Volume 1, Issue ii
Creation during Covid (Part 2)
Wild Greens 1, no. 2 (December 2020)
Creation during Covid (Part 2)
Welcome to the December issue of Wild Greens
The novel coronavirus and the ensuing stay at home orders have shuttered us in a strange new world. What happens to art when community is lost? What role does art have in confronting pain, or in retreating from it? Surrounded by grief, isolation, and loss, what do we create? For this special issue, we received submissions from artists across the country, in Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, and New York, and across the globe in Ho Chi Minh City. No matter where we live, Covid has affected all of us, and this month we continue our ongoing theme of “Creation During Covid.”
At the top of our issue, we present pianist Tim Brey’s reinterpretation of the classic “Home for the Holidays.” We find this tune more poignant than ever. As we hibernate and prepare for the long winter, being home for the holidays can mean, for some, being away from family, friends, and loved ones. For others, it can be a way of pausing and finding coziness in our own homes, celebrating the small domestic joys. We recommend hitting “play” on Tim’s song, and then scrolling through to look at the work of Julie Brask, who has made art by scoring, breaking, and fitting glass with an electric grinder and water pump. "Manayunk Bridge" and "Ben Franklin Bridge" are especially beautiful for us, because Philadelphia is home for the editors of Wild Greens.
Next is a poem by Myra Chappius on finding peace in solitude. For many people, and especially for women, the pandemic has made solitude a scarcity. Paired with Myra’s poem, the acrylic flowers drawn by Sarah Capps invite us to slow down and appreciate the little details, and to use this new time to explore the depths of our imagination.
Sarah’s art leads us to Govi Snell’s hilarious and heart-warming essay on sketching her friends’ faces during Covid. Govi notes that art has offered a “momentary freedom from self” during this “barf-inducingly bizarre and dreadful year.” In the same way, Carmen Meier creates with her wood lathe to relieve the stress of her work as a doctor during the pandemic. Carmen makes beautiful, durable, and useful objects—decorative art that centers the home space and evokes the memory of eating together.
From these peaceful reflections, we are harshly awakened by the pain of the pandemic colliding with the Colorado wildfires in Katie Huey’s gut punch of a story, “Pocket the Ash,” and her poem “Embers and Ice.”
We finish the issue with a moment of silence. Mosaics by Robin Brownfield commemorate the Black lives brutally taken from us by police violence; a poem by Mike D’Andrea asks “How Many ‘One More’s’;” and, anchoring the issue, two stop motion animation videos by Lynne Marie Rosenberg show in unsparing clarity the quantitative human cost of Covid, the humanity of those we’ve lost, and our pain and anger at the administration’s campaign of disinformation and dismissive response to the global pandemic.
Table of Contents
"Home for the Holidays"
Tim Brey - Solo Piano
Music by Robert Allen Lyrics by Al Stillman(1954)
For mobile listeners: Pressing "play" will open a new tab. As long as you keep the tab open, most phones will allow you to listen to the song while you explore the rest of the issue in a separate tab!
For desktop listeners: Press "play" and listen while you explore the rest of the issue!
"Ben Franklin Bridge" and "Manayunk Bridge" in Stained Glass
by Julie Brask
Stained glass, lead, copper wire
Methods: The glass pieces are all scored and broken using hand tools and shaped to fit using an electric grinder and a water pump. The Ben Franklin panel is constructed using the copper foil method with a wire overlay. The Manayunk panel is constructed using a hybrid of the copper foil and traditional lead came methods.
Inspiration: In the early months of COVID lockdowns, I was struggling to come to terms with all the usual activities I was missing. I needed something new in my life to feel excited about, and with encouragement from my partner, I decided to invest in a set of tools and supplies and teach myself how to make stained glass. I've never thought of myself as a particularly artistic person but have always enjoyed working with my hands. It's been incredibly rewarding to find a craft that "clicked" for me and makes me proud to share my finished work.
