Creative Resilience: Art & Mental Health in the Time of Coronavirus
Check out select artworks in person at the All People Arts Gallery (1865 Parsons Avenue, Columbus, Ohio) from November 9 to December 18, 2020. The gallery is open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (except Thanksgiving weekend) and by appointment. To schedule a visit, please email email@example.com.
While the physical toll of COVID-19 is well known, the impact of the current pandemic on mental health has been severe and less discussed: According to the CDC, as of June 2020, 40 percent of American adults reported struggling with substance use or mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress. However, stigma, lack of access to healthcare, and other inequities may prevent people from seeking the help they need.
In partnership with All People Arts, Fresh A.I.R. Gallery asked artists how they are using their creative work to navigate the pandemic and to help process and cope with current circumstances. We received more than 110 exceptional submissions, and are honored to exhibit select pieces here and in the new All People Arts Galley (1865 Parsons Ave.)
Interested in purchasing artwork? Contact us at 614.744.8110 or firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing.
Morning Regimen, Digital photography, 12 x 18"
I am a photographer working primarily on the south side of Columbus, Ohio. My subject matter is a means by which I draw the attention of the viewer to things usually overlooked, and find a visual language to help me give a voice to unspoken issues inside myself. My work rarely includes people in the subject matter.
Don't Give Up Your Smile, Acrylic on paper, 18 x 24"
My artwork is a reflection of my moods and thoughts. I like to use bright, happy colors on subjects that contrast with these. This is because I am very good at portraying myself to be in a state of happiness even though I am struggling on the inside. My art work helps me to deal with my Bipolar 1, PTSD, Anxiety and Major Depressive disorders.
One Man: Two Wars, Acrylic, 24 x 26"
In my acrylic painting One Man: Two Wars, the subject is a Black man trying to hold himself aloft amidst the encroaching societal threats of COVID-19 (on the left) and police brutality (on the right).
The caduceus (or the Staff of Hermes), often widely associated with healthcare, is tragically contrasted by the desperate situation of the doctor in a white coat. The Black Lives Matter slogan, “I Can’t Breathe,” takes on the meaning of both wars he faces: These last words of Eric Garner and George Floyd trigger the pervasive image of a policeman kneeling on a Black man’s neck. Simultaneously, health problems, such as COVID-19, decrease the Black man’s ability to breathe.
One Man: Two Wars visually taps into all the factors that conspire to decrease the average life expectancy of the African American man. There has always been a discrepancy in life expectancy by demographic, with Native Americans and Black Americans dying earliest, especially when taking into account average income and lifestyle. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2017 National Population Projection estimates life expectancy to be 73.2 years for non-Hispanic African American men—far lower than that of non-Hispanic African American women and White counterparts. Factors, like stress and heart disease, coupled with the real risk of being unarmed and gunned down by police, extensively affect Black men in particular. Additionally, the recent COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts the African American community, creating an overall decreased life expectancy for Black men.
In One Man: Two Wars, the subject is a caregiver, but also a son, a father, a brother. His identity is relatable to most Black men in American society as he attempts to do something that remains a constant struggle compounded by the trying events of 2020—survive.
Galway Bay, Acrylic on archival paper, 12 x 18"
As a full-time, self-taught, professional artist, I rely heavily on my art for financial security. During this time of uncertainty, art sales have dropped, and open gallery hours and group shows have been cancelled.
Like most creatives, in the beginning, I used the extra time and inspiration to make new work. However, the motivation and inspiration waned as the months went on and the political environment intensified. Anxiety started to rise and there seemed to be no end to the current climate in the near future. However, I like to keep hopeful and find the positive even in an impossible situation.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, I have had to downsize my large Chromedge studio to a smaller version at 400 West Rich Street. Along with this change, I have also created a home studio in order to continue working on smaller pieces.
My morning routine now consists of painting an original painting on archival paper in my home studio. My inspiration for this collection of work is water. Water has calming effects on the mind. Water is soothing, as it reduces stress and helps to create a meditative state.
Jen, Collage, gold leaf, and acrylic on heavyweight paper, 30 x 22" (top) &Tonic, Collage, gold leaf, and acrylic on heavyweight paper, 30 x 22" (bottom)
My artwork is inspired by life in Contemporary America. This particular work was inspired by being in quarantine and exploring possible applications for collage techniques in my work. I was able to experiment with portraiture using paper and gold leaf. This piece initially started off as an instant gratification piece as I took breaks from my larger studio works but it quickly became a marker of the quality time spent with my lover and companion. It became hours of music and conversations about quarantine and our feelings surrounding the stay-at-home order. It became a time to have Gin and Tonic drinks daily at noon while working from home. It brought us closer than I could have possibly imaged and helped us work through quarantine. We came out stronger mentally and emotionally. As a memento, I'm not sure if I've ever made a more meaningful one.
Stocking Up, Chalk pastel, 24 x 18"
These compositions intertwine personal symbolism and self portraiture, spawning vibrant and fantastical worlds. Inspired by how traumatic stress causes the brain to collage fragments of memory, I rewrite my narrative within a whimsical world where harsh memories become less distressing. My COVID-inspired drawings are memories from the shutdown this past spring when I was quarantined with my partner who is a Buddhist, a Disney villain drag queen, a poodle, and a haunted doll. Because of our roommate's severe asthma, we were afraid to leave the apartment. This fear compounded on my PTSD because I felt like nowhere was safe.
