This hospital worker mostly shared about her work related experiences. As many hospitals served as ground zero on the front lines of the COVID  crisis, the description of events in these settings were vivid. This story was no different, and the worker shared descriptions of a situation involving fear, confusion, and ultimately disappointment at having to again return to this state with each surge.  The emotional toll on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 has been documented several times, but it is important to understand each experience on an individual level. In acknowledging each person’s story, we are validating their experience and hopefully helping them to cope. Viewers can see the range of emotions in the eyes of the figure in this painting. The torn edges and secondary face represent the strength from within needed for perseverance as things crumble all around.   hospital worker shared her experiences of working through the pandemic. She spoke of frustrations, and of difficulties. These are represented in how the face of the figure is split. In listening to her, one gets a sense of the pandemic directly from the front lines. 


"Monica Crabtree"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

Artist Statement

The COVID-19 crisis revealed weaknesses in our professional and private relationships, often leading to conflicts beyond the challenges presented by the virus itself. Given that context, this story was highlighted by anger, confusion and mistrust brought on by other people. In western societies in particular, we tend to believe that we are in control of our lives and in our destinies. And, it is interesting that it sometimes it takes an external influence that we have no control over to reveal aspects of our life that we would normally avoid addressing, and to realize that we are not in total control. In the pause that took place during the COVID crisis many people had to grapple with issues that they would normally tolerate. In this story, it is what resulted in the hard feelings described by the narrator. The confusions is highlighted in the painting by the shifting and multi perspective of the figure’s face. The expression is clearly one of anger, but this is heightened by the thickness of the lines and the visual interruptions in texture and color. 


The speaker here shared a lot of information about her ethnicity and her background that includes growing up near Wuhan, China. As Wuhan, China is the globally recognized center of the COVID crisis, she has an extremely close tie to these events as they unfolded.  She spoke about her family, her hometown etc. But, she also talked about the backlash that Asians, and ethnic Chinese have faced since the COVID crisis began. Of all the speakers that shared stories, she was the only one to also mention the George Floyd murder. These two separate actions are interwoven into our collective consciousness, and speak to the organic and evolving nature of society in crisis. Her story is depicted here with the black and white figure referencing traditional Asian figurative imagery. Her voice visually radiates out from her over an organic background with indistinct shapes and objects.    


This story involved the figure taking responsibility for her community, her family, and her school. This offered a unique perspective as pop culture seems to present responsibility and leadership as something to avoid, i.e. the “cool kids” are never the ones accepting responsibility for their actions. The more thought that was given to the idea of how to portray responsibility produced many images that also looked like guilt. This lead to thoughts about guilt, the burden of leadership, and how it is often described as being lonely on the top. Guilt seems to be irretrievably linked to leadership roles, and it could be that this is partially why leadership is often not highly regarded by the masses. These ideas are presented in the downward gaze of the figure, and the multitude of fingers being pointed in her direction. They could be pointing the way to the future, they could be pointing to the one who leads, or they could be pointing at the person they hold most accountable.


      Zoomface 2020 is an online exhibition that is both parts art show and oral history project. To participate, log on to www.zoomface2020.com. You can then mouse over any of the faces, and when you click on one of them a personal experience of the COVID-19 pandemic will play. A special thank you is extended to all who volunteered their stories. To maintain anonymity, the names of the story narrators have been changed. Any resemblance to the names of real people, either living or dead, is strictly coincidental. The views expressed by those sharing stories are not those of Peter Klubek. Narrations were not edited for clarity. Static, disruptions, and other sound quality issues are present, just as they are in any ZOOM, Facetime, or Facebook Live session. If you are interested in learning how you could contribute your own experience, please contact me at p.klubek@yahoo.com. Please put "COVID story" in the subject box.


Partially funded by a state of Louisiana Division of the Arts Individual Artist Relief Grant

"Charlene Pritchett"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

"Nina Akhtar"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

This speaker shared that the COVID-19 crisis gave her permission to stop moving frantically in the fast paced lifestyle propagated by western culture. She said that she did not want to return to that reality when the crisis was over. For many, the COVID-19 crisis offered an opportunity of self-reflection and meditation that probably would not have been realized had the crisis not occurred. For her, this opportunity of reflection arose out of an awareness of what was coming, stockpiling supplies, going back to the Earth and potentially fishing from the river for food. She felt prepared for whatever was to come, and had the time to think and reflect on how we got here. The COVID-19 crisis made us all take a pause. In some ways, the outcome from this pause is being shaped by how prepared we were heading into the crisis. In listening to her story one feels a sense of fluidity. This is reflected in the figure presented in a fluid manner while looking beyond and outside the picture plane.person spoke about how the pandemic made her take time to slow down. She talked about not wanting to return to a frenzied lifestyle post pandemic, going back to the earth, and keeping things simple. To me this inspired water like images.

The story shared by this young man spoke of confidence, structure, and the certainty that comes with youth. The perspectives, worldviews, and optimism that comes from youthful vigor, even in the face of very dire circumstances, tends to give way to pessimism and distrust as we age. Youthful perspectives are therefore often overlooked as naïve. Yet, it is these youthful ideas that can serve as a reminder that new thoughts and new ways of problem solving often come from the young. In that context, this image inspires a faith and confidence needed as we look forward beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The figure is presented front and center, confident in his placement. He is surrounded and has emerged from the structure and solid blocks that form his perspective.