by Myra Chappius
Solitude is not loneliness
Though it may look like seclusion
Solitude is wholesome
A restorative, rejuvenating interval
That suspends the bombardment of life from decimating the
fleshy insides of our psyches
It is vital
Being alone is not loneliness
Though it may look like detachment
Being alone is therapeutic
A curative, salutary hiatus
Meant to bring you into alignment with yourself
With the parts of being that are real
It is meaningful
Serenity is not loneliness
Though it may look like apathy
Serenity is revitalizing
A protective, rehabilitative state of mind
Designed to distance you from all that would obliterate
your soul in a haze of turmoil and calamity
It is essential
Do not be deceived or lead astray
To subsume is not happiness
Nor is it essential
"Alice Flowers" and "Floral Revolution I"
by Sarah Capps
Alice Flowers: acrylic, colored pencil, ink on paper
Floral Revolution I: acrylic on canvas
Inspiration: COVID has helped us to slow down and appreciate both the details of life and the depths of our imaginations. Drawing from nostalgia and imagination, I've created the series, Floral Revolution to evoke whimsy, wonder, and joy amidst the dark days of the pandemic. Many of us have also felt lost in 2020; much like Alice from the popular story, Alice in Wonderland. COVID has been its own wonderland of sorts and I've created this series to help myself and my followers navigate it.
My Friends' Faces
by Govi Snell
During quarantine, I took to sketching my friends' selfies sent into a WhatsApp group chat.
It was a timely undertaking in a period when the respiratory droplets secreting out of our faces have necessitated concealing ourselves behind masks and we've taken to keeping our potentially deadly physicalities within the confines of home. But, as I became sequestered from faces, I found myself drawn to them and particularly to the familiar faces of friends.
I've always been fascinated by faces. In my opinion, every face is a beautiful face. The curve of an eyelid, crook of a nose, arch of an eyebrow, and the morphing emotions that wave across the surface being endlessly watchable things worthy of attention. Faces change so much it makes it hard to believe that anyone is ever really one person. A squishy rotund baby face grows till it develops its first pimple, its first fine line. It carries the joys and the sadnesses; it smiles and it crumples.
My friends' faces, and the focus on minutiae that went into my sloppy attempts to draw them, were a major source of comfort for me during a lonely period of self-isolation. As I have zero background in art of any sort, the renderings are amateurish to say the least. Beyond whatever artistic value these drawings have, sketching made me feel closer to my friends in a time when being physically close to anyone really was impossible.
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Of the art that has come out of this barf-inducingly bizarre and dreadful year, there have been some real personal standouts. Art has reckoned with the terrors of the pandemic and has been a way to trudge through the burden of surprise freetime. In Vietnam, where I have been living for the past two years, art has also been a tool in curtailing the spread of COVID-19. A viral, pun intended, handwashing song, accompanying dance, and propaganda style posters have urged the public to wear masks and follow absolutely vital hygiene procedures.
This kind of messaging, that acknowledges the sad necessity of having to physically distance yourself from your desires, can be found outside of Vietnam as well. In a profile for Rolling Stone, Suzy Exposito gets a peek into the life of Puerto Rican reggaetonero and introvert hunk, Bad Bunny. While quarantining, Bad Bunny holed up in an Airbnb with his girlfriend, the jewelry designer Gabriela Berlingeri. Berlingeri and Bad Bunny recorded "En Casita" during this time. Exposito describes the song as a "twee trap ballad about wanting to visit a lover but needing to stay in quarantine." I describe it as the endlessly boppable song that I've listened to on loop whose boppability is even sweeter for its mournfulness. The song's refrain "Toca quedarme en casa, casa (ah) Toca quedarme en casa, casa (ey, ey)," truly encapsulates the more privileged preoccupations of 2020. "It's time to stay, home. It's time to stay, home. Home, it's time to stay home."
And so we stayed home. At this point, it's necessary to say that my stretch of staying home because of the pandemic has been relatively short. In a strike of luck, I've found myself living in a country that has dealt with the spread of COVID-19 with swiftness and seriousness from the outset. Nevertheless, the two periods of self-isolation that I've gone through living in Saigon have been weird, unsettling and passed by ever so slowly in the way that time can sometimes feel stuck like ketchup to the top of an overturned bottle— just plop down already! As it gets close to being, in the words of Jordan Firstman, "one full yar"of isolations and losses big and small, I know that for me, my silly little drawings and the silly little drawing hobby that they've prompted will be one the positives amid the wretched.
Among these more impactful artistic expressions from a world riddled with the coronavirus, our little messaging group, entitled "Farts n' Stuff," was making our own "art."
"Farts n' Stuff," which, full disclosure, was eventually redubbed "Flowers n' Stuff" because of one friend's distaste for poop-related humor, contains myself, one of my older sisters, and three friends which I have known for what feels close to my personal forever. Our text thread was everything you'd expect from a group of friends confined within their own isolations. We shared fears, selfies, pictures of food, a cheeky almost-nude or two, okra updates, outfit appraisals, old photos from by-gone eras, and a flurry of frustrations over "vag blood," "lady flows," untidy partners, and a lack of partners. Amongst this came documentation of creative endeavors to pass the time, which of course also included frustrations like "How the fuck does one draw a hat?" That was me.