I Must Not Tell Lies, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30"
In the grand scheme of things, it was not long before this “year” I discovered something remarkable about myself. In 2018 the artist in me started breaking down walls, anxieties, phobias, and other dark places inside my head and put it on canvas – in color, and in ways I had never been able to express in words. And then, the world turned upside down.
At first, social isolation seemed natural to my introverted self. Conflicting information, lack of leadership, protests, curfews, deaths – it all became too much and anxiety often won out. Days and weeks blended into each other quickly becoming meaningless. Without daily schedules and normal trips to the store, without any social engagements, without any substantial face-to-face interactions, I started to really feel the weight of the pandemic.
Little did I know how much I would long for even a few social outlets or to see the smiles on the bottom half of people’s faces. I needed something to ground me. If I could not find solid footing in the world, I had to find a way to ground myself. Expressing my thoughts and feelings through art lay the foundation I needed.
My painting, much like myself most of the time, is abstract. And my artwork has gone through a definite transition during COVID. Bright, bold colors and shapes, my individual abstract expressionism, has become more focused, grounded and purposeful.
Through these trying times, I never stopped painting. I painted to continue to have a voice and to be able to share my voice with the world. By painting, I've found a way to navigate the chaos and have made my own solid ground – a small piece of the world that is not constantly spinning in my head and under my feet. Through a sharing of my work, my hope is the foundation I am building for myself will help others find a serenity art has brought me.
Into the Abyss, Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14"
I am a new artist. While most of my work is inspired by the feelings evoked by the visual and auditory components of nature, I was initially inspired to begin painting largely due to the mental health repercussions of COVID-19. As someone that has struggled with depression and anxiety, art has been a wonderful outlet, and has afforded me an outlet for these underlying emotions. My first piece, "Into the Abyss," is inspired by the hopeless sinking feeling encountered when beginning to fall into a period of depression. This is also reflective of what many likely felt during March and April of 2020, when many were fearful of the uncertainty of what the future would hold.
Taco Taco, Mixed media, 20 x 16"
Taco Taco is a commentary on the world and how we have to learn to adapt to an ever-changing way of life. It is part of a series called the New Norm that focuses on how our environment changes. New works are created as the world learns and makes changes for a future not known.
Rebecca Gonzalez Bartoli
REST, Gouache and acrylic paint pen, 9 x 12"
This pandemic has affected my mental health in ways that I have not experienced in years. Being cut off from the world and the major disruption in routine has caused me to fall into a deep depression, and even had me relapse into psychosis over the summer. Collaging helped me find stability and be able to express the intense emotions I was feeling. I found that piecing together pictures was like making a puzzle of my mind. I felt depressed and became frustrated with myself, which was an unwelcome guest in an already tumultuous pandemic-era existence. But one thing that has kept me tender toward this new life is creating art. Art has always been a healing tool for me. I’m able to express my hardships and struggles in a physical way, using my hands and the tools in front of me.
An especially helpful aspect of creating art during this pandemic has been the escape from technology. Being connected 24/7 has been detrimental to my recovery. This is what my piece Rest is about. At the beginning of the quarantine, I was constantly on my phone, checking news and social media as a replacement for leaving the house. I was so connected virtually I would waste hours stuck in the endless scroll. It made me depressed, and I was angry and upset all the time. Once I decided to stop using social media, I took that space in time to rest my mind. I still contacted my family and friends, but I had the peace and time to work on expressing my anger and grief through art. Instead of reaching for the phone, I collaged, painted, and crafted. Taking the time to spend with myself, for myself, has been a very full, lovely feeling.
Everyone who creates art is part of a community, whether we know each other personally or not. Things are so confusing and distressing right now, but we can keep using our hands, keep creating despite all the uncertainty, and know there’s other people doing the same thing to hang on. I feel a connection to those using art to heal the same way I am, and that’s something that should never change.
Making small changes in how I feel joy has made a big impact on my mental health and my creative output. Relapse has happened to me, to many, but feeling this grief together and creating a space where it is okay to not be okay is important for us to heal. Creating art helps me feel like I didn’t waste away in 2020, but instead I grew and evolved emotionally and creatively as a human being.
Star Gazer, Mixed media, 20 x 16"
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused me to experience a huge array of emotions. I typically work part-time as an art coordinator at a senior living community, and travel to 10-12 art festivals around the country. During this pandemic, my part-time hours were raised to full-time for nearly four months so that I could help the senior living community with extra work that emerged as a result of COVID. At that same time, my art festivals all began to cancel. Out of the 10 that I was accepted for, I went to only one. My hours are now back to part-time and I am the art coordinator once again. And I had the joy of being able to go to my one remaining festival in Virginia.
My art has helped me to express my feelings of disbelief, anger, and grief. I am so grateful that I am an artist, because I believe that there have been at least a few times in my life that would have been difficult to work through without my creative outlet.
My process has shifted most noticeably in the area of my art coordinator work. I have received a grant from the GCAC that has enabled me to create and distribute art boxes to seniors living in central Ohio. This was something that I was doing where I currently work as art coordinator, but this grant helped me reach less advantaged seniors with an artistic outlet.
