2020, acrylic and flashe on watercolor paper, 24 x 18 inches

"I’ve been in the studio non-stop since early March (after a number of days of wondering why making art even had a purpose anymore). These were made in those early days of the isolation when I was trying to figure out where my work was going. I wasn’t planning to make 'Covid art,' they just sort of happened. When I sat back and looked at them it was clear that they were, in fact, screaming 'Coronavirus!' I am humbled by the way the unconscious manages to have the upper hand often when I paint, sending me a message that I decipher after the fact."

Leslie Sobel
We Are Alone Together 49, 2020, encaustic monotype and mixed media, 9 x 9 inches

"I find I've been alternating between working almost obsessively in the studio and then having utter dry spells. Making this series and sharing it has felt like a way to share some light in a very dark time. It's pretty separate from my usual focus and somehow that feels freeing right now too."

Below: We Are Alone Together 38, encaustic monotype and mixed media, 9 x 9 inches

I'm struck by how both scientific observation and visual intuition have brought us from the image of the corona virus that opened the post to the one below, which closes it (both images from the internet). It's a deadly pathogen, but oh so photogenic! Thanks to the artists here for disarming it so powerfully.

Stay tuned for one more post on the subject, a Postscript about Saint Corona.

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  1. It is amazing to see how the virus has stimulated such wonderful work.Artists can be inspired by anything from world events to personal concerns. Not just what is on one's mind but what is in one's head as well.Brava to Joanne for her contribution to artists through her blog and the work required to put all of this together.

  2. These images are so fabulous! They prove that artists can and will make art no matter how hard the subject bites. Thanks, artists and, of course, Blog Impressario Joanne Mattera!

  3. What a wonderful curation of images, Joanne. Your three part series has been inspirational!