Paintings, violin practice, makeup tutorials, and video updates from two friends who had taken up the ukulele included some of the artistic contributions. One particularly adorable video showed my friend, who I've never heard sing before, singing and strumming away on the ukulele sweetly until she misses a chord and looks to the camera letting out a characteristic outburst of exasperation. As in all things, the sweet and the sour.
I can't remember why I decided to draw their faces but I'm glad I did. My first sketches were experiments in replicating selfies that I'd requested in the chat. Done with pen on the lined paper of a Composition notebook that I had taken to journaling in, their recreated faces peered up at me garish in their haphazardness. But somehow they looked enough like their faces, and enough not like their faces, to be entertaining.
In the first drawing I did of my sister, her oversized head is tilted to the side and I've somehow made her look like she descended from turtles. The other representations are similar variations of ludicrous.
From here, buoyed by my friends' amusement, things got more "serious." I graduated to using a pencil and even upped my game with unlined paper. Taking multiple tries at illustrating a friend's nude, I ended up liking my messiest version the most. The hip juts out, and the bizarrely small arm covering globular titties prove that life drawing is a bit above my skill level. From here, I kept my attention on faces luxuriating in being able to escape myself as I focused on their puckered lips, raised eyebrows and as they chomped on apples and squinted in the sunlight in baseball-capped selfies.
Finding real joy in the immersive experience that these depictions entailed, I took to drawing pictures of myself and scanning Instagram for other friends and eventually celebrity faces to consume and digest as weird, twisted little fragments of the already doubled reality.
Critiquing my work, I have to say that there is something of their faces that I've been able to capture. It feels silly to share something so unsophisticated but in a way I delight in the messy earnestness of the drawings.
And, overall, it has been a gift to pay attention to my friend's faces and from there, faces more generally. I think you really start to see someone anew when you spend long enough looking at the set of their jaws, the reserve of feeling in their eyes and the lines that form around the corner of their mouths when they smile. That, coupled with the estrangement from bodies that the pandemic has entailed, made the experience of drawing faces especially heady on reflection.
I like how complicated faces are. I like how they are so different than you'd expect them to be when you try to draw them. I like how a photo is a moment frozen. I like how a frozen in time picture of a friend far away can create a new little friend to carry around in your notebook. I like how trying new things as an adult is humbling, often mortifying, and keeps you young. I like how I learned how to self-soothe by staring at a picture, putting pencil to paper, looking again, erasing, trying again, and the momentary freedom from self that that offers. I like that I've drawn myself looking like a little old lady, like a little old frog and duplicated the stress present in my eyes as they peep out from above my mask and grasp my resigned expression. I like that these drawings have made my friends smile.
It's been a hard year and these little faces have definitely made it a little better.
Wooden Bowls and Honey Dippers
by Carmen Meier
Wood, lathe, various metal tools, sandpaper, and finishing product (usually a mixture of natural waxes and oils)
Inspiration: I am a practicing physician who experienced a change in work load during the first part of the pandemic. I had just started taking classes in wood turning a few months before and therefore had time to invest more time into learning. I purchased a lathe for my garage and my husband helped me process downed wood for my work.
Pocket the Ash
by Katie Huey
Rummaging through the blue bin of snow clothes, I grab gloves and a hat before stepping into the backyard. Leaves demand attention before flurries of snow arrive according to winter weather warnings.
Red rakes sit in the shed, waiting to be pulled from the pile of worn wooden handles still warm from lingering unseasonal heat. I wrestle with stubborn tools. I am ready to tuck the garden into its bed like a toddler resisting bedtime.
Muscling burnt orange and crimson leaves into piles takes three hours. I pull the rake towards my center stirring mixtures of grass and sticks. Tired life. With each scrape of the earth, up swirls too, tiny puffs of darkness. I watch the grit lift and land. Wisps of crisped needles and incinerated pines burned black rise into the air. As the ash enters my nose and eyes, I sneeze. The tiny particles make my eyes weep.
Despite our best efforts, the air demands we inhale what’s left, leaving traces of particles in our lungs.
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While I rake, fire consumes the foothills and the majestic Rocky Mountains of which my grandfather taught me to sing mere miles away from my home. Burned wild flowers travel by dangerous gusts of wind to mix with city maples and the dying aspen leaves in my backyard.
The setting of my wild adventures of youth and family traditions are now forever changed by the swath of loss. Can memories burn as a sense of place is destroyed?
