Monday, May 4, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic

I have been the leader of my parish's Arts & Faith ministry for nearly two years. In that time, I have created a number of exhibitions for our Parish Hall. Because of the pandemic and our need to isolate, I have not been able to take down an exhibit for Lent, "Contemporary Artists Interpret Stations of the Cross," and hang in its place a show of paper art that had been scheduled for May. Not willing to leave our virtual walls as empty as our real ones, I came up with an idea to present an online exhibition that also could be related to the pandemic. With my priest's support, I put out an open call on social media for poems and artworks inspired by such words as "social distancing", "isolation" and "quarantine", "community," "sheltering" or "sheltering in place," "first responders," "personal protection equipment," "grief," "hope," "technology," and other words now in especially common use or created in response to the pandemic. From the submissions, I selected work by 22 artists and 18 poets. The result is "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic: An Online Exhibition". The exhibit, which went live on May 1, can be accessed from the Arts + Faith section on the parish's Website.

The exhibition has a number of parts, each of which can be accessed separately in several different ways (from the Arts + Faith page, from links embedded in text, from the sidebars) and includes not only images of the artwork but also an introduction, the poems, artists' and poets' biographical information, including hyperlinked Websites, and a full-caption list for the artworks that also indicates those pieces made available for purchase. Also provided is a playlist created for the exhibit by one of the artists, Stacy Ericson. Both the images and the poems are organized thematically; the poems appear in a pdf.

The participating artists are: Carolyn M. Abrams, Salma Arastu, Billie Bond, Manal Deeb, Greg Dunn, Stacy Ericson, Lisa Goesling, Margitta Hanff (Margitta Hanff Potts), Laurie Klein, Pauline Kusiak (a member of my parish), Marcus Parsons, Linda Plaisted, Amy Pleasant, Elise Ritter, Tighe O'Donoghue/Ross, Patrick Seruwu, Kari Gunter-Seymour, Kathleen Stark, Jeanie Tomanek, Sue Turayhi, Angela White, and Joyce Wycoff.

The participating poets are: Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Salma Arastu, Laura Boggess, Lorna Cahall, Maureen E. Doallas, Marjorie Maddox Hafer, Marc Harshman, Laurie Klein, Yahia Lababidi, Robert McDowell, Drew Myron, Michelle Ortega, Christine Valters Paintner, Sheikha A., Martha Silano, Judith Sornberger, Diane Walker, and Shanna Powlus Wheeler.

Over the coming days and weeks, I will be featuring images from participating artists, as well as lines of poems that I have related to the artworks. A colleague will be doing the same,  and also adding recordings by some of the participating poets, on the parish's new Instagram account.

Today's art selection is by Pauline Kusiak; it was inspired by the word "Technology." Pauline is a federal government employee and a member of my parish, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, in Arlington, Va. She most recently participated in the exhibition "Contemporary Artists Interpret Stations of the Cross." 

Pauline's artwork, "Screentime," made with alcohol inks and pencil, addresses what we have all become overly acquainted with: our devices (PC, iMac, iPad, iPhone), which nevertheless have made it possible for us to communicate with friends and family, work from home, or, as in the case of Pauline's daughter Aoife's, attend virtual classes. 

I have paired Pauline's artwork with three lines from Kristin Berkey-Abbott's poem "Social Distancing" inspired by the new pandemic-related term "Social Distancing," which requires us to be at least six feet from each other to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus. 

Currently director of education at the Hollywood (Florida) campus of City College, Kristin has many publication credits to her name. Her most recent poetry collection is Life in the Holocene Extinction (Finishing Line Press, 2016).

[. . . ] She sends e-mail to her college students / now consigned to online classes / 
in a time of social distancing. [. . .]
~ from "Social Distancing" by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

Pauline Kusiak, Screentime, 2020
Alcohol Inks and Pencil


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