VT Students Viral Art 050820

“I tried to capture the idea of isolation through the space suit, and the idea of fear/horror with my interpretation of the virus as a monster in the reflection of the helmet.” — Brittney Fogg

A hospital nurse in the nation’s capital. A tiger chained to the ground. A college campus fractured into pieces of a puzzle.

Those are some of the ways students at Virginia Tech have interpreted the way we live now.

When the coronavirus pandemic first uprooted campus in mid-March, Betsy Bannan, an advanced instructor of painting and drawing, decided to focus her final assignment for the semester — a work that deals with intercultural or global issues — on a meditation on life in the age of COVID-19.

“I thought it was a great chance for a historical visual record of it,” Bannan said.

Across three classes, 30 non-art majors and 14 students in an introductory painting course created works ranging from the solitary to the familial, from the starkly literal to the darkly abstract.

“I tried to get across to them that was really more than just an assignment,” said Bannan, who credited the students for stepping up to the task. “This was an unprecedented time for them, and an unprecedented chance for them to visualize something — people are doing a lot of written research — a visual chance to make a statement about what the impact is like.”

She noted that the works — mostly oil or acrylic paintings — differ from what a diary offers in its historical snapshot of how people interpret events.

“That’s what art can do,” Bannan said. “It’s an alternate way of getting information out to the world, and it’s a form of communication that I think is going to be pretty lasting.”

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