I think about the sacredness of these ashes settling. They smear white streaks on my windshield and sneak into the crevices of the freshly laid concrete patio. Five years prior, I felt my father’s ashes land on my toes. I watched his grit swirl with the wind and land, eventually, on cracked, dry earth. I witnessed his urn burning in a controlled fire as a summer ink sky turn speckled with stars. The mountains were witness, too.
My body feels the magnitude of life and livelihood turning to vapor among flames. Having experienced significant unraveling, I ask, what beauty is found in the sweeping of what’s left into tiny piles? May the act of smearing the grit on our fingers be a beautiful thing?
Turning again to my chore, I increase pressure on the leaf blower and watch blackened piles swirl up into mini plumes of darkened ash. I watch the mess move, mirroring the blooms of smoke seen from airplanes, thousands of miles up into plum purple skies.
May we not disconnect the black piles of soot and grit from the immense loss up canyon roads.
It’s insensitive, perhaps, to have hope in the hurting so soon.
The destruction is horrifying. The longing for what could have been, pervasive.
The honoring and remembering? Sacred.
Sweep what’s left into piles. Place the white and black smears on your altars of hope. In the wonderings of what’s next and how will we ever recovers, know this to be true – What was will never return.
We weep for this truth.
Using your fingers to pile, gather, pull towards you the mix of earth and sticks and dead things crisped. Move among the ash.
What will be is still left to be seen.
As I place the rake back in the shed, snow begins to fall in tiny flakes blanketing heat in white. I pray the moisture douses the flames and the burning will cease. And that we all may create space, with the tender embrace, for the gaping holes that form when we stare loss in the face. Stand witness. Sweep up what’s left. Pocket the ash. Honor the scar. Hard, beautiful things.
Embers and Ice
By Katie Huey
The spruce trees sheltering childhood memories burn up into plumes,
Pine needles turn white. Ashes float eerie, asking to be watched.
The world seems aflame.
After landing, the burned remnants s m e a r black.
Dirty and dark,
on parking lots full,
of cars with nowhere to go.
Winds blow and temperatures drop.
Snow falls. Wet, slushy sleet sent to smother the flames.
Skies turn from purple haze to an orange, premature wintery light.
My anxious spirit waits to be extinguished.
Embers and ice. Both exist. Neither can act alone.
When one ember sparks into two,
Same is true of heavy snow.
What will you spark? Will you destroy or bring solace?
Will you roar loudly
or float, spit, or soak ...
calming and cooling our furious hearts?
You have a choice. A beautiful thing.
Black Lives Matter Mosaics
by Robin Brownfield
Recycled glass tiles
Methods: I draw the portraits onto wooden boards, and use them as guides for creating the portraits with glass tiles.
Inspiration: How can one watch as a man is killed with a knee to his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and not be outraged? Being stuck at home, I had to do something to commemorate George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, all of whom had been unjustly killed merely for being Black. As I worked on the first portrait, I started to include other victims of racist violence, so that we never forget and are moved to act on their behalf.
How many “one more”s?
by Mike D'Andrea
A marathon, they say,
I start to wonder if the marathon is life
and what are we running for?
Every time it's "one more",
one more month,
just a bit more sacrifice and patience and pain
and “Don't you worry,
you'll get the medal that you've earned.
Just push a little more.”
How much can we endure?
The ribbon’s shredding, medal’s rusting,
hollow to the core.
And yet, we must keep pushing,
pushing, onward, upward.
Don't stop. Don't think.
Don't slow, keep it up.
What's waiting on the other side?
Just push a little more.
"The Timeline:" Parts 1 and 2
by Lynne Marie Rosenberg
The Timeline, Part 1: Visuals: Printed images on copy paper, black pen, file folder stock, metal brads, Excel spreadsheet/graph program, webcam, Wondershare Filmora editing software. WHO United States COVID death infographic, ABC News' Faces of Those Lost Report, Congressman Lloyd Doggett's Timeline of 45's COVID response. Audio: The United States National Anthem, hummed by Lynne Rosenberg
The Timeline, Part 2: Visuals: Printed images on copy paper, file folder stock, metal brads, Excel spreadsheet/graph program, webcam, Wondershare Filmora editing software. WHO United States COVID death infographic, The Faces of COVID Twitter handle (@facesofcovid), Congressman Lloyd Doggett's Timeline of 45's COVID response. Audio: Hail To The Chief, hummed by Lynne Rosenberg
Methods: The 45 figure is made of file folder paper stock, printed copy paper, and small metal brads, which is a puppet creation method I have used for many of my animations. The graphs were generated by me by entering all the per-day death data from the WHO infographic into Excel and running line/bar graph functions. The animation is done by moving each item a very small amount and taking pictures at each increment. I then load the pictures into my editing software, as well as the recorded audio, and adjust the timing of each frame to capture a desired rhythm to the visuals.
Inspiration: Though I find myself enraged and in deep grief over the malfeasance with which the COVID crisis has been handled by this administration, I also have this period of time to thank for the development of my stop motion artistic practice. What began as a new hobby to fill the endless expanse of hours in front of me as an out of work performer, has evolved into a treasured new career avenue. In the two Timeline videos, I used stop motion to show a simple, clear, visual relationship between quantitative numbers and statistics, the president's dismissive language, and the humanity of those lost.
Artists and Contributors
Tim Brey is a freelance jazz pianist living in Philadelphia. He holds positions as Artist-in-Residence and Adjunct Faculty at Temple University and The University of the Arts, where he teaches jazz piano, music theory, and improvisation. Check out more of his music, including 2015 Christmas album “Unwrap” and his upcoming release “The Things We Did Last Summer,” at timbrey.bandcamp.com
Julie is a licensed structural engineer with over a decade of experience designing bridges and other transportation structures. She lives in Northwest Philadelphia with her partner and adopted pets.
Follow her work on Instagram: @wissahickon_glassworks; or you can purchase her work at Wissahickon Glassworks.
Writer & Poet
Myra Chappius is a mother, writer and avid reader living in Southern New Jersey. She enjoys movies, meticulously curated Spotify playlists, puzzles and playing tennis.
Follow her on Instagram @inwordform and buy her books.
Sarah is a synesthetic and abstract artist and graphic designer from Lynchburg, Virginia. You can find her painting music, landscapes, and botanicals via Instagram or hanging with her dog, Sawyer.
Follow her work at www.scapps.art or on Instagram: @shepaints.allnight
Govi is a spicy food enthusiast, English teacher and aspiring writer living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
You can find her on twitter: @GoviSnell
Carmen is a 43-year-old Gastroenterology physician with three children living in Ohio. Being outdoors and creating has always been her stress relief. She previously pursued pottery, but more recently began working with wood for the first time as a new hobby.
Follow her work on the Guts and Glory Woodcraft Facebook; or you can purchase her work at Guts and Glory Woodcraft.
Writer & Poet
Katie Huey is a writer, marketer, and facilitator. She believes in the power of story and the beauty found in sharing personal experience. Her work has appeared in Invoke Magazine, Conscious Company Magazine, and Hello Humans. You can follow more of her story on her blog 52 Beautiful Things. She lives in Colorado with her husband Dylan and rambunctious puppy Olive.
Follow her on instagram @52beautifulthings; visit her website katiehuey.com; follow her blog 52beautifulthings.com; and find her on Twitter @52beautiful
Robin Brownfield is a former sociology professor who turned to art after becoming disabled. While she dabbles in numerous art forms, she finds mosaic art is a great way to recycle old materials and found objects. She has created murals, garden walkways, ornate tables, and countless other mosaic works, but recently, she has turned to creating portraits and works for social justice. She was recently featured in a FOX-29 News report, because she was commissioned by Tamika Palmer to do a mosaic portrait of her daughter, Breonna Taylor, whose death, in part, launched an international movement for justice for victims of racist murders.
Follow her work on Facebook, Instagram: nebula1400, or Twitter: @RobinBrownfield.
Mike D'Andrea was born and raised in the Philly suburbs, though he currently lives in Hell's Kitchen in NYC, where he works in tech as a User Experience Researcher. Writing poetry is one of Mike's longest-held hobbies; you can find more of his work on his Instagram, @mikeyd231!
Lynne Marie Rosenberg
Lynne is an artist and performer living in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to being an actor, writer, and lo-fi stop motion animator, she is a representation and inclusion advocate, and the creator and host of "Famous Cast Words" on the WNET/Thirteen affiliate channel, ALL ARTS. Featuring stars of stage and screen, "Famous Cast Words" blends hilarious readings of language from the casting world with an earnest investigation into what’s wrong, and what’s changing, with the entertainment industry.
Follow her on Instagram: @lynnemarierosenberg or Twitter: @lynnerosenberg; or you can visit her website at lynnemarierosenberg.com.
Maggie Topel is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. She designed our seasonal Wild Greens logo and social media avatar.