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Washingtonians Are Making Poignant Art About Quarantine

You sent us Tiger King embroidery, political graphics, and Post-It calligraphy.

Illustration by Parvina Gilliam.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

Washingtonian is keeping you up to date on the coronavirus around DC.

This month, we asked you to submit the art you’ve made about quarantine. The resulting contributions include Tiger King embroidery, a political graphic from a healthcare worker, and gentle reminders of joy on Post-It squares. No matter the mood or medium, your work brought us feelings of recognition and hope.

To contribute, tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use the hashtag #WashMagQuarArt.

P.S. Our staff shared our quarantine art earlier this month. There’s some striking film photography, a great haiku about ice-cream trucks, and more.

“I was practicing calligraphy while my boyfriend was listening to a podcast without headphones. This was the beginning of quarantine, when we were still figuring out how to spend every waking moment together, so he wasn’t aware that this was unpleasant for me, while I was trying really hard not to snap. I wrote in fancy pen-and-ink calligraphy, ‘Please use headphones,’ passed him the note, and he has since used headphones. I turned the note into this watercolor illustration for people to share!” —Rachel Heiss, freelance artist/illustrator, Cleveland Park

“Not being able to see friends, go dancing, visit museums, or go to restaurants has been really hard. In order to help others and at the same time to feel connected and productive, a friend found a sewing machine for me to use during this time to sew face masks to donate to neighbors, organizations, and anyone in need. Fifty-plus masks later, I’m still sewing, giving away, and enjoying the process, although I cannot wait for the time when this will no longer be a necessity.” —Olga Berman, government employee, Arlington

“I miss the freedom to go out and do what I want to do. The quarantine has made me realize that although we all act as individuals, we are all really going towards the same thing: being healthy, being happy, ensuring others are as well, and getting back that freedom. In sailing, you are in charge of your own domain and have the freedom to go where you want to, but you also have to be well aware of those around you for the outcome to be good.” —Ann Marie Grills, advertising traffic manager, Alexandria

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“During this quarantine, I decided to go back to basics and make art with the things I already had in my house. I ended up creating a series of collages, which ended up as greeting cards that I mailed to my loved ones. It was a great way of canalizing all the anxiety of this time.” —Maia Wyler, illustrator, Rockville

“In toxicology (what I studied for my first degree), the orange-and-black color combo serves as a visual warning to others (think monarch butterflies, poison dart frogs, ladybugs). Indeed, the biohazard label, a ubiquitous and functional item in any clinical laboratory, advertises caution and safe practice. In this piece, the function and color of these labels were repurposed to highlight an equally dangerous character who is arguably a major threat to many in the modern world.” —Ansel Oommen, clinical laboratory technologist, New York City

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“I’m participating in the #100DayProject—an annual Instagram challenge to draw something daily for 100 days. I set rules for myself to spend no more than 20 minutes a day hand-lettering a Post-It note about one thing from my day that I was grateful for. The project has turned into a quarantine diary of sorts, a snapshot of each of my days and the one thing that made it memorable. A lot of them have reminded me why I fell in love with this city in the first place. These are some of my favorites, but you can see the rest (and follow along!) on my Instagram.” —Madelyne Adams, graphic designer and hand-letterer, Parkview

“During this time of isolation, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking out of my windows and feeling grateful I can bring a bit of the outdoors in with my plants. I’ve always loved plants and am lucky to be surrounded by 60+ green friends in my one-bedroom apartment. It’s been a good source of distraction and positivity as we, as a nation, are dealing with trauma that’s affecting so many people across the globe. Each day comes with its own challenges, but I am finding the sense of routine and calmness in tending to my plants to be very therapeutic.” —Parvina Gilliam, art director, Arlington

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“These kokoshniki are a blend of my native Russian heritage and my experience of the quarantine. The first is a coronavirus crown. The second one is a Tiger King kokoshnik. Peep the eyebrow ring. The final one is a cherry-blossom kokoshnik for the cherry-blossom viewing we all missed by staying safely at home! ” —Margarita Mikhaylova, communications for DC government, Southwest DC

“Following retirement a few years ago from our busy lives in DC, my husband and I moved to our farm in Pennsylvania. Although initially it was a shock with dramatic changes, we found lots of secrets hidden on our property, like this volunteer apple tree that we have nurtured along. Now, this spring, she is in full bloom, looking lovely. This time in the depths of a lockdown has opened a window of time for me to be still, to observe, and to be immersed in the beauty of spring and apple blossoms. There can be a life inside isolation. Although for me, certainly, being surrounded by nature is ideal, we all have aspects of creativity in our inner world waiting to be explored.” —Christine Farmer, RN, farmer, beekeeper, aspiring watercolorist, Clearville, Pennsylvania

“These long weeks of lockdown have made me think about my passions, what I miss most and what I took for granted so far. I started asking people to send me lists of seven things that they crave most, that they miss or took for granted so far. I decided to embroider them in order to leave written trace of the beauty that these difficult times have made us embrace, other than pain and loss.” —Merih Akman, preschool teacher, Italy

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“I was about to start learning photography from some of the beautiful people at Crate For Everything when the pandemic hit. Then I was stuck. One of the members of Crate For Everything told me to just go out and shoot. After listening to Frank Ocean’s ‘Dear April,’ I got inspired. My brother happens to be born in April, so I went outside, picked up my camera, and started shooting. I was inspired by the song’s sense of longing, sentimentality, and loneliness.” — Kaif Johnson, freelance video editor, Lanham

“I live in Gaithersburg near the lake at Rio. Every day, I take a walk around the lake and see many geese swimming and looking for a handout. These two looked content, and I took a photo to use for my pastel painting. Seeing waterfowl live their lives is a Zen experience for me during this pandemic.” —Bob Walter, Gaithersburg

“My love of data visualization, combined with the extra time that I’m staring at my walls lately, inspired me to design wallpapers for fellow chart-lovers. I’m designing one every day, and the style corresponds to each year in the past century.” —Alli Torban, information designer, North Springfield

“I snapped this iPhone photo after picking up takeout from Cactus Cantina. For me and many of my twentysomething peers, quarantine has been a time to slow down and really get to know the neighborhoods in which we live. My normal schedule is very hectic, and the time I do spend at home is usually in my apartment. This photo is a reminder that there are many beautiful sights in our own backyards if we just take a moment to look around and appreciate what is in front of us—and that sometimes the little adventures, like walking to pick up a delicious meal and a to-go margarita on a Saturday evening, can be just as enjoyable as the big ones.” —Sarah Lyon, associate director of alumni relations at the George Washington University School of Engineering, Cleveland Park

These descriptions have been lightly edited for conciseness and clarity.

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Social Media Producer

Hannah is Washingtonian’s Social Media Producer. She’s a proud Kentuckian who lives in Petworth with her bunny Ruthie.