My own personal artwork has taken on themes of humans helping to create beauty in the world. In Star Gazer, a woman has strung Edison bulbs over the branches of trees to create stars. Art can serve as a distraction from the unpleasant realities of life. This may be a sort of naive vision, but for me, art serves to remind us that the world is a beautiful and magical place, if we know where to look, and if we know how to look.
Dread, Acrylic, 40 x 30"
I try to channel various feelings such as brokenness and inadequacy, which are often in the forefront of mental illness. My works focus on the writhing within that depression and anxiety cause, the pain that is not always seen. I also focus on capturing the unspoken pain that often lies behind a sufferer’s eyes. My art exists in such a way to remind those who can relate, that it is beyond acceptable to be transparent. While chronic illness is indeed chronic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. No one should have to suffer in silence.
Hope in Bloom, Alcohol ink on yupo paper, mounted on wooden cradled panel, 11 x 14"
The idea of finding beauty in the chaos. That is a theme that runs through almost anything I do. Starting from something messy and creating something cohesive. My work is mostly abstract, so it leaves the viewer in control of what they think they see or don't see in it. I'm intrigued by depth and texture and usually add several layers to whatever I am doing. I am inspired by the juxtaposition of nature vs. machine, chaos vs. order, light vs. dark. Trying to find common ground in our differences. The idea that we are stronger together, a blend of many colors turns out so much more interesting than just one or two. There is strength and beauty in these differences. It's important for us to blend just enough to make things interesting: using color as an example, blending colors just enough to create something beautiful and interesting where they meet, yet not losing the original colors completely or letting them get muddy. It's my wish for our society and relationships. To be able to appreciate each other in our differences without expecting one to become the other or vice versa. To be not just tolerant, but genuinely curious and open to hearing each other out and accepting each other for who we are, rather than attacking those differences of race, opinion, religion, political preference, etc.
The Answer, Mixed media painting on wood, 17 x 11"
Answering how the global pandemic has affected me is a bit of a challenge, because we are all still living in it. It seems like there have been so many changes to every aspect of life that when I begin to feel slightly normal, more changes happen and I have to re-adjust.
In the beginning, my kids were sent home from school, libraries closed, playgrounds closed, stores closed, including where I get my art supplies (because the system doesn't view art as essential). I had stress over not finding toilet paper, in-person activities stopped and went virtual, and for a time, I wasn't sure if my job still existed. My creativity was put on hold, my self-defense mechanisms turned on, and I went into basic survival mode. It makes me think, how much of this can a person handle? As a recovering alcoholic, I've had a lot of practice with self-isolation, but this forced isolation is different. I'm also reminded again and again that I'm not alone; everyone around the world has been affected.
From March to August, I did nothing creative. It was only recently that I got back to some new work. Art is definitely good for my mental health, whether the work is good or not doesn't matter. The current situation has posed a lot of questions and presented only some answers.
For the Love of Humanity, Mixed media on canvas, 20 x 16"
As someone who experiences panic disorder and undergoes exposure therapy to "get out," the shutdown brought my exposure work to a halt, terrifying me that I'd never be able to leave my home again. With PTSD, the murders of innocent Black people and the the traumatizing images and rights violations we all witnessed sent me into a dark tailspin of terror, horror, despair, and fear for myself and humanity. As someone who experiences an eating disorder and was actively in treatment even as lockdown began, the chaos of the situation, scarcity, and complete isolation allowed the eating disorder to tighten its grip on both my body and mind.
Yet, hope kept me going; the knowledge that together, united, we could overcome anything, urged me to persist, to get through another night. Watching folks standing up for and protecting the rights of others bolstered my spirit and soul. The belief and trust in my own resilience, my own ability to shine when things are darkest, my ability to transform negative energy into something positive whenever I can, pushed me forward day by day, and kept me from giving in to despair.
For the Love of Humanity depicts some of the personal dialectics experienced almost every moment during lockdown, from terror and despair to hope and unity. The piece asks you to analyze, examine, and question whose freedom/s were/are protected and embraced, even in/especially when facing a global pandemic, turmoil, and disruption. We had/have the potential to acknowledge, respect, and protect the rights and freedoms of those most vulnerable, marginalized, and most in need of love, support, and assistance. What could love for humanity offer us at this time? What healing could love of one another offer?
Poison in Presence, graphite and charcoal on hand stretched/toned paper, 18 x 24"
Sometimes it feels like our existence is harmful to those around us—especially those closest to us. There are times when our darkness is the only way to observe the world, only seeing the failures we will always have, the damage done and to be done, bound together by a misery that feels infectious. Recovery can happen, but that too will feel like harm. Something that’s hard to convey in a photo is how I layered on thick graphite in certain spots to make some extra “shine."
Self-Portrait, Charcoal drawing, 9.5 x 13.5"
Ever since I can remember, I've fought a battle with my mental health. Feelings of anxiety and isolation only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Art has helped me to express and document some of my feelings, as well as different perspectives during these times. The pieces I've chosen to submit all depict certain ways in which self-portraiture can be both literal and figurative, especially amidst quarantine. I think many people can relate when considering that there has been a ton of time to self-reflect and explore different parts of one's own experience(s). Whether it be past traumas, fears, feelings of disconnection/loneliness, or anything else, we are all ironically being brought together by the common enemy that is the COVID-19 virus and its consequences on our communities and people. I think that art can be especially helpful right now by allowing individuals to share what they have been feeling during these erratic times and by unifying communities through visual narratives.
