Artists give ourselves visual problems to solve, and mine was this: How can I communicate the immensity of 2020? An ocean of symbolism is poured into this painting as I tried to convey the complexity of navigating this landscape:

Covid causes everything to be cancelled - no celebrations, reunions, neighborhood barbeques, graduations, weddings. Even the comfort of a simple handshake or warm embrace is taken away. Calendars became obsolete, businesses and campuses shut down. Getting dressed each day seems superfluous. Going to the grocery store becomes dangerous - staying socially distant, constantly masking and sanitizing, walking a wide berth when you pass another - it all feels dehumanizing.

A growing fear is mounting for the safety of older relatives- my fragile grandparents, even my babyboomer parents fall into the “at risk” category. I think about the sting of the last global pandemic, the Spanish Influenza, which stole my great grandparents, leaving their newborn son, my grandfather, orphaned.

Then unsettling news arrives of precarious financial instability, and our academic community is asked to reimagine a downsizing that may result in the loss of employment for friends and colleagues, including myself. I start having dreams of large, uprooted trees floating away, shepherded by families forced to move on to other horizons. I begin to mourn the loss of friendships I would have, could have made. The community bleeds as so many leave.

Political divisiveness comes to a head while friends bicker on social media - all of us secretly ashamed of how much time we are wasting on posts and comments. Unrest is growing as national leadership fails, and friendships unravel in battles of opinion.

The eye of the storm is ushered in by the violent loss of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, exposing serious flaws in our systems of justice. Protests, curfews, and more political division ensues. Complacency is no longer an option as we realize the deeply rooted layers of racism in our social systems and the immensity of the task to achieve equity. The burden belongs to all of us as we try to amend injustice to communities of color.

Just when we think it couldn’t get worse: RBG dies, Presidential debates shock us, fires rage in the West, and the daily reports show Covid infection numbers rising.

There are extraordinary moments to counteract the gloom: golden rows of corn swaying in the breeze, brilliant sunflowers rising tall, red tomatoes weighing down the vines, brown bears passing through Oquawka, healthy babies being born, a thoughtful gesture from a friend, the kindness of strangers, the unconditional love of pets - the earth is trying to give us hope to fuel our buoyant rise.

    - Janis Mars Wunderlich

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Above poem excerpt from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978

Still I Rise

Acrylic painting on board | 30 x 40 | 2020

Available in an unsigned open edition, printed with archival inks on medium-weight photo paper. Also available in a signed & dated limited edition, printed on heavy-weight & acid free premium 100% cotton Platinum paper, crafted by the Canson & Arches mills in France. Limited Edition prints come with a certificate of authenticity which includes the artist’s in-depth description of the work. Limited edition size: 100.

20″H x 16″W print of original 30×40 acrylic painting
Open Edition Print $60.00
Limited Edition Print $100.00

All prints are printed on 22″x17″ stock to provide a white border around the image for future matting and framing. Original painting may be available for sale. To purchase prints or to inquire about purchasing the original painting, use the contact button below.

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