Art in the Time of Covid

Images created in isolation for the Falls Church Arts exhibit 'A Year Apart' offer a powerful testament to life during a pandemic.


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“Grief,” by Elaine Sandeen (oil on linen). Photo by Sydney Johnson

Falls Church Arts was poised to unveil a new exhibit, A Woman’s Journey, in March of 2020 when its opening night was spoiled by the statewide stay-at-home mandate. Sixteen months later, the nonprofit gallery staged what felt like a fitting comeback show—works created by 34 local artists during their year of isolation.

Debuting in July, A Year Apart captured the breadth of emotions brought on by pandemic life, and, in some instances, revealed how artists used art making as a coping mechanism. Upon entering the gallery on West Broad Street in Falls Church, visitors were confronted with “Grief,” a large oil-on-linen work by Elaine Sandeen, incorporating embroidery and beading, of a somber woman holding a bouquet of flowers. “Even the edges of this piece are raw and uncertain, reflecting the circumstances of the pandemic” read Sandeen’s artist statement.

A washy, figurative painting by Ian Graig, depicting police officers in masks during the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, was overlaid with the phrase, “U.S. deaths near 1,000, an incalculable loss.”

Molly McCracken’s mixed-media “Monochrome 2,” meanwhile, presented the current health crisis in a modern context, with eight abstract collages pasted onto cardboard from Amazon grocery deliveries.

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A moving portrait of health care workers by @pgl_art

Jinny Isserow’s mixed-media “Lean on Me” captured the raw emotion of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“It [was] a really beautiful show,” exhibitions coordinator Pamela Huffman says. And for many, very relatable.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment