Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Beginning of the End


 The Beginning of the End
16x12 oil on panel

To address the misery that Covid-19 inflicted on individuals and economies, labs around the world swung into gear. Formerly the fastest development of a vaccine had taken 4 years and the average timeline stretched between 10 and 15 years. In the spring of 2020, as quarantine orders were issued by one country after another around the world the hope of having a vaccine anytime soon seemed ridiculous. 


Operation Warp Speed was announced in mid-May by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The federal government offered hefty funding, built infrastructure needed for the effort and guaranteed the manufacture of any successful vaccine developed. HHS, in effect, purchased serum prior to knowing it’s degree of success. This funding allowed pharmaceutical companies to run preclinical and phase I, II and III clinical trials and develop manufacturing capability all at the same time rather in the formerly mandated sequence.


HHS’s bold move was a game changer. Multiple vaccinations were developed with head-spinning speed. The federal government cut red tape and expedited processes with no deviation in the required research, investigation or review board approvals. Building on epidemiological research that had been conducted for years, the first fully tested immunization was approved for emergency use in December of 2020. Three vaccines had been created in a record-crushing 9 months. 


As the manufacture and distribution of the inoculations kicked into gear, Americans began to emerge from a year like no other. “I’m Fully Vaccinated” stickers were worn with wonder and relief. Masks came off and family and friends fell into one another’s arms. Businesses and schools cautiously reopened and a new era began to take shape.


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This is the last painting in my Covid series. Recording the images I never would have imagined I’d see helped me get through the long, lonely year. My former subjects lost all color in light of the global drama playing out, and I decided to look straight at the historic event and record the visuals with a brush and oil paint in order to create a historical document. 


Looking at the arresting vision of a huge and utterly empty urban intersection, the otherworldly vision of a workman disinfecting city streets at night, the dark vision of a medical team enshrouded in PPE intubating a patient and 18 wheeled morgues chock full of body bags helped me understand what was happening outside the walls of my house. The mournful vision of an empty diner, a closed playground and a grandmother placing her palms against a window told me about how many layers of pain and suffering people were enduring. The sweet drive of women all across the country to sit at long-forgotten sewing machines and create stacks of masks at their kitchen tables, and the mysterious fever to bake bread gave me reason to smile. Still inexplicable - the hoarding of toilet paper!


I hope you enjoyed the series and that it perhaps helped you reflect on the unusual times we lived through. With the vaccine setting life back on a more familiar path, I find myself, like so many others, eager to focus on something else. I look forward to again focusing on the beauty of nature and people and finding the moments and visions that connect us to the magic and majesty of life. 


Stay tuned - I’ll share as I explore!


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Touchless

 

Touchless

16x12 oil on panel 


Physical distancing was mandated by governments around the world in order to protect people from both contracting and sharing the Covid-19 virus. This public health strategy was key in stemming the spread of the deadly disease. However, the isolation created by the stay at home orders took a toll mentally and emotionally on many. 


Elders proved to be at greater risk of getting very sick, requiring hospitalization and possibly losing their life to the virus. Consequently they were encouraged to be especially cautious. No group suffered more chronic loneliness. Many seniors living alone or in care facilities were confined to their rooms or apartments for approximately a year. 


Electronic methods of working, socializing and ordering goods, which became a lifeline for younger people, were closed to many of the elderly. Unfamiliar with or resistant to technology, seniors remained isolated from friends, neighbors and family. Social isolation frequently leads to depression and other mental health issues which are linked to worsening memory loss and higher mortality rates in older individuals.


The forms that love was expressed were wrenching to witness, but so sweet. Birthdays were celebrated by parades of cars with honking horns and banners, face-to-face visits were conducted through closed windows and hugs could only happen through sheets of plastic. We are social animals and connection is fundamental, which was proven by the countless innovative methods that loving friends and family devised to bridge the gap and express their love to one another.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Be the Change

Be the Change
12x16 oil on panel
Covid 19 series

In the twenty two days after May 25, the day that George Floyd was killed, there were 868 recorded protests in 326 counties attended by some 757,000 people. In the midst of a pandemic, large protests about racism and police brutality were attended by people of all ethnic backgrounds and skin colors. The use of excessive force by the police was the catalyst, but the growing understanding that black and brown people were suffering far more due to the virus had thrown light on the systemic racism in our country. 

The burden of essential work falls unevenly among racial and ethnic groups. In New York City people of color comprise three quarters of the city’s essential workers. Latino and black communities suffered higher percentages of hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid.

Essential workers are unable to telecommute, consequently didn’t have the luxury of distancing. Every day they pulled on masks and ventured out to cook, clean, deliver food, carry mail, drive buses, stock shelves, patrol the streets and tend to the ill. Essential workers were unable to afford to take time off or told by their bosses that they were not allowed time off. Many workers have no paid sick leave and fewer than 10% can take 2 weeks off, the recommended Covid 19 quarantine period. Many paid with their lives. 

The stark inequities in treatment by the police and the the disproportionate loss within certain types of workers in the economy fueled a wide recognition that we all have to be the change. We need to read the books that point the way, institute changes in your own life and be receptive to thinking and living in new ways. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Why TP?


