Local artists’ point of view (POV) on the events of the 2020 pandemic. This exhibit was commissioned by Third Rail Content.
The idea for this exhibit was born when Nebraska responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by shutting down public spaces and gatherings in March of 2020. Opportunities for local artists to show and sell their art at galleries and other event spaces suddenly disappeared.
Third Rail Content, a video-content-creation company based in Turbine Flats, has worked with many local artists on a variety of projects over the years. The owners, Dorothy Booraem and Chad Haufschild, knew artists who were financially affected by the pandemic shut down and, as creators themselves, they knew how devastating it could be to lose access to an audience.
Hoping to provide some emotional and financial support, they reached out to several Nebraska artists and commissioned pieces on the pandemic experience. This Pandemic POV exhibit represents the first group of artists who responded to the Third Rail commission.
Each piece in this exhibit is an individual artist’s response to the ongoing pandemic and the events that took place in the months of March, April and May of 2020. Some of the pieces are very personal, others look at the big picture through a lens of history or art. Together they create a micro-collage of Nebraska’s pandemic experience.
I love the quilt as a substrate for art and social practice and because of its long history in the make-do tradition, female labor, activism, and storytelling. I chose colors for this quilt design that were bold: pinks, greens, blacks and whites.
Loosely, I was relating the bright colors to the pandemic and the vividness of the month of March, which was one of the scarier months for our nation and world as we all sat in the unknown. The black and white pattern relates to the cognitive distortions that emerge during anxiety and depression, and my proximity to mental health related thinking errors, highlighted by the pandemic. The mixing of these two different color sets is a visual acknowledgment of the “both/and” reality of humanity; that people are both vibrant and complex and yet have the propensity to think in black and white.
The title of this work tells the story of what interested me during the early weeks of quarantine. First is the non-fiction book Untamed by Glennon Doyle. This memoir is a manifesto on how to untame our expectations from society in order to be the most authentic version of ourselves. I applied this idea of untaming to Dora Maar, one of Pablo Picasso’s many lovers/victims. I used the eyes of a 1938 portrait of Dora Maar as a design point. Hidden in the quilt are references to eyes in both the fabric prints and the geometrical shapes. My hope is that by meditating on her and giving life to her eyes, I can untame her from the space of the portrait.
My ignorance, and insensitivity is incredibly vast. I feel that this piece of art speaks to that ignorance and the embarrassment over my grief that police violence is allowed because of people like me. It represents a response that is naive and wholly inadequate. It represents all of us who are quarantined, who could not look away, who did not have our normal life to return to after witnessing the 8 minutes and 46 seconds it took to kill a man. A televised lynching. A man yelling for his mother as people so often do on their deathbeds. I am well read on the civil rights movement, american atrocities, and the scope of our government’s willingness to kill to maintain the systems we have in place. I didn’t do a fucking thing about it.
The greatest enemy in the struggle against poverty, racism, and militarism is not the KKK or the Police Officer, it is my willingness to embrace and position myself close to whiteness. The closer I am, the greater my comfort. At the loss of my humanity, a willful ignorance of the humanity in others, and a struggle that is just as much mine to fight in as it is theirs. To ignore the struggle is to ignore my own humanity.
This piece is a still life of a mask, something that has been an enormous talking point at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a method of keeping people safe in the midst of returning to work, as well as a symbol of our unpreparedness in the face of a global health crisis.
I chose to use a “1980s” palette as a nod to the economic boom and rise in income inequality prevalent in that period of time, which I think is an interesting mirror to hold up for 2020, where we are seeing an economic spiral downwards, as inequality continues to rise. We lack access to jobs, resources, and accurate information from figureheads as we navigate this pandemic.
The palette is also in reference to the outbreak of HIV/AIDS, which became (and still is) a pandemic, gaining public notice in the 1980s, in which we see many of the same initial reactions from the general population, paired with confusion and misinformation.