How will the pandemic show itself through art?
Only a handful of works from the 1918 Spanish Flu are out there, paintings depicting isolation and despair that could be identified with any period of suffering. Photography is rich with images from the period, most as much documentation as art. The 1918 pandemic also coincided with the synergistic romance between Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, resulting in Stieglitz most prolific period and some of O’Keeffe’s most sensual work. But a reflection of that pandemic – not really. An upswing in abstract art has been noted, as though artists were trying to push their work into a more emotional realm, but that has been attributed mostly to the rise of photography as an art form. That, again, much due to the influence of Stieglitz.
The Black Death clearly showed itself in 13th century art through the depictions of skeletons and death imagery – there is no parallel in art from the pandemic of a century ago. What art trends emerging were indistinguishable from the rapidly changing society around it.
Perhaps this pandemic is simply one more element of change, transformative but ultimately no more significant than ongoing economic and sociological shifts, We don’t see each other the same way we did just a couple decades ago, we don’t talk to each other the same way, we don’t work or play or eat the same way. Now we don’t breathe the same way.
A little more overt, each time. So moves the art.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.