In 1980, an aging Yemeni woman living in a Palestinian village was involuntarily relocated to a bland immigrant camp. She was an artist and felt stifled by the white walls of her new house, so she bought cans of paint and, over several years, covered her white walls with the rich motifs of Yemei embroidery. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/afias-house-shlomi-israel Her project got her through a difficult time, and it is wondrous.
In times of crisis, we go inward. We feel disoriented as we adapt. During those times, art can help us make sense of things, and imagine a future that carries the best of our past.
When I started thinking about this, I realized a lot of people in my own life have rallied their artistic talents to the cause. Here are examples of their art, inspired by our current common struggle and inspiring us to think beyond the moment.
Huipilista Masks. In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Lena Bartula, is a scholar on the subject of huipils, a blouse worn by indigenous women in Central America. She also uses her artistic skills to make them. When the pandemic hit, she shifted her focus to incredible masks that deploy her knowledge of folk art, as well as her own sense of playfulness. I wish I could see them in person now!
Las Mujeres. Pepe Hernandez Ponce in Guanajuato, Mexico lost his job when the local economy collapsed as a result of the pandemic. So Pepe, father of four, leveraged this personal crisis to do what he loves most — paint murals. In just 6 months, he has painted at least a dozen murals, bringing local tourists and students to his hillside barrio.
Woman with Baby. Sallie Latch has been an artist for many years, but had stopped painting until she found herself sequestered during the pandemic. In recent months, she has painted more than a dozen incredible portraits of women. This one speaks to these times with a sense of protection and peace.
Sweet Tarts for My Sweet Hearts. Bonnie Black from San Miguel de Allende told me she’d never write another book after she finished a novel about her Scottish ancestors a couple of years ago. Then the pandemic hit and she got back to work, combining her compulsion for writing with her passion for the culinary arts. She wrote a book about baking tarts! Which you can get in the usual places!
Ham Radio. Maybe it’s not technically art but it’s certainly creative. Vic Weisser used this time of isolation to learn how to be a ham operator, not an easy undertaking. This is his homage to ham shacks. I understand he doesn’t talk politics with fellow hams.
Girl with Fish and Horse. I am not artistic but I have recently made a few collages to explore my sense of things. This is one of my favorites because it includes some strong symbols in my life, and it made me feel I could be patient, which I am not.
Maxine Linda Davimes. Artists Mellissa McGrady and Rory Davimes produced this masterpiece during the pandemic. You can’t get more creative than that!
“Rise like Lions after slumber In unvanquishable number — Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you — Ye are many — they are few.”
— Percy Bysshe Shelley from his poem “The Mask of Anarchy”: