Art Therapy in the COVID-19 Era: Inspirations Abound from Munch to Dutch Masters and Toilet Tissue

By | April 6, 2020

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, said, “Variety of form and brilliancy of color in the object presented to patients are an actual means of recovery.”

We all need some #ArtTherapy in this #StayHome COVID-19 era, #AloneTogether to #FlattenTheCurve.

Yes, I’ve been spending too much time connecting on social media. Can you tell I’m in dire need of some art therapy? #Truth.

The coronavirus pandemic, like all desperate times, is inspiring amazing creativity across all media and channels. Today I’m obsessed with several art projects that delight me.

My fall-outta-my-seat art therapy moment this week came from the Getty Museum in LA. Getty challenged us to re-imagine one of the gallery’s great works of art using stuff we have at home and ourselves and/or loved ones as subjects in the compositions. Their twitter feed @GettyMuseum  has the portfolio. I’ve captured a few of my favorites here, but I urge you to visit the feed and find your own faves. These are treasures of our time, illustrating individuals’ mass creativity in stressful times. Love these so much.

This program was inspired by one preceding it as the coronavirus hit Europe before the US. Creative challenges posed by The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and an Instagram account, Between Art and Quarantine, were precursors to the Getty program.

Next, I’m obsessed through my work-lens focusing on health consumer behavior, with the phenomenon of toilet tissue hoarding. You probably realize it’s a real thing, being discussed in both mass media and some professional publications as well. The Cottonelle brand of loo paper launched a campaign called Share A Square to promote community sharing of local toilet paper supplies, in collaboration with the United Way.

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Now, two artists in Amsterdam conceived the Give-A-Sheet campaign (get it?) challenging artful folks to use one piece of toilet tissue as a canvas….literally. Here are some examples to delight you.

“We are not doctors, we are not nurses, we are not decision makers…but we are designers, so we found a way to tap into what we do best…And we hope it will help, even just a little,” the duo Guillaume Roukhomovsky and Blaz Verhnnjack told the It’s Nice That blog.

The artworks are for sale on the site, which the project recognizes that, “toilet paper has become the new safe haven currency.” The proceeds from the sales go to the World Health Organization’s COVID-Solidarity Response Fund, so there’s a lovely method behind this artful madness. Here’s a video streaming various artists’ works for the project.

More examples that move me come from street art, a natural medium for the mass, leveling consumer change caused by C19. This article in The Guardian, It feels like wartime’: how street artists are responding to coronavirus features various street artists, takes on the pandemic, including public art created in Doylestown, PA, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Miami, and Raleigh, NC.

Carrying on the toilet tissue theme, this example comes from Hijack Art who works in L.A. He told The Guardian, “This particular issue involving the coronavirus and all the devastation it’s leaving in its wake, was a no-brainer for me. The fear and call to action of this pandemic has really captured the imagination of many in and outside my city….It’s been a mixed bag of careless spring breakers, toilet paper hoarders, conspiracy theorists and hypochondria….I’m being told ‘it feels like we’re in wartime,’ so I also wanted to add that element to the piece.”

For more on art in the COVID-19 era, here’s a terrific podcast from The New Yorker.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  I close with my health economics hat on now, art therapized and feeling better for having shared these examples with you.

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This last cartoon, from Robert Matson in CQ’s Roll Call, captures the stuff I’m worried about in my work-flow right here, right now: the physical/clinical and the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 in America and around the world.

In the U.S., with the largest gross domestic product on Earth in 2020, out fragmented health care system and 50-State Federalist approach has proven to land Americans in first place for steepest infection curve as of early April 2020.

With test kit and reagent shortages, ventilator un

der-supply, “free markets” for #PPE and disjointed national advice, U.S. residents are now hunkered down to #StayHome, #AloneTogether. The onus is on “Us” to flatten the curve and, as of today’s advice, wear scarf-masks to cover our faces in public.

This is our time to claim our American Health Citizenship: to own our health and healthcare system. We are now in the foxhole together in crisis mode. Once we’re past this first round of C19, and it is surely only Round 1, we have the opportunity to re-imagine and re-set our public and personal health priorities….before Round 2 hits us in the cold winter of 2020-21….

This final image comes from a couple in Serbia, from the “Between Art and Quarantine” Instagram portfolio. The original inspiration is Magritte’s “The Lovers II.”  Magritte was one of the surrealist masters.

I am particularly touched by this image as today marks the 14th day of my husband’s quarantine here at home, having flown back to the U.S. two weeks ago today from Brussels. He was instructed by U.S. Homeland Security to self-quarantine once home for 14 days. Tonight, having been separate in our home for two weeks, we will sleep together in the same bed.

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It’s a surreal time for all of us.

HealthPopuli.com