Words by elin o'Hara slavick
February 19, 2022
During the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, I made a series of Pandemic Portraits. These portraits are acrylic and gouache paintings of masks on people pictured in vintage, found, and inherited photographs from the early 1900s through the end of the 20th century. Sometimes, I also paint polka dots into the photographs, symbolizing the airborne and virulent virus. While working on these portraits, I think of the black plague, the Ebola virus, SARS, AIDS, swine flu and Covid19 and how we are all connected – from past to present, and across continents. I consider these portraits as small acts of resistance. As a reluctant citizen of the USA, masks and empathy have become politicized. In general, republicans refuse to wear and condemn wearing masks (among other life-saving measures like providing universal health care, mandating vaccines etc). Democrats and public health officials encourage us all to wear masks to protect others, our family, our loved ones, strangers in our community. These hand painted masks are gestures of love in the time of the pandemic.
About The Artist
Elin o’Hara slavick is a visiting Artist-Fellow at CalTech in Spring 2022. She was a Professor of Visual Art, Theory and Practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 27 years. She received her MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BA from Sarah Lawrence College. Slavick has exhibited her work internationally and is the author of Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography, with a foreword by Howard Zinn and essay by Carol Mavor, After Hiroshima, with an essay by James Elkins, a chapbook of surrealist poetry Cameramouth, and Holding History In Our Hand for the 75th commemoration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She is also a curator, critic and activist.