Covidian? …Covidism? …Covidnineteenism?…Coronaism?
By F. Lennox Campello
Covidian? …Covidism? …Covidnineteenism?…Coronaism?
A couple of months ago I wrote about some help lines for artists as the Coronavirulization of the art world, another victim of the planetary infection in what I now call The Covidian Age, was in full attack.
It is now June, and like everything else in the DMV, anything related to the virus (responses, tactics, techniques, even those “models” that are always and inexplicably waaaay wrong) has become political. As such, it won’t be long before more and more Covidian Age art gets dubbed Covidism? Or less likely Covidnineteenism? Coronaism?
In the nation, the pandemic has had an interesting, if not unexpected American twist: it has become a political issue of sorts. The angry left blames the President – just the President – for everything, and the angry right mirrors it right back to whoever is/are the leaders of the Democrat party these days.
Leave it to artists to actually do something positive not only with these two political interpretations of a disease, but also with a myriad of interpretations of the Covidian Age and Covidism – and I suspect that a millennia from now, when perhaps even more dark events have been survived by the human race, it is the First Covidian Age artwork which will truly tell the story and mark the crowning spot (pun intended) of the Coronavirulization of art.
There is no artist on planet Earth more qualified and sensitized to creating artwork about COVID-19 than Michele Banks. For years if not decades now, Banks has been creating terrifyingly beautiful works of art based on viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other such disturbing subject matter. In her talented hands, these co-inhabitants of our planet and often our bodies are depicted with ethereal splendor and become permanent works of art. In Indigo Coronavirus (Ink on Yupo), the distressing luxury of the Corona virus becomes an even more refined and powerful abstract work.
The inherent beauty of the virus also drives Alla Rogers stunning watercolor titled “Dangerous Beauties”, where the Corona monster flaunts its exquisite appearance in a superb work of art.
Karen Kessi lives in a lovely Spanish beach town, and as we all know, Spain has been ravaged by the virus. But the Iberian nation moves on, and Kessi, who is a world-renowned photographer, noticed the similar Covidian beauty of her Spring roses in a delicate photograph intelligently titled “Coronarosa.” Meanwhile Natalia Andreyeva captures a poignant moment in time with her photograph titled “The Have Nots.”
Kate Kretz is another powerful creative mind with an enviable set of diverse skills. Not only is she a superbly accomplished painter, whose paintings often takes aim at political and social issues with the ferocity that only a true believer can wield (her series aimed at the debate over guns was and is spectacular!), but Kretz also has a dazzling talent with making her points vividly clear and succinctly devastating. It doesn’t take more than a glance to see that “Social Murder”, a mask made of deconstructed MAGA hats, cotton, and thread, from her “MAGA Hat Collection” immediately assigns fault squarely on the Trumpian Empire.
Seattle’s Bethann Shannon uses her graphic facility to deliver an even more to the point message in her Covidian artwork, where Princess Leia’s facemask directs how to move on: VOTE! Another Seattle artist who goes the royal route is Kelly Lyles, who has created a whole series of Coronavirulized royal portraits, where the iconic faces of British royalty are modernized to become part of the Royal House of COVID (or as Lyles dubs the cool set: The Corona Queens Series). Presented in rococo gilded gold frames, the stylized paintings are strangely fascinating, note the bizarre impact of her subtle, but powerful “update” in “Queen Elizabeth I’s Corona”, acrylic on Illustration board, found objects (rhinestones, silk flowers, syringes).
I believe that while we’re force fed the daily count of deaths by COVID-19, the true disaster of this period may end up being the eventual number of deaths BECAUSE of COVID-19. Deaths caused by depression, suicide, violence, loss of jobs, etc. It is this dark foreboding that perhaps drives Lisa Montag Brotman’s “Shelter in Place”, with its bright colors underlying its depressive reality. You can read the same depressive impact of the social boundaries that have nearly ended our social world in Cheryl Edwards’ brooding self-portrait titled “Fear – from the Corona Chronicles – Shadow Side series.” It is also smartly represented by Janis Goodman’s entire series of “Isolation” paintings, where Goodman shows the power of what a talented artist can accomplish with just form and colors.
In “How We Take Care Of Each Other”, Michael Janis takes the ubiquitous threat of the virus (we’ve been told and retold how it can be and is everywhere) and transforms it to singularly unique approach using the immensely difficult sgraffito technique. Janis notes about this work that “some of the imagery themes include – how COVID-19 cases are heavily concentrated in the African American population and how we as a community are held together by even the smallest physical contact. Touch is as important a social condition as anything. It reduces stress. It makes people trust one another. It allows for cooperation. When you look at people in solitary confinement suffering from touch deprivation, you see that people lose a sense that someone’s got their back, that they’re part of a community and connected to others.”
Also working in glass, Teri Bailey uses delicate tendrils of glass to create a chilling gasp for breath in her wall sculpture titled “Violence Among Growth.” The distress is palpable; the direct line to the death cycle of the virus frightening.
Titles can deliver a punch to the solar plexus of the mind that make the visual impact of a work even that much more permanent. Such is the case with Suzanne Bybee’s focal piece “Collection of Lies” (acrylic and markers).
Miami’s Frank Hyder is already thinking about the future when he sets his brush to the paper in “Pandemic Journey.” The future does not look promising… or does it?
It would take a panel of experts to try to decipher the dozen or so visual clues that California’s Marianela de la Hoz has painted in her magnificent egg tempera on board painting titled “Global Coup d’état.” As everyone by now knows, Corona is Spanish for Crown, and it is a crown that the virus-proof child wears with a smile, but his parted robes reveal a death skeleton, the possibility of carrying the disease onto others. Meanwhile a crying skeleton ponders a world where natural life, revived and rekindled by the quarantine, enjoys a temporary rebirth. Meanwhile, even the table cloth cries.