Unbelievable 2020. This year we witnessed more than 200,000 deaths in the United States resulting from COVID-19. We also experienced police violence, protest and civil unrest, the worst California wildfires on record, and a president attempting to win an election with lies, deceit, and probable chaos yet to come.
Of course, my art has been influenced by some of these events. Escape Plan (above) started as a high contrast photograph of a street scene in NYC (from my time at The Cooper Union School of Art, 1973.) The street, probably an alleyway, shows buildings with fire-escapes and barbed wire smack down the middle. Then I added silhouettes of people, the virus, and digital painting. The fire escape in the image alludes to a hopeful escape plan from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Of course, at this moment, there is none in sight, except for the practical measures of social distancing and mask-wearing. The president lies (or down-plays) the truth of COVID-19, so his base is reluctant to put these measures into place. Remarkably, mask-wearing has become politicized. In this image, there are only people traumatized by the barbed wire and looming disease.
I created Escaping the Fire as a reaction to the devastating Australian fires of 2019-2020. Yet, the devastation continues in the western United States. Roughly 100 million acres of land have burned, making 2020 the largest wildfire season in California’s history. The intensity of the fires has been increased by drying and heating from human-induced climate change.
With all of these dire events upon us, I still believe we will come out more resilient and creative on the other side.