In early April, we asked six artists who use wheelchairs to submit pieces that speak to these unique times. They delivered with themes of strangeness, isolation, anxiety and, ultimately, the power of art to ease us into the unknown.
8.5 x 11″ digital painting
This is a part of a digital series dealing with the beauty of the season infused and infected by coronavirus. Everything around us feels different — we are surrounded by invisible particles waiting to infect us — but the seasons and the weather are predictably doing what they always do.
Ink and gouache on paper
I am a C5 quadriplegic, and I work from home as an artist. My day-to-day schedule hasn’t changed all that much, although now I can’t break up my routine with an active social life. I am trapped inside the house with more time to spend with my thoughts, so I am trying to use this as an opportunity to tackle some more personal projects.
Les Reves de la Femme in Utero
20 x 24″ acrylic on canvas
My Brave Face
My life as a person with C6 quadriplegia has been upended in countless ways by the current global pandemic. Elements within these two images symbolically express some of the effects that the crisis has had.
As a person with a disability I am already used to a certain amount of general isolation, but during this crisis, I have experienced deeper levels of isolation and uncertainty than anything I’ve experienced before.
The worry about contracting the virus, and the knowledge that I am in the category of those who could very well die from it, is in the forefront of my mind on a daily basis. Things I have to do for work to generate income, or getting food, begin to feel like I’m playing Russian roulette. Even receiving help from my caregivers now puts me at risk for the virus, yet suspending my care for the time being isn’t an option since I live alone and cannot take care of myself.
So instead I live in this constant oscillation between concern and need — trying to remain calm and positive, putting on a brave face, while at the same time, protecting myself and bracing for what comes next.
Living with the uncertainty has been overwhelming at times, but as the weeks pass, I hope that it will get easier to find moments of strength and optimism for the future.
The Last Mask
30 x 20″ acrylic and oil on canvas
This idea came about after talking to my friend Lila in New York, who is a doctor at one of the large hospitals there. She was concerned about the lack of protective equipment and her own safety. Later on the news, they were talking about how people were sanitizing and reusing facemasks. So the idea for this painting was to speak to that issue in pictorial form. This would be the last mask, so I put it on a clothesline with a lonely clothes pin next to it to drive that point home.
The Love of Music in Isolation
3 x 4′ acrylic on canvas
This piece is my interpretation of COVID-19 and social distancing. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure about this virus or what it would do to me personally. A lot of fear and anxiety. Now, being self-isolated from family and friends, I hope for a positive outcome. The three individuals on the top are practicing social distancing, which will probably last for weeks and maybe months. The guitar player is every artist, playing for all the essential workers to give them hope and joy during the tough times and sacrifice. The profile is the essential worker with a tear and blood droplet from their eye over the pain and heartache they deal with week-to-week just to see their families. The individual at the bottom left is either someone next to their home surrendering to quarantine or a person celebrating the end of quarantine. No matter how tough this “new” normal will be in the upcoming years for everyone, I know we will move forward to be better citizens toward our neighbors who paid the true sacrifice.
It’s a Matter of Perspective
8.5 x 11″ pen and ink on paper
“The piece was inspired by our time as a nation spent in isolation and quarantine. This is not a new experience for most of us with disabilities. We have all spent time, often alone, looking out at the world where things are still happening. The struggle to reconcile your own needs with the needs of many is something we try to figure out often.”
Photo by Michael James Schneider