Eruv in the Time of Corona

Collage titled 100,000: They Were Not Simply Names on a List, They Were Us

The initial inspiration for this collage was a scene I saw while driving down MLK Blvd in Baltimore. There are always homeless panhandlers and squeegee boys on the boulevard, in between cars waiting at the stoplight. One day, when coronavirus was new to all of us, my focus was on an empty chair near an intersection. I imagined this chair on the median, emptied by a homeless person who died from the virus and I knew, at that moment, that any art I would make about the virus would include an empty chair to represent all those who have succumbed to the pandemic. In my collage, the chair’s upholstery is spiked to represent virus outbreak data graphs.

Often, I use scientific images in my work; collage made in a traditional way; constructed with cut paper and adhesive and to play with distortions between visual perspective and surface image. I started this collage with a sketch of the composition.

Visualizations of the corona virus are, by now, ubiquitous and easily recognized. I found the most straightforward and graphic of these images and printed multiple copies in different sizes and colours and cut them out to use in the collage with the empty chair.

The large watercolour shapes that define the sky and ground are repeated, large scale drawings of the outline of the virus visualization. These forms, in relation to the smaller scale versions in the collage, become fractals.

At this time, I was, as were many others, watching the Netflix series “Unorthodox” which reminded me of the concept of an eruv; an urban area enclosed by a wire or geographic boundary which symbolically extends the private domain of Jewish households into public areas for Shabbat observance. The eruv, in this case, is made of cut-up copies of visualizations of the coronavirus, thereby making it the defining element that is keeping us separated in our dwellings, united by a common threat. Now the public space is transformed into our private spheres.

Some of the virus images depict hot air balloons tethered to the eruv; reminiscent of strings of decorative lights, defining the quarantined space.

A nod to the political implications of the spread of the virus and how it is being mitigated and manipulated is in the upper left corner.