Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC)
40×14.4′ vinyl, exterior, 20×12′ digital print on panel, interior.
Grateful for recent opportunity to create new art for an installation featuring 6 Boston-area artists: Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Stephanie Li, Jasmine Milton, Megan Walsh, Sam Weinberger and me, Lisa Link : This was an especially meaningful process for me because an immediate family member is a Boston EMT.
When COVID-19 began and regular commuting ended, I would go running through the city before heading back to work at home. I was struck by all the handmade signs appearing all over Boston. Despite the empty streets and lack of normal human contact, they seemed to create a visual chorus of individuals trying to do something, to keep everyone safe, and to survive economically. This piece emerged out of those early morning cellphone photos of signs as well as from conversations with frontline workers.
The heart collage represents a big thank-you to all the essential workers and healthcare providers who had to deal directly with COVID-19. They faced shortages of PPE, politics, lack of accessible tests, and contradictory media messaging—especially during the early months of the pandemic. It’s also a thank-you to everyone who publicly acknowledged frontline workers with signs outside their homes and businesses.
I made the backdrop out of signs about social distancing, masks, and vaccines that now form the new normal of our visual landscape in Boston. Despite all our advances in electronic communications, we still tape clipart prints of masks and hand-written notes on doors to communicate evolving public health messaging. I wanted to create a snapshot of this moment in time and the signs seemed to channel the spirit of the day.
Now that most of the thank-you signs are gone, I hope that people viewing this piece will take a moment and reflect on those who shouldered so much of the burden fighting COVID-19—the workers who couldn’t telecommute to their jobs. What can we do to elevate all the essential workers and frontline healthcare providers in our communities, to understand their experiences, and to go beyond the cardboard signs?
With gratitude to Blanca Bonilla, Rose Coveney, Trevor Link, Nancy Marks, Kate, Raina, and Isabella who contributed photos of signs and/or design feedback, and to Michael Hoefler and HLTH for supporting this art installation.