by Michael Cavna: Color us impressed by your sharply tinted art in these trying times…
The Washington Post recently asked readers to share artwork that they have been creating during the pandemic, and received more than 650 submissions.
Art came from near (Washington and its surrounding states) and far (Germany and England, with a nod to Guatemala). The entrants spanned from tweens to artists in their 90s. And the choice of media included oil and acrylic, flowers, cinder blocks, a dryer sheet and hot glue.
The Post considered not only the quality and creativity of the art, but also the fascinating accompanying backstories. Enduring quarantines, some artists rendered what isolation and loneliness felt like, while others depicted longed-for social scenes from a pre-pandemic time.
Politics sometimes came into play — with one entrant cleverly adapting a stimulus check — and masks were a frequent feature. Some representational works transported us to a specific place, and some abstract works conveyed a distinct mood or state of mind. Some celebrated life, and some reflected a darkness or meditation on death.
Here are The Post’s favorites:
(Note: The artists’ words have been edited for length and clarity.)
“Social Distancing in the Mission”
JENNIFER M. POTTER, 45, SAN FRANCISCO
Created using the iProcreate app on an iPad
“I drew this after picking up groceries one day. As I walked around the neighborhood, I was heartened to see how people and small businesses were adapting. Even though we can’t socialize in the usual way, seeing everyone make an effort strengthens the sense of community I feel, and I wanted to share that feeling with others.”
KIMBERLY A. KELZER, 62, FREELAND, WASH.
Dyed black fir wood, tape measure, cinder blocks
“I used to make furniture and was thinking about how we now have to keep our distance, even to socialize — what if you had a bench that made you sit six feet apart? I put it at the end of my driveway. I wanted to communicate with passersby that we can take care of each other by keeping our distance right now, but still sit, admire the view and chat, even.”
“Peaceful Lord Buddha”
GLADSONA SOMALAL, 37, FOLSOM, CALIF.
Canvas and acrylic paint
“I started painting during [the] lockdown period to cope with tension due to [the] pandemic. Painting this abstract of Buddha helped me calm down, as I was feeling as if serenity was flowing to me from him. I hope our world [will] be filled with peace and well-being soon.”
LANDRY DUNAND, 39, TAKOMA PARK, MD.
8-by-10-inch tintype, wet plate collodion
“I used my old large-format camera, purchased many years ago in Thailand. With social distancing, I found a sense of peace and satisfaction in shooting long-exposure landscape. I shot Sligo Creek just down the hill from my house. [It inspired the setting of the book “The Bridge to Terabithia.”] It is something of a magical place — I go there every day to run, walk or take photos and look at the nature changing constantly.”
LISA GOREN, 60, HYDE PARK, MASS.
Watercolor, charcoal, dryer sheet
“A friend of mine is a doctor and an artist, and at the beginning of the pandemic, she posted a photo of her looking so beaten up. I used dryer sheets for the mask because I didn’t want to use anything that could actually make a mask. Since then, I’ve done about 10 others based on photos of health-care workers injured or bruised by their masks.”
MAYRA FERNANDEZ, 67, BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY.
Acrylic on canvas
“Being in lockdown because of the coronavirus is numbing, frightening, frustrating. It makes me feel vulnerable and powerless. I was planning to travel to my home country, Guatemala, at the end of March but then [borders were] closed. [This has] ignited a kind of homesickness I did not know before. This painting is my interpretation of a scary, yet protective figure of the Guatemalan folklore — ‘el cadejo’ is a black dog with burning eyes that takes care of drunkards who have fallen asleep lying on the street. It was my way of ‘traveling’ to Guatemala while being unable to do so. Looking at it now, it feels like an anchor.”
“L’eau de Bleach”
BAMBI RAMSEY, 45, REDDING, CALIF.
Digital (Procreate app)
“I did this quick sketch after a couple of weeks of shelter from home. My husband is an essential worker, so constant sanitizing of surfaces left my skin and clothes scented with Clorox water — family [teased] that it was my new perfume.”