Why TP?
coronavirus series
8x10 oil on panel

 When the pandemic made its way to the US it was understandable that hand sanitizer, cleaning products, thermometers and masks were snapped up from stores. However, when the "stay at home" orders were issued certain isles in stores seemed to empty immediately. Most notably missing was toilet paper. If you didn't already have a supply on hand you were up the proverbial creek. 


The mixed messages from State and National officials created anxiety and psychologists say that when people feel anxious and threatened behaving irrationally is common. Articles describe that the stockpiling of toilet paper wasn’t necessarily a selfish act of hoarding, it was an attempt to create order in a disordered situation. The cautious and anxious began a stampede panic buying is contagious. Being social animals we take cues from others, and when we see panic buying it causes fear and we tend to do the same. 


Stockpiling became a national past time. Some companies reported a 700% increase in their sales of toilet tissue. To appease dissatisfied customers retail companies restricted the amount that could be purchased at one time. The day you could put a few rolls in your shopping cart you felt victorious.


When worries of the second wave of infections built, it happened all over again! The run on cleaning supplies and pantry staples makes sense, but I still don’t get it, why TP?


Monday, November 30, 2020

Distanced


Distanced
12x16 oil on panel
Coronavirus series

What is it like to be young and have no playmates, no time at a park or school? Though social distancing is hard for everyone, children especially suffer and are affected both psychologically and developmentally by the isolation.


Routines, social interactions and friendships are some of the most important factors of a child’s psychological development. Much of early learning comes from watching, listening and mimicking others. Similarly, the development of co-ordination and physical skill takes trial, error and practice. In quarantine social and physical activity is in large part being replaced with more passive screen time. Psychological, social and physical mastery and confidence are not being built while kids are watching life rather than participating in it.


How will today’s change in the traditional childhood forms of stimulation, challenge and social contact effect the overall development of this generation? Running, climbing, singing, swinging and goofing around with other kids isn’t just fun, it’s important!


 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Gratitude


Gratitude
12x16 oil on panel
coronavirus series

We tend to focus on things that worry us or need changing. By giving attention to problems we can decide how best to make improvements. However sometimes this drive to root out problems makes us less aware of what is good or even great in our lives and in the world.


In the midst of the fearful rollercoaster ride that the pandemic has forced the whole world on we have seen kindness, selflessness and caring on levels that bring me to tears.  When quarantine orders drove most people home, there were legions of “essential workers” who ensured that we had the care, supplies and services we needed. Healthcare professionals, grocery, retail and food service workers, janitors and maids, transportation workers, gas station attendants and mechanics, postal employees, delivery drivers, grocery store employees and countless more put themselves at risk by interacting with large numbers of people daily. Essential workers, often not granted the privilege to isolate, made social distancing possible for the majority.


Expressions of gratitude bubbled up around the globe. Red Cross volunteers picked thousands of flowers to give to healthcare workers in Italy, The US Air Force Thunderbirds conducted flyovers in many US cities, the statue of Christ the Redeemer who overlooks Rio de Janeiro was illuminated with a stethoscope draped around his neck, and the Eiffel Tower bore “MERCI” in lights while Michelin starred chefs made meals for employees of Parisian hospitals. 


Between 6:00 and 7:00 PM, the most common period for a change of shifts, New York City rang with applause as people opened their windows, stepped onto balconies or fire escapes and clapped, banged pots and pans and chanted their thanks. People in Italy, India and Spain offered similar tributes.


Unable to directly thank all those willing to sacrifice their own safety and well being in this global crisis, people found other ways to express themselves. Home made signs appeared in windows and on lawns, chalk spelled out thanks on sidewalks, and chain link fences became galleries of grateful messages.  Throughout the country and around the world groups of people stood on random corners or in parks and simply held a message of appreciation and gratitude over their head.


Yup, I’m crying again. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Staff of Life


The Staff of Life
12x16 oil on panel

A few weeks into quarantine when the days had begun to feel indistinguishable people began to bake. Social media began to look like the window of a giant bakery - full of muffins, scones, banana bread and lots of sourdough. 


The baking section of markets emptied just after the paper goods aisle emptied of toilet tissue. Those packets of yeast that sat undisturbed on the top shelf since your grandmother’s time became a hot commodity. Flour mills couldn’t keep up with the demand. 


Yes, everyone was trapped at home and had nothing but time on their hands, and yes, every trip out the door was viewed as a health risk, but really, what was going on?


Social scientists say that baking offers comfort and is nurturing of others. The sudden passion for kneading grew out of a survival instinct not only to feed but to control. We were realizing that our entire world could be tipped over by a tiny virus and that we weren’t the masters of all we see after all. But if we kept our dough warm and timed the rise, punched it down and let it rise again we could create an ancient food considered essential.


Home cooking had become a bit of a rarity in the last decade as markets sold more prepared food and dinner could easily be delivered. We spent lots of time and money enjoying more and more elaborate food while eating out. When all restaurants closed what we could produce in our kitchens was all there was. The impulse to do it well, and go deeper than ever before is so sweet. I mean if you can create the staff of life in your own kitchen, isn’t that the perfect way to push back a pandemic?


You’ve just got to love the resilient nature of the human spirit!