Self-Portrait: Longing, Mixed media collage on board, 24 x 18"
I used to be an artist, but due to chronic depression and a traumatic event, I had not made art since 1995. Just as a traumatic event stopped me from making art years ago, the effects of the pandemic have resulted in art becoming a means of self-preservation in a world where little comfort can be found. The extreme introspection has given me a renewed sense of purpose and more compassion for myself and for others.
Depression and anxiety long ago became woven into the fabric of my existence, but with the introduction of COVID-19 into our world, in-person mental health services subsided and I feared the feelings of isolation and hopelessness could become overwhelming and lead to a very dark place. I found myself yearning for the past, for my youth, and for Japan, a place I had been fascinated with since childhood. I recalled an art assignment I had given to my students years before, the subject of which was to create a self-portrait that represents, but does not necessarily have to bear a physical resemblance to you. This idea was the catalyst during my isolation, to visually express my feelings of longing for my youth and for a place I had yet to experience.
I feel like arts and crafts have become a common thread during the pandemic, from people creating their own masks, to making signs and drawings of encouragement to place in their yards and windows. Musicians sing and play instruments from porches and balconies, children and adults draw with chalk on sidewalks and driveways. The arts help us heal and feel connected in our time of physical distance and emotional isolation. For me, it is yet another time that art saved my life.
Al-Quloob, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40"
I'm a Columbus based artist, and I like to use art as a form of storytelling and self-expression. Although there is a variety of subject matter in my work, you’ll notice that most of my paintings are focused around some sort of wildlife theme. My other areas of expertise include Arabic calligraphy and portraiture.
I've worked with multiple non-profits to create works that highlight causes near to me. I recently created art for Amnesty International for their “Gun Violence” campaign and “Children in Cages” campaign, both of which are held in offices in Chicago. I've also worked with local arts organizations like Artworks in Cincinnati.
In the last five years, I've picked up the art of Arabic calligraphy, hosting calligraphy workshops at multiple universities throughout the U.S. My hope is that through these workshops, I can build relationships with people and help nurture a curiosity and appreciation for the nuances of the Arabic language.
As an artist, I'm constantly challenging myself to rethink ideas and to create work that reflects a different perspective. I believe that to be my driving force. My vision is to continue developing my art so that it may continue to challenge others into thinking differently.
This is America, Acrylic & paper on canvas, 48 x 36"
This piece is inspired by the pandemic, isolation, and the current state of the world. There is a dilapidated house high up in a tree, representing being in isolation in a broken home, or struggling through isolation and feeling trapped. The house is engulfed by the tree. The red colors in the tree represent deaths related to COVID-19 and police violence. This large, luscious tree makes the viewer think "everything is okay," when really the tree is hiding suffering, isolation, and destruction. The tree is rooted in a large, broken pot, representing the very broken world we are living in right now. The sky has a smokiness to it, representing the wildfires ravaging across the country.
Nothing Fits, Oil pastel and colored pencil, 18 x 24" (top) andGet Close for a Picture, Oil pastel, 14 x 11" (bottom)
As the hard lockdown period became seemingly ever-lasting, I, along with plenty of others, found myself desiring self-expression about the new, the now, and the perpetual unknown. I found solace and maybe even a form of companionship in creating, learning about art, and unlearning and re-learning about myself. My artistic practice has increased significantly since the onset of the pandemic. Pre-COVID, I drew occasionally with minimal purpose, direction, or passion. Now, creating is an integral part of my life and my day-to-day. Art can help the community process and heal from the effects of COVID by providing a different language, a visual language for self-expression.
Vessel vs. Air 7, Oil paint and aerosol on panel, 10 x 10"
These paintings are part of a larger series of works that explore the concept of the "Vessel" and its purpose of creating a tangible or metaphorical separation between two different elements, ideas, or experiences. The effects of COVID-19 have created both a mental and physical barrier from direct human contact with family, friends, and community members, and the hooded figures in these paintings reflect the feelings associated with that separation.
Defeat, Graphite, 14 x 11"
This piece is about the frustration that the virus has on someone with mental illness. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, specifically contamination OCD, meaning that this virus is my living nightmare of germs and sickness. I wanted to capture that moment of complete surrender and tiredness that is felt during these times. There is tension on the hands and the face is lowered to the ground. The environment is the bathroom. It is the place where I oddly feel safe and can express this frustration in private. I intended to show the body language of the figure more than the background. Overall, the piece is meant to talk about the daily frustrations of the virus mixed with OCD.
Pessimist's Charm, Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24"
There is a much bigger monster in the basement of my mind now. As soon as the quarantine began, my addiction saw a playground of free time. I saw no chance of being able to stop this dark consuming of me.
Magical Moon, Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14"
I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012. As a way of coping and trying to heal I started my art journey in 2015 by picking up some acrylic paint and canvases. It has helped me tremendously in dealing with all the issues that PTSD has brought to my life. I now look at it as a blessing in disguise because if it wasn't for the trauma that brought about the PTSD I wouldn't be where I am right now as an artist. Dealing with Covid has also been a challenge but I have just immersed myself more into my art just painting through all the emotions that come up.
