Our Quarantine captures moments of my time at home with my partner during the Covid-19 pandemic, functioning as a window into our shared experience as well as the larger collective experience, yet very much positioned within my own personal lens. As an artist who traditionally draws on paper, this series has diverged, transitioning into the medium of digital drawings, originally a result of situational convenience while working from home instead of in my studio. Thus, the social climate, meant to be addressed conceptually, is also addressed within the medium itself.
Some of these moments were more planned, such as the photos of my Covid-19 tests, vaccine administration, and subsequent fever or the still life “icons.” In drawing these images, I was able to cope with the realities that they represented, recontextualizing them in an illustrative style that seemed to memorialize the event while facilitating a sense of personal detachment in order to digest the proverbial “pieces” a bit better.
Whereas other subjects were more impulsive noticings of physical poetry, like a mask on my front door, removed only for a trip to the grocery store, or the first time seeing my partner’s hair on my shower wall as a result of quarantining together instead of apart. There is a grotesque, yet very real intimacy of just being, existing, in the same isolated claustrophobia, intertwined tightly yet distinct from one another, like our hair in the shower drain.
These senses of isolation and claustrophobia are also present within the compositions of the pieces, as many are tightly cropped into the subjects yet simultaneously full of emptiness instead of grounded, concrete spaces. In distilling the subjects into simplistic, high-contrast drawings, I have taken a narrative approach to my own life, depicting emotive moments for myself to synthesize and for others to relate to, finding comfort in a shared experience.
I had originally conceptualized these drawings as “venerations of the mundane,” yet I find the opposite to be true. Perhaps there is an intermingled mix of veneration and lamentation, but the context of these works is anything but mundane. The endless, Sisyphean cycles of domestic maintenance are mundane, but their presence as a daily Zoom background is not. My impulse to categorize university-mandated Covid testing and brand-new potentially life-saving vaccines as “the mundane” is complacent of this bizarre and surreal new “normal.”
Yet, in isolation, everything was recontextualized for me. Tissues and toilet paper, sudden commodities, became an outlet for collective, pre-existing anxiety and self-concern. My kitchen became a studio, library, and office space. Devices became family dinners, movie theaters, and classrooms. Delivery services came to exemplify financial power dynamics, as some could afford to shelter-in-place while others were sent into instances of exposure to perform those same services. Introspectively, I myself was recontextualized. Despite being fortunate enough to isolate with a loving partner, I also had to isolate with myself, which was a far less healthy relationship. Without the white noise of the daily routines in the world, I had to deal with my own anxious, cynical, and self-critical mind, echoing back and forth off of my apartment walls.
As we begin to recongregate with our communities, we cannot forget the physical, mental, and financial accommodations made possible when the majority needed them, nor can we overlook the power dynamics and differing values of humanity blatantly exposed in this past year and a half. Moving forward, we have to do just that: move forward, with hope, compassion, and new understandings, reflecting upon and growing from the time in our quarantine.