To wear a mask or not to wear a mask; that has become this country’s central question. Repeated often enough over 10 months, CoViD precautions have begun to sound like mindfulness mantras. Cover your face. Wash your hands. Practice patience with those who don’t believe this disease is real.
Felt During COVID is a community art project through which Santa Feans expressed their feelings about keeping their families safe. The medium was felt banners, using art supplies provided by the project. Finished banners were considered for an exhibition of 12 pieces, which opened with a Zoom reception on Dec. 17. Curated by Christine Sullivan and financed by a Santa Fe Culture Connects CARES mini-grant, Felt During COVID is on display at the Santa Fe Public Library’s main gallery (145 Washington Ave.), although the library is currently closed to visitors. Works can be viewed on Instagram (@feltduringcovid).
Now, 33 banners are being auctioned to benefit the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Some of the banners are by professional artists, while others are by Santa Feans who had something to say. Many are quite direct, advising people to follow healthy diets and practice good hygiene, while others are conceptual, like Jack Bordnick’s Facing It Together, in which silver and blue felt has been worked into a rumpled pile that might be a sickbed, a sweaty nightshirt, or even a discarded mask.
Sullivan says she was heartened by the response to her call for entries. “I was surprised to discover how passionate people are about keeping safe, how willing they are to take the safety precautions, and how disappointed they were in their neighbors who do not. It was reassuring to me as someone who hasn’t been able to see my 91-year-old mom in New York for the past year.”
With her entry, Offering My Hand to You, Rachel Preston Prinz wanted to remind New Mexicans of their innate capacity for kindness. “This is my home state,” she says. “New Mexicans [are] known to be kind, friendly, tolerant people, willing to help out our neighbors.”
Fiona Wong and family, Mask Pow
“It was a fun family project during this lockdown with my husband and our 13-year-old son. I came up with the idea of Pop Art, as I like the work of Roy Lichtenstein. We discussed how many layers of the 'pow effect' we should have. I chose the mask to be the center of the piece because it is a simple object that has become such a contentious issue, when it needn’t be. I am from Singapore, where the government, along with most of Asia, has CoViD very much under control, and mask-wearing is not a political issue. I recall watching a video from Korea [in which] the health official said that to fight this pandemic, one has to be humble. Wearing a mask is such an act.”
Linda Mae Tratechaud, Happy to Help
“I wanted to approach the subject with the look and feel of Cuban poster art, with bold, flat, playful colors. I used traditional hollyhock flowers and a mask to build a smiling face. Wearing a mask and having a good attitude about it is the least we can do for one another. I am an activist and a humanitarian, so I am always happy to use my art to help others. I hope this auction [for the Navajo Relief Fund] will be successful [and] promote healthy practices around stopping the spread of CoViD.”
Rachel Preston Prinz, Offering My Hand to You
“I’m going blind with macular degeneration, and it’s different every day. Some days, I can see to work or read or drive, and some days I can’t. Some hours I can see and then, an hour later, I can’t. I was afraid to even attempt this project, but my heart wasn’t having that. So, I decided to get [an art supplies] kit and see if I got “good eye time,” and I did. It had to be simple, because I can’t really do details anymore. I wanted it to be something of me because I have felt a bit helpless to be of any service to anyone in all this. I decided to make my banner where I could reach my hand out and just offer love to everyone who is struggling with all this and gratitude for our frontline workers and all the ‘helpers.’ ”
Artemisio Romero y Carver, We Got Us
“I hope that, as a community, we realize that we need to, and should, care for each other through mutual aid and resource sharing. The composition is intended to honor the way that our community in Santa Fe has come together in acts of mutual aid to weather the pandemic. I contributed to this project because I believe, in the midst of our necessary isolation, that art is a means for us all to feel less alone.”
Daron Richard, Nurse Burnout Is Real
I’m a registered nurse, and my normal job is to work from home. After I did the felt project, I didn’t want to sit around at home anymore, seeing all the overworked doctors and nurses. I have multiple sclerosis, so I’m [at] high risk [for complications from CoViD], but I volunteered to administer vaccines in Albuquerque. It’s been great but heartbreaking. I gave a shot to a physical therapist who was so excited to get vaccinated that she wanted her picture taken. I also gave a shot to a hospital administrator who lost both his parents to CoViD over the holidays. I couldn’t even hug him. I put my gloved hand over his gloved hand.