The pandemic immediately influenced my choice of media. I found that I wasn’t able to draw or paint images aimed directly at any of the multiple crises converging on us. Instead I sought out printmaking, which is a process that is indirect and complicated; these attributes gave me an entryway in. Two of these images are etchings, which involves transforming a sheet of copper into a matrix for your image. This transformation requires a series of careful steps so that the marks you make are etched into the copper with acid. In normal times, these technical details can seem to me like a limitation that can confine creative exploration. But in pandemic times, these same technical details provide clarity and comfort. Especially early in the shutdown as all the familiar structures of everyday life lost their shape, it was such a relief to have a clear path to follow, step by step.
Even though the etched images are animal faces that don’t obviously convey any crisis content, they’re imbued with my own sadness, anxiety and anger. The gorilla portrait is a memorial image to honor Boma, who died when her zoo enclosure caught fire on New Year’s night in Berlin. The fire ignited from a sky lantern inscribed with hopes for the new decade and sent aloft--only to cause terrible deaths and destruction. The cow portrait is part of a larger piece that raises questions about the lives we consume.
The monotypes on fabric are the start of a project that engages with the pandemic through a sideways slant. I used dried grasses and colored inks to print on fabric in order to make organic patterns. I plan to cut them up and sew them into “isolation gowns” as a hybrid of Personal Protective Equipment and ceremonial costume. The photos showing healthcare workers suited up in layers with face masks and shields are arresting and deeply affecting; they show the intensity and extreme demands of this time. I hope to investigate the strangeness of our current need to protect ourselves from this invisible threat that makes us dangerous to each other.
Meredith Broberg is based in Easthampton, MA
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