Looking back on history, it seems moments of widespread stress always kickstart new movements in Art, music, and literature. From a shift in Japanese Art following Hiroshima to the post-war ramblings of Beatnik authors, tragedies never fail to shake our creative perspectives. Artists, rather than succumbing to unfortunate circumstances, simply create more Art. Now, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, a new generation of creatives depict this cultural moment with tools unique to our time.
Olivia Gatwood, a Button Poetry hall of famer and passionate activist, explores the experiences of women in her fiery writings. COVID-19 can’t stifle this artistic curiosity. The poet, even as she social distances, continues to shed light on her sisters’ perspectives. In her Instagram project @girlsofisolation, Gatwood collects self-portraits taken by women in quarantine. These pictures capture the monotony of confinement, but still contain the little sparks of joy that arise in our new normal.
Using this project, Gatwood hopes to give women a commodity often missing from both their ordinary lives and quarantine routines: control. As she says in an interview with Elle Magazine, “I don't think girls are given a lot of autonomy when it comes to their physicality but also the spaces they occupy. A self-portrait in, say, a bedroom, combats both of those things. Suddenly, the girl can control how she wants to be perceived and is sitting in a space that she designed herself.”
In Gatwood’s mind, these self-portraits can benefit participants, even if the pictures never reach the Artist’s Instagram page. Simple acts like setting up a camera, tweaking background decorations, or picking a favorite snapshot can usher in feelings of control and comfort, even during a crisis.
While their peers seek to console audiences, some creatives use their craft to make challenging political statements. Graffiti Artists, with their subversive style and knack for creating pithy messages, provide insight on the times at hand. For example, Artist John D’oh has gained worldwide attention for his roadside critiques of figures like President Trump and Boris Johnson. His sarcastic, cleverly-rendered works all seem like winners of The New Yorker’s caption contest, with just as much humor and bite as the famous cartoons.
Although politically charged, D’oh also takes time to honor healthcare workers in his pandemic Art, highlighting their essential role in the current situation. The Artist focuses on nurses, calling for more benefits for these professionals in the United Kingdom. Without compromise, this creative’s work seeks to praise overlooked members of society, while criticizing powerful figures. Graffiti Art, despite its edgy connotations, displays powerful convictions even in the middle of a pandemic.
These convictions, and the compelling ways Artists communicate them, are crucial for a world under crisis. During tragedies, creative work both renews an appreciation for beauty and awakens our conscience, making projects like Gatwood and D’oh’s indispensable for our society. Their cries for beauty and justice, passed on with Instagram posts and cans of spray paint, remind us of our shared humanity. This is, quite frankly, a fact we can’t afford to forget right now.