Open Stories #9, Handmade collages book, 5 x 3"
Since the beginning of April, I have been making small collages that I mail out to students and faculty at my school. These collages are surprise birthday cards. It began as a way for me to get back into my practice and also cope with the time spent at home the last six months. It also quickly became an outlet for showing gratitude towards others and a way to connect with people while staying physically distant.
Two months later, I expanded the project outside of school with a series of collage books and started a project called Open Stories. Both are ongoing and have been a major outlet for coping with the ups and downs of this year and managing my anxiety.
Creative Cartograph, Colored pencil and ink on vellum, 42.5 x 32.5"
This piece is the final product of a 4-years-long artistic endeavor. I started drawing this in 2016. This world I have created maps out locations for my creative ideas to live and gives a colorful foundation for me to tell stories through art, comic strips, and written stories and lore. A representation of the human condition, this world is an allegory of the depths of human emotions personified and visualized as a thriving cluster of locations and creatures. This map was created to explore the realm of creative ideas, of coexistence of world cultures and religions, and to procure a world where imagination is power. Look closely at the detail of the artwork. Your focus becomes your reality.
Welcome to the land of Phantasma! This world goes by many names such as "the Afterlife," "the Spirit World," "Dreamworld," "Underworld," "Phantom Lands," "Heaven," Paradise," etc. Inspired by world culture, world history, religion, mythology, architecture, and creative story writing, this world takes the human ethos, pathos, and logos and maps out the regions of the human psyche into tangible locations of magnificent surrealism and detail. Every place on this map is the manifestation of the emotions and psychology of the human brain. To gaze upon this map is to discover parts of humanity that are hard to see or intangible. And while you peer into Phantasma you might just learn something about yourself along the way! Your eye's journey subconsciously tells your story. Where will your eyes take you? What mysteries and treasures will be discovered? Each viewer will have a different journey and consequently create their own narrative.
This work was heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the inability to travel to see real world places. While quarantined, world-building was a way to cope with being trapped indoors, allowing the imagination to run loose and create a world I yearned to see.
Mah Leah Cochran
Lament, Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12"
If you look carefully, you may see a person in this piece, their hands up and leaning against a table or a wall. The person's back is toward the rest of the picture. I see this as someone who is praying and shutting out the world for a moment of lamenting.
This piece helps me to see that it is okay to lament and still have hope. In the Holy Bible, book of Lamentations Chapter 3, verse 24 says, "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him." For me, I could not get through this pandemic without him, The LORD. He has been everything to me.
Hozho, Acrylic, 33 x 42"
This painting is called Hozho. This is a sacred Navajo word meaning harmony, balance in all things. As an Irish descendent, I knew the Navajo Nation saved the Irish during the potato famine. Recently the Irish returned the generosity by giving Navajo Nation $100,000 during their COVID-19 struggles and water shortage. This painting is symbolic of harmony, both musically represented by the drum and flute and in the lands and all her resources. The background is imaging of the iconic monument Valley in Arizona.
Floating Colors 2, Oil on wood, 16 x 16"
I have always wanted for my work to be about comforting the viewer and providing calm. In this crazy year of 2020, the goal is the same: to comfort the viewer through images invoking nature. Fortunately, I also calm myself down in the process.
Puzzling, Acrylic, wax, and puzzle on foam core, 6 x 8"
I made a commitment to myself to complete a piece of art every single day for my sanity. It gives me a goal each morning and helps with the loneliness, confusion, frustration, anger, and depression I feel during this time. I hope my art helps someone somewhere, as making art is pretty much the only thing I know to do.
Untitled (May 11, 2020, Columbus, OH), Digital photograph, 18 x 12"
The pandemic upended every aspect of my life, from the physical to the mental. Things that were once “under control” have taken on new life, the worst being my OCD and agoraphobia. I’ve remained isolated, which in many ways has removed me from my community. Being uninsured, any time I step out of my house becomes a gamble and my thoughts obsess over everything that could happen.
I began shooting self-portraits in 2011, around the time of my father’s passing. Between 2011 and 2018, I photographed myself almost every single day, creating a body of work that explored the deterioration of my body from fibromyalgia and CPRS. Before the pandemic hit, I had shifted away from shooting self-portraits and focused my energies on photographing other people. Once lockdowns were issued and I became more and more terrified of this invisible threat, I turned inward and felt that it was time to confront myself visually again. Art is an outlet to explore my mental and physical conditions, to observe the ways in which my body changes over time. Since returning to self-portraiture, I’ve found myself kindle to my mind and body. I’ve given myself a space to process the emotional toll of perpetual uncertainty.
Art has always been a space of healing. The primary question my work seeks to answer is “what do we create in the space pain occupies?” For many, turning towards art grants a safe space to work through this question and find some level of peace as the world keeps burning. Through the magic of the internet, I’ve witnessed more and more individuals and communities turning towards the arts as a means of understanding our current environment. Creating during a pandemic gave me a space to feel brave. To feel like I’m not alone in my thoughts and body. To once again find the roses amongst the thorns.
Still Life, Oil, 22 x 18"
Born in Ohio, I am influenced by a landscape’s resilience over time. My current work is focused on landscapes in oil and cold wax. I am drawn to water and the landscape as subjects, as they are in constant flux, yet remain resilient with time, much like the human spirit.
