Creating Images During the Pandemic

Early in March 2019 my doctor asked me to start working from home because I have a problem in my immune system that puts me at risk for serious complications from Covid-19. The pandemic hadn’t yet hit the Charlotte/Lake Norman area very hard yet, but she knew it was coming soon and wanted me to take two weeks off “to let the virus pass through.” Then I could go back to work. Needless to say, this has been the longest two weeks either of us have experienced. The governor shut the state down two weeks later and I had already gotten ill with what we believed to be Covid-19 (this was before tests were readily or easily available in our area). During the time I was ill, I had more time to create art than usual (although, honestly, I slept most of the time).

The pandemic was in the forefront of my mind when I created the first two pieces while ill. Image number one had come after seeing so many images of grieving and death. It was a very a dark time–and one increasingly full of despair. I didn’t want to make a piece of art that only represented the grimness of the new reality. There was darkness. But there was also love.

And hope.

pandemic image
wounded spectre

The second image is “the weight of hearts,” which was the one chosen for “Windows of Hope” in Charlotte and for the 2020 Mira Mobile Prize exhibition in Porto, Portugal. Some of the same thought process went into its creation, with the exception that I wanted to emphasize the dimension of hope even more. The piece represents an intersection of earthly and spiritual planes. A transcendence in life and death–but the heaviness of love, and the loss of so many, is still very real.

pandemic art
the weight of hearts

I did do a type of variant of the above themes later in the year. I began by playing with the idea of one’s relationship with one’s sel(ves). At the same time the pandemic as well as the images I had made earlier helped to shape this new piece. For me art is multivalent in its creation.

pandemic art, multiselves
revenant (lost self)

The other works I created early to mid 2020 didn’t have to do with the pandemic directly, but I found that I had become more playful. Hearts became a symbol of the weight of human emotion while also maintaining an element of hope.

  • longing, love
  • love, loss, play
  • longing, love
  • choice, chance, love
  • love, Radiohead

The works I did towards the end of the year had Covid as a constant backdrop in their creation, but only two referenced it more directly.

The first was “agency,” which didn’t start as an image having anything to do with the pandemic. It started with thinking about the (seeming) duality of the self. It continued that theme as it formed but I intuitively found myself adding a red mask and gloves. The context in part was the (sometimes violent) debate about mask-wearing in the US.

covid 19, pandemic, art
agency

One image I did near the end of the year is a self-portrait. Its title is “fatigue.” I had the virus earlier in the year, but its effects lingered well into December. I would have flare ups with crushing fatigue and leg pain. For several months I found myself out of breath and needing nebulizer treatments if I overworked (knowing where that line lay was a constant experiment). The piece doesn’t just talk about physical fatigue but also psychical fatigue. Lack of physical contact with family and friends as well as the constant barrage of negative and depressing political and socioeconomic news was itself like an enervating virus.

covid, sickness, pandemic
fatigue

In July, Joanne Carter of The App Whisperer asked to interview me on the topic of “Hope in Adversity” as part of a series of interviews with mobile artists about isolation and art during the pandemic. I’ve had more time to reflect on my art since then, but the thing in the interview that still stands out to me is the appreciation of the online mobile community. Despite all the negative things about social media (and there are many), the deepening of my involvement with the community of mobile artists on Facebook and Instagram helped keep me afloat and moving forward creatively and even spiritually in 2020. It will definitely also be part of my post-Covid world as well. .

Winner of “All Colors of the World” Challenge

So excited to have my piece “we build with what we can” named this month among the twenty winners of the international mobile art challenge “All Colors of the World.” Our work will be part of the “All Colors of the World” exhibition in Cagliari, Italy at the MEM Mediateca del Mediterraneo. Because of Covid-19, the exhibition no longer has a definite date, but the organizers are still expecting to host it this year. It is truly an honor to be part of this exhibition filled with some of the best mobile art from around the world! Special thanks to judges Giulia Baita, Clint Cline, Eliza Badoiu, Manuela Matos Monteiro, and Gianluca Ricoveri.

we build with what we can

My Art Featured in Horizons Magazine

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I am so honored to have my art featured recently in Horizons magazine. I’m a little late posting–I’ve been super busy during the first part of the year–but I plan to be a lot more diligent in the coming months. I hope everyone is having a beautiful summer!

Come see me at “Home Grown”

 

crossing over flickr large size

Crossing Over

There’s a great opening tonight for the art show “Home Grown” at Cornelius Arts Center. I have a piece in the show, “Crossing Over,” and there will be many, many great pieces by local artists. If you live in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area, come out! It’ll be from 6:30-8:30 p.m., with the artist talk at 7:00 (I’m one of the speakers).

Cornelius Arts Center is located at 19725 Oak Street, Cornelius, NC 28031. The phone number is (704) 896-8823.

A Very Special Creative Thresholds Today

Raven Gets In--Walt Pascoe

Walt Pascoe, “Raven Gets In” 48”x60” Oil on canvas

On December 21 of last year, a dear friend and amazing human being said goodbye to planet earth. His name is Walt Pascoe. Intense and luminous artist. Witty, wry, and intelligent crafter of words. Wise spiritual seeker. And a mentor of sorts to so many of us–artists, writers, and anyone who found themselves on a life journey they hadn’t necessarily planned. In this Creative Thresholds, we’re doing a reprise of an essay he wrote in 2012 (which, incidentally and uncannily, was published December 21) in which he writes brutally honestly and with humor about his struggle with colon cancer. He also includes his art in the essay. Please check it out. His words are wisdom for all of us who are human: “A Tribute to Walt Pascoe: Savage Uncertainties On The Road Home Reprise.”

Last Night of “Story”

And so we come to the end of the story. Night 3 of my show “Story” takes place tomorrow night beginning at 7:30 p.m. at OTPH in Cornelius, NC. The Facebook invitation is here. I’ll share stories (my own and the art’s) 8ish. I’m so thankful to all the people I’ve met and all the support I’ve received–and a chance to know that when we share stories, we touch each other and remind each other that we’re not alone–and that there’s always hope.

Melissa D Johnston-Muse-Story-OTPH

My Show is featured in The Herald Weekly!

The Herald Weekly Story exhibition

A special thanks to The Herald Weekly and reporter Bruce Dunbridge for their article, “Exhibit explores artist’s trauma” in the December 26-31 edition (pages 18-19). I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Bruce and learned even more about myself and my artistic process in our conversation. There is an online version here.

Night Two of “Story”–Tonight!!!

Melissa D. Johnston Story Art Receptions Postcard

Tonight the second night of my show “Story” continues!! If you’re in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area, stop by and say “hi!” There’s more info on the Facebook invitation page.

A Drop, a World

Woke up to a beautiful fog with rain drops slowly swelling worlds and falling from trees.

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Iphone 5s, Camera+ app (macro setting)