“Group Portrait (work in progress)”
JACQUELINE KUDO, 50, BROOKLYN
Oil on canvas
“If each one of us is light in the dark, isn’t it wonderful to see the other lights around us? This is the last painting of a long day of paintings started on location [a series of views of Lower Manhattan from across the East River and across the Hudson River]. These canvases were started as the first coronavirus cases began to appear in the country. I knew this day would be the last day I could paint outside for a long time. Coincidentally, that day was the supermoon and also a holy day on some religious calendars. Because it was a special day, I worked on these paintings saying prayers and mantras and wishing for the best for the city. It all continues as I am finishing these paintings in lockdown.”
“Mask Series #3: ‘Stimulus Check’ ”
JENNIFER MARKOWITZ, 52, RALEIGH, N.C.
Hand-embroidered on silk
“I’m a textile and fiber artist and have been trying to find the right creative response to this crisis. I sew everything by hand, so I didn’t think masks I make should be wearable. So I’m working on a series of them as objects, each revealing a certain truth about our times.”
JAMMIE HOLMES, 36, DALLAS
Acrylic and oil pastels on canvas
“This painting is about endurance. Like no matter what you will go through in life, sometimes beautiful things can come from it. You can see a cement flower pot with a green plant growing from it, symbolizing growth from rough conditions. You can see the expressions of the faces of me and my brother — looking worn but yet still maintaining what’s normal to us. This painting is a symbol for my whole family. I like to show the inside and outside. Two black men and a soft color wallpaper background [make] things seem less intimidating. Sometimes I feel as a black man, we have to always be on guard — always ready to fight and survive.”
“A Quiet Place”
SILVIYA GEORGIEVA-SELLVIDA, 39, LONDON
Textured paper; collage on canvas
“My collage is inspired by, and created during, the lockdown in London. This is me. My kid [made] a photo of me in the window when it was not possible to go out, and basically this was our hope and connection with the world, nature, surroundings. After that, I was inspired to make my vision of this lovely photo. I’m a visual artist and a mum, and [it is] really important to express my feelings.”
CHERYL L. ZEMKE, 56, RIVERVIEW, MICH.
“Considering life with covid-19 and the future [of] wearing masks and gloves when exposed to others led me to consider the restrictions. [I’m thinking of] an intimacy and our innate need for personal contact with others.”
“A World United”
VASU TOLIA, 69, BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICH.
Mixed media on canvas
“Medicine has always been my first passion. And during these unprecedented, tumultuous times, it beckons me again as I watch helplessly from the sidelines now. Since my retirement as a physician, I’ve poured my creativity into art and poetry, so creating this kind of response came naturally to me.”
“Moody Little Guy”
ELIZABETH LANA, 52, PITTSBURGH
Acrylic on wood panel
“I love to paint large. In the time of corona, I have a small home studio. Watching the long lines at the food bank, I wanted to help. I created an exchange [and donate the proceeds] to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Buyers make a direct donation and send me a screen shot of a receipt. All sales have been local, and they pick the paintings up off my porch.”
“Reviveresco tropicae (Resurge)”
ZUANIA MUÑIZ MELÉNDEZ, 34, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
Flowers, wire, hot and white glue, cardboard, plastic bowl and salt.
“The abrupt changes I have experienced since the end of 2017, caused by Hurricane María and the recent pandemic, have destroyed my stability — my way of doing things and the way I relate to others. It is as if life has plowed my land and sown salt in the furrows. But from that same salt that sterilized me, that destroyed me, is where a new me arises. One never seen before, imagined, dreamed — only possible from the chaos and scarcity that drives me to innovate and grow. We are new flowers that emerge with more strength, ready to face the new challenges that lie ahead.”
“Into the Void”
DINA D’ARGO, 56, SPRINGFIELD, TENN.