I continue to draw inspiration from the words of Walt Whitman:
“Oh, to confront night, storms, hunger,
Ridicule, accidents, rebuffs,
As the trees and animals do.”
Assault, Wire frame and attachment rings, paper, watercolor, 17 x 17 x 3"
The abrupt changes in our world this spring extinguished my desire to create visual art, but after a few weeks that lifelong pressure began to push its way back to the surface. With nearly everything else stripped away, creating art became my only source of motivation. It started with small drawings and watercolor paintings, expanded to monoprints, the largest canvases I’ve ever painted, then sculptural pieces. The work flowed and provided a sense of accomplishment – essentially, my only sense of achieving anything worthwhile. Most of the early work was abstract and non-objective, but the work became more 3D, conceptual, and more clearly reflected effects of the pandemic.
Experiencing art created by others can help us feel we’re not alone in our struggles, providing a means to connect with others who are struggling through many of the same challenges we’re facing. Sharing and revealing our own pain through art allows us to dilute the burden of some of that pain, moving us forward in our healing process.
Creating art has been largely responsible for allowing me to maintain my sanity through these stressful times. I’m grateful to my Higher Power for granting me the continued ability to create visual art, because it’s the one activity I could not live without.
Floral Fantasy, Textile
Cathy Jeffers is a textile artist from Centerville, Ohio. In childhood she drew and made paper and cloth dolls and by high school learned to do batik, macrame, hand embroidery and studied paintng, ceramics, and weaving on a loom. She attended a school for the arts called the Living Arts Center for six years where she took classes in art, creative writing, and drama. Living art helped shape her life.
Because of her art background in ceramics, sculpture, watercolor, and acrylic painting, she had no fear when she heard about art quilting in 2005. Her work is easily identified by her use of color, by its use of texture and layers, and thread work much like a pencil drawing.
The majority of Cathy’s art quilts are narrative. The art quilts she designs come from stories, both real or imagined. She attempts to make an interesting background and adds elements until there are enough to tell a good story. She thinks her work engages people to really look throughout her piece to identify the story and interpret her message.
Red Summer, New media (digital painting) on canvas, 20 x 16" (left) and Hunter, New media (digital painting) on canvas, 20 x 16" (right)
This is a very worrying time. You don’t know who to believe, what is good and what is bad. There are a lot of lies and misunderstandings, a lot of stress and pressure. You don’t want to be manipulated by anyone, but at the same time, you don’t want to be an ignorant person. We are all need some balance.
I have a couple pieces I finished during last few months. I’m sure this art can reflect our present time. Runway Magazine published these artworks.
Hidden Lagoon, Pastel, 21 x 17"
I love art, landscapes especially. I incorporate several artistic styles in my work from impressionism to abstract expressionism, even a touch of surrealism. The goal is always a colorful, dreamlike fantasy-scape. I am inspired by tranquil almost mystical settings.
Corona Dancer 2, Oil on wrapped canvas, 14 x 11" (top) and Corona Dancer 3, Oil on wrapped canvas, 11 x 14" (bottom)
I have agoraphobia (a fear of going places). Nonetheless, being forced to stay home with only my husband was terrible. One evening, he took my for a ride in the country. The experience was surreal - long, empty roads and no people. It was sobering.
I deeply missed my grandchildren and children and friends. FaceTime with my six-year-old grandchild is not the same as holding that child in my lap. I missed laughter and touch. I don't like "virtual" yet that's what I became. Depression and stress deepened. Lack of work, financial strain, fear for loved ones getting ill, and loneliness added to the dark heaviness in my soul. I became so frustrated as galleries hosting my work closed. Shows featuring my art closed. Shows I'd entered pieces in did not open. My work became "virtual." I wondered, "why bother?"
Finally, I forced myself to paint. It was so hard getting my heart and mind onto a canvas. I started a woman holding dead flowers three times and could never complete her.
Then I started my Corona Dancers. I paint woman and love experimenting with color. I was finally able to put myself on canvas. My dancers are of a woman's face, shoulders and arms. They are twisted and contorted. Each struggles with sadness and loss. They struggle to break free. They are alone in their loneliness. There is no comfort.
Paint It Gold, Acrylic and mixed media, 36 x 24"
I started a new series while feeling the entrapment of quarantine. I used my contemporary abstract pieces to release so much built-up tension from being deprived of social life, my 12-step meetings, and going through the waves of my manic and depressive phases more rapidly than I would if I were in my natural routine. Many of my pieces came out in dull color schemes with very vibrant spots, making them colorful and appealing to the eye, which is how my mental health operates within my head I'm figuring out more. Some of the pieces are more monotone and consistent.
Though quarantine was frustrating at times, it actually caused one of the biggest bursts in creativity I've had since graduating college (CCAD), where I was forced to stay in the confinement of a creative environment. Now I'm back to a solid routine and have gotten studio space away from home and have joined a small group of artists. We've branded ourselves the Art Love Collective, and have held two shows together so far. We have been able to donate a combined $1,500 in proceeds to various organizations thus far, such as the Columbus Freedom Fund, Prime One Health, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, and Community Kitchen. This has filled me with so much hope, purpose, and motivation to keep producing and selling work like the artist I've always aspired to be.
