Updated: Mar 25, 2020
October, 2019 I learned that Multnomah Arts Center selected me to present a tandem art exhibition to open Friday, April 3rd, 2020. This was to be my first titled gallery exhibition and I couldn't have been any more excited at the prospect of seeing my artwork in a gallery. Even more exciting, I had been selected by a juried, open call!
Over the course of the next 5 months I created 20 original artworks for my upcoming exhibition. As my completed pieces emerged to shape the theme of my upcoming show, I began to hear the early rumblings of a viral pandemic that would soon shake our world and dramatically affect our day to day existence.
I am almost ashamed to admit when I read the World Health Organization's (WHO) January declaration of a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern", that it only sent off a moderate ripple in my mind. I listened on the peripherally about the number of positive cases exponentially growing in China with a sense of sadness, yes, but my overall feeling was one of puzzlement. I didn't take the time to investigate mortality rates. Nor did I seek out information to understand the depth of growing panic spreading westward from China as the Coronavirus death count quickly began to climb by the hundreds and then thousands.
Rereading the WHO's timeline of Coronavirus events, I am struck that current realities of "social distancing" and "shelter in place" do not emerge as a novel but rather a very short story, marking a wildfire pandemic in terms of weeks and months instead of years, unlike the pandemic AIDS crisis I have spent the majority of my life with. It wasn't until I read reports the coronavirus had established a devastating toehold in Washington's Life Care Center, that I finally started to hear alarm bells in my head. In true coronavirus fashion, it took only days for those early bells to become echoing sirens, rattling my daily life.
My slow awakening to the early devastation of the coronavirus was second only to an equally naive understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect my life. The arrival of March brought with it exhibition deadlines for press releases, printed show cards, and handwritten invitations. As the reality of my first major exhibition solidified, so did a dreaded sense of doom that my life would have to change very quickly. Would "A Tilted Crown" get to keep the opening reception? Might I be allowed to at least hang the exhibition and feel the personal sense of accomplishment as I looked at my intricately beaded paintings under gallery lights? What if people can see the show by appointment only?
I was not surprised in the least when I received the call from Multnomah Arts Center's gallery director cancelling my exhibition. My family had already been hunkered down for several days. Schools had closed. I had officially been working from home for 3 days. We had already faced shortages of toilet paper and rice. I had also come to the disconcerting understanding that I might never see my stepfather again--since he must take extra precautions due to advanced stage COPD. It am not comforted by a distance of a few hours drive between Portland and his home in Washington state. There might as well be 2 days travel between us. It's too risky to visit and risk his exposure to the deadly virus. I am now regretting not prioritizing visits with my parents for the sake of pounding out art for my now defunct April show.
So these are the facts of my life where I am right now. In the grand scheme of things, my cancelled art show is not the worst sadness and disappointment I could be facing right now. I am lucky. No one in my immediate family is presumed to be COVID-19 positive. All 5 of my parents and in-laws are safe, not sick and, after a rocky start, they are all following social distancing/isolation rules! My friends and co-workers are healthy, even though my nurse friends do are faced with the very real possibility they could contract and/or spread this disease due to a lack of infection control, personal protection equipment (PPE) at their hospitals. I do not personally know anyone knocked down by COVID-19. No one I know has died...yet.
While I am painfully aware my current situation can and will change more quickly than I can comprehend at this moment, I am also beginning to understand that social distancing demands I embrace connection, schedules, and hope. I am learning that heavy doses of news must be met with an equal thirst for Grace and Beauty.
With this new understanding, and desperate craving for balance, I am quickly realizing my art show is not about being seen by hundreds of people. It isn't even about beautiful show cards, gallery lights, a new, fancy dress, or even selling 5 months worth of work. My show, "A Tilted Crown" is about bringing my unique talent and voice to the world. Pulling my artwork out from the comfort and safety of home, and offering a moment of beauty and hope to those who want to listen. It is about sharing the balance that life has to offer, the good and the bad, the tender and the hard, the Grace and resilience of humanity in the face of fear and the unknown.
So please! Take a few minutes (or more) to join me on Friday, April 3rd, 2020 as I celebrate the beautiful imperfections of life--where planning is messy and crowns are not only coronas but symbols of resilience, ingenuity, and strength. "A Tilted Crown" mosaic bead paintings will post to this website the morning of April 3rd and I invite you to a live video feed on Instagram* at 7:00 PM PST. I know the video will probably not be without challenges, this is certainly not my wheelhouse, but I promise to show you art and techniques that you probably have never seen before. Together we will be able to escape for a bit!
*Don't miss anything! Visit to my Instagram feed, www.instagram.com/rachelyoungartist follow me, and connect to my LIVE showing of "A Tilted Crown", Friday, April 3rd @ 7:00 PM!
In the meantime...stay safe, be respectful, be generous--even when it's scary