• Fatima Learn

Painting Through A Pandemic


Lately, the media suggests that the pandemic will be over soon with the roll out of vaccines. Companies are even capitalizing on the reopening with advertisements revolving social freedoms. I recently saw a hilarious gum commercial that had people frantically coming out of their dwellings and finally coming face to face with other people. It suggests that there will be close contact coming soon and to be ready for it! When I reflect on what has happened in the last year and a half, I can not really complain like most of the general population as I have had forgiving circumstances. Me, my family, and my friends have been blessed with health when others have not been. Furthermore, I have been able to work remotely from home and designate more time to pursue my painting career while relaxing with a glass of wine at hand. Some people find solace in times like these by stockpiling toilet paper and canned goods. Others decide to develop their skills— such as painting. Historically, we have seen Artists create works of art that express the emotional climate during a renowned natural or health crisis. Accurate accounts of cultural changes can be documented through painted masterpieces.


A Visual Resource


I do not mean to be insensitive to the undeniable distress and sadness that most people around me are displaying. The COVID-19 virus had me wondering what it’s influence has been on the art culture.

Throughout history, art has given people insight about the mood and events of its time. Art is a visual resource. For example, during the Bubonic plague (1347-1351)— and even some time after— many artists painted this devastating crisis. The role of religious rituals and the Church became popular in painted artworks. People believed that dying of the plague was the wrath of God’s disapproval. Most of society believed this pestilence was brought about from people’s sins. Images with spiritual themes such as eternal suffering and personal salvation began playing out in paintings. For many, these beliefs are outdated and considered propaganda— but it is still a valid historical account of what occurred and the people’s reactions.


Learning From The Past


Although the Coronavirus is different from the Black Death, we can still learn from it. I believe these are important things to remember as we move forward:

  • Keep your cool when it comes to economic fallout because IT WILL bounce back. This global event might just create a new class of work ethics.

  • Don’t put extreme movement or isolation limitations on yourself because of contamination fears. It can create disturbing emotions and these feelings are sometimes more unhealthy than avoiding contact with others.

  • Be creative in documenting the global crisis. The art that is created today is what will represent this pandemic throughout history.

Sometimes all it takes is a painting to remind humanity of society’s despair but also of our resilience as living beings.



Top Image - “Another Day Done Felix”. Acrylic medium on canvas, by Fatima Learn, 2021

Second Image -This is one of the earliest known images of the plague found in a 14th century Belgium manuscript. The Citizens of Tournai, Belgium, Burying the Dead During the Black Death of 1347-52.