The online exhibition “Creativity and COVID: Art-Making During the Pandemic,” now live here, features nearly 100 artists with lived experience with mental distress who shared with us their art-making process and how it helped them survive the global pandemic. It was an honor and a joy to read their statements and see their fantastic, brave work, which as a whole describes how art can be a container for healing, even in such challenging times as a global pandemic.
Themes of isolation, anxiety, anger, and loss—now familiar in pandemic life—emerged in this collection, but the work also showed the ways in which art can transform and move us toward hope and healing. For me, this was a warm reminder of the community exhibitions I visited every year in my town pre-COVID, where the value of the work lay in the act of making itself and the diversity of the artists, their intentions, practice, and backgrounds were honored.
All the artists in this exhibition, and the art they offered, contributed something unique and profound. But to mention just a few of the artists and the impression they made on me, I can start with Mathew Kelly’s work “Abeel Street Cranes.” His drawings, which he would sketch while wandering his neighborhood of Rosedale, simply and beautifully reveal the strange stillness that descended on the world during lockdown. I also remember being struck by the halt of daily life, of animals wandering into abandoned cities, and empty roads.
Lydia Eccles cleverly turned our never-ending Zoom calls into an opportunity to study the human face in her work “Zoom Gallery Studies.” She notes that using her hands to draw during these calls helped her combat the feeling of loss around not being able to see friends and family in person.
Benjamin Tran’s beautifully intricate and meditative work “Observe,” shows how mindfulness can be a practice in art and how it can help work through things like anxiety and depression.
And Jennifer Dahling, a Snoopy fan, painted Snoopy wearing a mask—adding a playful element to the new reality of mask-wearing.
I am excited and honored to offer this powerful exhibit. Engaging with the work of our community, submitted to this exhibition, was such an inspiration to me. The creative spirit of those with lived experience with mental distress is such a strong reminder that the act of art-making can offer us a path to healing in the darkest of times.
Please click here to visit this online exhibition.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.