Dan, Mixed media, 5.5 x 13.5 x 4.5"
The pandemic has caused me to have a lot of depression and anxiety. For the most part I have felt very lonely dealing with things on my own for the last several months. I am used to taking clay classes and being around others, and I have felt incredibly isolated. I normally work in ceramic/mixed media sculpture. Over the past two years, I have been preparing for a gallery show; however I have not been around ceramics much recently.
I received a sewing machine for Christmas a few years ago. I had more time these last several months because all of my art shows – where I earn the majority of my income – were cancelled except for one, I invested time in becoming better at sewing! Pottery is a long process, with waiting for the clay to dry, fire, glaze, etc. There is also anxiety involved not knowing how the piece will come out. With sewing, one can see results quickly. I sketched out my ideas and started making patterns and sewing my own “dolls” with “sculpted features.” I carved “eyes, noses, and mouths” in modeling clay and made silicone molds, then poured the pieces in resin, drilled, and sewed them to the dolls. I totally took off in a new direction! It has helped me focus my energy on something positive and I find that it is calming as well (except when I have trouble threading the machine or trying something totally new).
I have also have been making found object/sculpted works in boxes, where I incorporate items that I have collected from the flea market. I have uncovered many items to use in my work while going through my stash and getting rid of stuff with all of the “time” that I had on my hands. Although socially, emotionally, and financially the pandemic has been rough, art-wise, I have really come into my own!
Flight, Acrylic, 30 x 24"
I am a ceramic artist and an outsider painter. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I finished radiation treatment. I am aware of mortality. That's motivating. Reading for a second time Ninth Street Women, a book about painters after WWII, inspires me. I'm creating 10 paintings a month.
Kingwood Park, Mixed media, 24 x 35"
I paint with household items, such as crayons, nail polish, makeup, and clay. I mold and blend these materials into abstract images on re-purposed surfaces, including old picture frames and foam. My paintings of landscapes, dancers, musical instruments, and other subjects contain beauty and movement; they are also textured, unfiltered, and raw.
I could say the same about myself. From 2005 to 2015, my life was consumed by depression and the narcotics I used to cope with mental and physical pain. I was hospitalized many times. My elderly parents, who struggled with their own health problems, were part of my daily battles. My mother passed away in 2005, and my dad ended up in the hospital with a perforated ulcer. I signed up for Medicaid, but did not get medication I needed for my mental illness. Instead, I continued to rely on opioids to help me escape my world and my dilemmas.
My wake-up call came when I overdosed on pills while I was on my way to an appointment with my neurologist. I woke up in the emergency room, where doctors and nurses were working on me. They put me under observation, and I woke up later at a psychiatric hospital. In the week that I spent there at Christmastime, I was sexually harassed by then men who were on my co-ed floor. It was a horrific experience that caused me to lose weight and my hair. After I left, I shut out the world for several years, until I finally decided to leave my family home.
In 2013, moved into my own house, where I started to paint from photographs with materials I found around me, such as Q-tips. In 2015, friends and social workers started encouraging me to display my artwork. My very first show was at Concord Counseling, and my dad was able to attend, despite his declining health. He passed away the following year. After his death, I had to reinvent myself once more in the working world, and began creating artwork prolifically for exhibits and fundraisers. I continue to dive into my paintings daily to cope with my depression, PTSD, and physical pain.
Hope and Mercy To, Construction paper, 22 x 28"
My entry is a Collage work of art inspired by what is so needed in these times of illness and death of young, and old. Hope is needed so dearly by each and everyone of us. "The new normal" that this present time is being referred to as brought about by Covid-19. The virus is without boundaries. So I attempted with my colorful shapes an aura of hope foremost, and warmth by not leaving out the human form to say yes we are still here together fighting with our all to defeat this air born enemy. And we shall stand together strong no matter our color, shape, and size.
Light My Wildfire from the Expressive Woman Series, Mixed media on canvas, 18 x 20"
The Macabre Landscape of Woman collection is a 10-piece collection that consists of the following three series of mixed media paintings, the Expressive Woman series, the Hangman's Cornfield series, and the Soul Spiders series. This collection of mixed media paintings is dripping with symbolism and hauntingly beautiful images of woman and the world surrounding her.
I have been obsessed with pre- and post-apocalyptic imagery for many years, as it has haunted my dreams from childhood. I recently went through a depression after closing my business location caused what I thought at first was an ‘apocalypse’ of my career. Then I was struck with the recent corona quarantine and its impact on the arts. I had a steep descent into a depressive state, contemplating suicide, death, and the meaning of life.
In the Expressive Woman series, you see the descent, evolution, rise, and spiritual transformation of a woman who realizes that the “apocalypse” was in fact a spiritual journey, that the building was not the art – that my soul was the art, the art was within my soul not those walls. I had recurring dreams of the hanged man, a symbol used often in the tarot, and began to obsess over the beauty of Ohio cornfields near my home and the macabre image of the hanging noose within their stalks. The paintings have dark beauty, overcome by the light, imagery heavily influenced by the macabre vibe of Poe and the looming mystery of the apocalypse. I wanted to portray a retrospective examination of how woman is influenced by her surroundings and tell the story of the descent, and then the rise and rebirth of a woman in quarantine, in a world facing apocalypse and overrun by spiders, which are symbolic of the dark thoughts infesting my mind, like the spiders infesting the corn scene in my images. In the end, you see the story rise as the woman is truck by lightning, and the spiders encase her heart in a cocoon, which leads to her spiritual transformation and the rise of her art and spirit.
