Art_ Marla Mason.jpeg

Pandemic

Marla Mason
2021, Charcoal on paper,  48" x 36", Physical and Online Exhibit

"I drew this in response to an August 2021 class assignment: Make a 48" × 36" self-portrait in charcoal that captures something personal about you or about where you are in your life.

As I found my way through this drawing I realized how deep my grief lies. Already on the family margins (I'm the only lesbian humanist feminist minister we've got—so far. anyway), COVID 19 revealed an even deeper political and philosophical divide among those I love most. It turned a job I felt powerful passion for into a stress-filled burden, and it stole from me people I loved.

It was in this context that I was isolating alone with my beloved wife who has Parkinson's when my mother died (not COVID related) in June 2020. Then I became very ill with COVID myself in July. Over the next year, I experienced significant long-COVID symptoms. By the time of this August 2021 assignment, all the needless death, all the pointless and divisive rhetoric, all the loss, and even my own physical state had birthed a darkness that permeated every part of me.

The act of creating this—getting so intimate with the physical representation of my face, of my grief—then living with this portrait propped against the wall in my work room over the last 18 months, have cultivated my being with my grief as though it were a friend, come to set me free from my old fears of judgment and even my old hopes of reconciliation and acceptance. I am more marginalized in my family than I ever was, but I am more at peace with myself and with my experience of loss and of life. I am a whole being, sustained by something deeper than judgments or stereotypes. I am sadder than I used to be, but I am also more at peace, and that feels like a good trade right now."

About the Artist

"Over the course of my professional life have been a minister, a social worker, and an adult learning professional and now, at 63 years old, I am trying on art."

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