Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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"Inventive Landscape" - Steffanie A. Padilla

"Inventive Landscape" - Steffanie A. Padilla

Student Artists Create Works That Reflect Their Experience of the Pandemic

August 9, 2021

Last spring, the Art at Watson committee put out an open call to Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design undergraduates for artwork inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic. Students were invited to create visual and/or aural works that might serve as messages to the future, each from a personal point of view, about what living in the pandemic has been like.

The result, a digital exhibition titled Time Capsule, is a collection of 17 works in a wide variety of media, including video, animation, textile, painting, pastels, sound, digital collage, photography, and even surveillance footage. The works reference many familiar effects of the pandemic: store closures, hand sanitizer, social distancing, cooking, masks, boredom, isolation, a distorted perception of time, and more.

The drawing “Time is What I Make It” by Ophelia Duchesne-Malone ’22 depicts a clock being squished by a fist, representing “a reclamation of time from the grips of this pandemic,” in the artist’s words.

The animation titled "Quarantine (28 unmade beds)" by Joshua Koolik ’24 comprises a series of 28 sketches of sheets in disarray. The piece represents the repetitiveness of life under quarantine, according to Koolik, who made the sketches over four weeks while at home in Florida during a break in the spring semester.

Mehek Vohra’s video “Recontextualizing the Internet” visually “rebrands” the most commonly accessed websites—Google, Facebook, and YouTube, and Amazon—as “Covid” and “Corona.” Vohra ’24, who is pursuing a dual degree in graphic design and cognitive neuroscience at RISD and Brown, conveys the overwhelm of information across media platforms through overlapping audio clips of headline news—an overwhelm she observed in her parents as well as her friends. “It was all anyone could talk about,” she says.

But another video, “Moment Soup,” by Quinn F Erickson, shows light projected through an acrylic tank that contains creatures and muck from a seasonal pond—all of them thriving in spite of the pandemic.

The exhibition will eventually be archived for future display as a record and a reminder of these challenging times.  

- Sarah C. Baldwin