Acrylic on canvas
“ ‘Into the Void’ symbolizes stepping into the unknown — the idea of life ‘after the pandemic’ and the insecurity of not knowing what lies ahead. The veil symbolizes not only the unwillingness to accept reality, but also our cultural preoccupation with covering or uncovering one’s face, and what it represents or says about who we are as a society. In a greater sense, this image is about the space between mortality and a spiritual state. I created this piece to sooth my own restless mind — to prepare myself for the possibility that during this pandemic, I may lose a loved one or lose my own life. And to remind myself that life is fluid and ever-changing, and it is okay not to know what lies ahead.”
“Covid-19 Trash Campbell’s”
MARY L. ARO, 90, GROSSE POINTE PARK, MICH.
Watercolor, graphite, colored pencil on paper
“I was inspired to paint trash when a nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit liked one of my paintings of a crushed beer can. I gave her the painting. My family and friends started to bring me pieces of trash found on their covid walks. I don’t go outside, so they drop off the trash in my garage. The trash has very interesting abstract shapes. It’s a challenge to paint them. At 90, I have a hard time with a shaky hand. I love the beautiful colors, the creased and wrinkled, dirty parts. The cans are luminous and shimmery. I think it’s nice that my paintings involve other people — kind of a collaborative effort.”
“Covid-19 Diary Excerpt”
NATALIE DUPILLE, 28, SEATTLE
Watercolor and ink on paper
“I have been creating semiregular illustrated diary pages both for myself and my community. It’s been helpful to process and acknowledge the wide range of emotions that comes from such an absurd situation — the silliness of partners/roommates, the uncertainty and fear, and the day-to-day moments.”
“Ode to Helen Rosner’s Roast Chicken”
AGNES BARTON-SABO, 39, CORVALLIS, ORE.
Flour, water, masking tape, two issues of the New Yorker, acrylic paint
“As I cook from what’s available in my pantry, I’m challenging myself to think of art projects to do with materials I already have around the house — like a few years’ worth of the New Yorker. First I made a paper wig. Then I dialed it up a notch and I created a papier-mâché hat as an ode to New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner and her infamous viral post about drying chicken skin with a hair dryer before roasting. In an additional nod to Ms. Rosner’s Beard Award-winning essay about chicken tenders, I made a ‘wig reveal’ video, lifting up the hat to shower myself with papier-mâché chicken tenders. My quarantine crafting and cooking style is over-the-top ridiculous. I think any uplifting and joyful moments are so important right now to help counteract the amount of negativity and stressful information we are constantly bombarded with.”
TOMÁS SERRANO, 59, LEXINGTON, KY.
Digital after pencil and ink
“I’m the cartoonist of an online newspaper in Spain, but I’m living in Kentucky. I saw the alarming news of the covid cases increase in New York, and tried to capture the feeling in a drawing of every day’s dawn transforming the sun into a virus that invades the streets.”
The honorable mentions
“Shadows of the Night” by Bud Wilkinson
“Hanging On” by Peggy Wilson
“The Haves and Have Nots” by Pam Gregory
“The Deep Season” by Hall Jameson
“Trump fiddles” by Graeme MacKay
“The Virus Within” by Rebecca Miller
“Personal Evolution” by Elizabeth Lukas
“Jail” by Kathleen Hallahan Zeifang
“Inviting Hope to Stay (An Homage to Maya Angelou)” by Susan Lasker Dankoff
“Carolyn Gavin Covid sketchbook series” by Carolyn Gavin
“Imaginary Friend (self-portrait)” by Jean-Paul Aboudib
“Battling the Enemy” by Peggy Jo Steer
“Isolation” by Gordon Skalleberg
“Cv19 Apron” by Susan Kricorian
“Isolate” by Leni Newell
“Cali Love” by Susana Sanchez-Young
“My muse” by Abdul-Rahim Brown
“Guernica 2020” by Tony Aguero
“Familia Cardoza” by Brian Gonzales
“Ramona” by Carol Gellner Levin
“The Rainbow After the Storm” by Dominick Cardella
“Hope-19” by Gordana Gerskovic
“Ready!” by Arwa Nasir
“The Dreamer” by Abi Salami