"Sarah Mileur"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

"Lisa Korando"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

"Smile Anastasia"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

"Nathan Arbeiter"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

The person sharing this story was an international student studying here in the United States. Of all the stories here, hers was perhaps the darkest as she spoke of losing multiple people to the virus. In listening to her story, one could get a sense of bleakness as she spoke of feeling trapped without resources, or family nearby. She also described how we all take for granted that people and places will always be there, yet in her situation during the COVID crisis she learned that this is not true. Her story stands as a memory to what has been lost and in gathering perseverance to go forward. This image needed to be presented carefully, painted somberly and in a limited palate. The focus here is on the figure, as she looks out towards the viewer in contemplation. The ripped, torn, and textured background represents some of what she is processing and trying to piece together.


This story is one of both belief and disbelief during the COVID-19 crisis. The speaker spoke initially of being skeptical of the situation as it unfolded, but gradually came to accept it as reality when she began to see impacts in her own life. For many people the COVID crisis couldn’t become real until they were directly affected. There are a variety of reasons why this has happened, and continues to happen, but it further defines how COVID was and is experienced on an individual level. This story also highlights that although experienced individually, we are all collectively impacted by the epidemic, and remain collectively changed because if it. Her dual perspectives of belief and disbelief are presented here as a Yin and yang. The unknown symbols in the center represent the speakers own understanding as she constructs her own meaning while straddling both sides of the issue.young lady sharing her story here spoke of the pandemic with both an acceptance and a rejection. 


      The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we interact with one another, and brought technology like Zoom conference meetings, Apple’s Facetime, and Facebook Live more centrally into our everyday lives. Everyone from teachers to celebrities have had to consider which of these to use, and how they best work on an individual level. At the beginning of the pandemic and while in isolation, Oprah wrote how she had come to realize that she was an introvert and reveled in the ability to stay home. She cited Zoom as her new best friend and loved the ability to connect with others while staying home (Winfrey O. 2020). Alana Semuels, writing for Time, noted that as the number of COVID 19 cases have increased, tech companies that promote video conferencing, like Zoom and Slack, have seen increased usage. She wrote that they had seen a 40% increase in the first quarter of 2020 and that the share prices for such companies had doubled (Semuels A. 2020). Those who teach like Todd Van Kekerix found that as teachers, students, and others shifted to on-line, virtual communication and teaching methods, the new phenomena of “Zoom Fatigue” became a reality. He went on to describe how this led people to become creative in presenting themselves by propping up webcams with book stacks and creating makeshift curtained backgrounds in order to immerse their on-line presence in an interesting virtual locale (Van Kekerix, T. 2020). With the embrace of these technologies, people have become used to seeing one another on screen from the waist up; often with only the face visible. The presentation of those familiar to us, whether family, friends, or coworkers, in this new light calls attention to how we appear to one another. This project builds on these fundamentals and highlights how images can be driven by the stories we tell, particularly in the context of social distancing, working remotely, self-isolation, and how our community and world has adapted to this new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am a painter that primarily works in watercolor occasionally mixed with other media like charcoal and oil. One subject that I continuously explore is the expressive qualities and characterization in individual human faces. As an artist that examines the human face, my work has taken on new meaning amid the cultural and social distancing taking place. A new dimension to my images has been created through the now everyday focus on faces that technology like Zoom has emphasized. Where I had already presented faces as expressions of character and individuality, a sense of the familiar and odd has been added as we try to normalize the abnormality of communicating with two-dimensional faces on a screen rather than meeting in person.


References:

Semuels, A. (2020). Does Remote Work Actually Work? TIME Magazine, 195(12/13), 42–47.

Van Kekerix, T. (2020). Teaching Like Gumby. American Music Teacher, 70(3), 6–8.

Winfrey, O. (2020). What I Know For Sure. O, The Oprah Magazine, 10o.

Peter Klubek

The woman from this story spoke about being impacted by COVID-19 in how she responded to those around her. She took advantage of all of the precautions advised to her personally and did not contract the virus. But, she also remained thoughtful in how she responded and reached out to others. The COVID-19 crisis has been isolating and therefore experienced individually. No two experiences are alike. Yet, in her efforts to reach out to others, she has attempted to overcome some of the more negative experiences of loneliness and isolation commonly expressed by many. This story highlights that is important to reach out to each other even in times of crisis when we are told to quarantine. Thought bubbles populate this image, while the figure cradles the phone on her shoulder. The phone is meant to evoke the feelings associated with phone company advertisements of the past, including: “..reach out and touch someone,” “let your fingers do the walking,” and “It’s so clear, it’s like you are in the next room.”


This painting is based on my own COVID-19 experience and my own story. So of the variety of images presented here, this one is the most familiar to me. My story was, for the most part positive, and I chose to visually focus on the aspect of my wedding during the COVID-19 crisis. In my narration I explain how plans were altered, and in my mind these changes exist as a what-could-have-been and as what-would-have been (which I also think of as an alternate title for this piece). Though the wedding arrangements did not occur, I can still see them moving about in my mind. Here the what-could-have-been, and what-would-have been are hanging out side by side. They are surrounded by nebulous textures, lines and colors, again highlighting the flow of possibilities. It is difficult to make something like potential energy tangible but, if that were possible, it might take a form similar to this.


Before approaching people requesting their COVID experiences as stories, they were also given the opportunity to develop their own artwork. Of all the stories shared, this was the only one in which the contributor wanted to also produce his own accompanying image for the project. Even though this picture was created by a different artist, some of the ideas relating to composition, texture, and line are similar. In his own words "This was made because I always think about the great times when things was normal and didn’t have to stress about the world to much. It represents me and my COVID story because when everything was on lockdown and had to stay house, I was having feelings about why things are like it is now trying to stay safe and trying not to catch the disease than just having fun and living life to it’s fullest."


"Peter Klubek"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

"Tiffany Heiple"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper

"Joshua Johnson (Nostalgic Thinking)"

18" X 24"

Ink based print

"Lance Carter"

18"X19"

Watercolor, Charcoal, Oil, on Mixed Paper