Untitled, Bowling balls decorated with marbles and glass gems
Fuck You Asthma, Acrylic, metal, and plastic on canvas, 24 x 48"
I paint to put the viewer of my work in a different frame of consciousness. My ultimate goal is to open your subconscious. If my abstract forms can make you feel slightly uneasy, my "magic" is doing its job. When I name my pieces, several ideas come to mind. Most of it is music, all of it is color, quite a bit is pain/illness and a portion is hurt. My art is abstract because the world is complicated and potentially limitless, and that is what art should be.
#MA141 Silent Scream from the Quarantine Days I ("It Is What It Is"), Metallic acrylics on canvas, 24 x 24"
Josh Stein is a lifelong, multi-mode creative artist, musician, writer, professor, and adult beverage-maker. With formal training in calligraphy, graphic design, and color work; more than two decades as a researcher, teacher, and writer in cultural analysis in the vein of the Birmingham and Frankfurt Schools; and a decade and a half as a commercial artist and designer for multiple winery clients; he brings his influences of Pop Art, Tattoo flash and lining techniques, and Abstract Surrealism and Expressionism to the extreme edge, where graphic design and calligraphy meet the Platonic theory of forms. The resulting metallic inks and acrylics on canvas delight and perplex, moving between the worlds of solidity and abstraction.
Sleeping in Porto, Mixed media (prisma color markers and photography), 8 x 10"
I am an American artist currently residing in Madrid, Spain. On Friday, March 13, 2020, Spain declared a state of emergency and a full mandated lockdown was enforced across the country. In order to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, everyone was required to stay in their homes, and only allowed to leave for groceries, medicine from the pharmacia, or to seek medical attention from the hospitals and doctors. This was put into effect until the lift on June 21, 2020.
The work that is being shared is a new series that started spring of 2020 during our mandated quarantine. It allowed me to take a mental break from the anxiety centering around the virus and be able to channel my creativity in a way that wasn’t so "heavy" to my emotional state.
During this time, I found myself increasingly depressed. I struggle with contamination OCD, so it was even more difficult for me to process the pandemic rationally. My anxiety and OCD had climbed to high levels and I needed a creative outlet. I wanted something that involved positive imagery and would bring me joy – that being my two daughters, Zoey and Munro.
This series is something that I wanted to create since our move overseas. I wanted to ensure that I had some way of capturing our time here in a way that was non traditional from the typical social media posts or blog. Something that my daughters could look back on and have something more personal from me. I know that my daughters will always have the photographs that have been taken, but I wanted to create something that was more story-like for them, considering that they are nine and four years old.
When viewing my work, you will see a realistic and fantasy quality with the incorporation of both illustration and photography.
R. Jason Van Hoose
Blue Moon Reverie, Acrylic on panel, 24 x 16"
I live in the downtown area of Youngstown, Ohio. We were hit hard and early by COVID. Currently, we are in the Red Zone. Because of this, I've spent much time indoors, by myself. There has been little to do and I've been fearful to go out anyway. I've stayed up way too late, too often, and enjoyed my view of downtown Youngstown through my window. It is a beautiful city with many historic buildings designed by prominent architects. The moon rising over the city is always exquisite, and I've had countless fantasies of flying over the city and around the moon during this lockdown period and pandemic. The desire to be Free from all of this trouble has fueled these reveries and I long for the time when the downtown will open again. A time when the galleries, restaurants, and nightclubs will be in full swing and I can enjoy life again with family and friends. Until then, it's just me, the moon, and the quiet buildings, hoping for better times.
Memorial Cross, Digital photography, 16 x 24"
I am a fine arts photographer. I have been working in central Ohio for the last 10 years, exhibiting in many shows. I deal with the death and dying of American landscapes. My work is often dark, reflecting influences of my long-term battle with bipolar and depression.
The One's We've Left Behind, Ink and acrylic, 12 x 9"
I take imagery from everyday life and seek to distill that moment and the feelings bound to it. My work builds on patterns and iconography to create the foundation for scenes of abandonment and isolation with the human form or urban wildlife. Each work incorporates detailed lines and broad strokes that result in a contrast of extremes. My goal with my work is, and has always been, to open a dialogue about mental illness through my imagery or the impetus for a series.
My fascination with the themes, patterns, and subjects derives from my visual, intellectual, and psychological interest in aspects of the world that are both ornate and mundane. These themes and subjects are experiential and woven throughout my life, and they shape my reality. My style has been developed and refined through experimentation with a range of the media. It is a calculated gamble that will either drive the piece further or destroy the work. These artistic themes and processes are the scaffolding that my internal life is built on, and they are punctuated by the reality that I have lived over half my life with a mental illness.
Who I am as an artist is directly informed and influenced by my disability. In two years, I have not really left my apartment except for doctor's appointments, groceries, and weekly meetings with a friend because I am afraid of the uncontrollable possibilities of the outside world. But with art, I am in a world of my own creation, I am calm and capable of making choices and taking risks. I draw from equality and science; “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” (Aldous Huxley) At heart, I am simply a person who is trying to connect with others the only way he feels safe: through art.