A Cleansing Virus

Madison Stewart ’22

As the human species is seemingly beaten down by COVID-19, the world is fighting back, it’s cleansing itself. Of what? The structural violence that humanity exudes in almost every pore. This is what my pandemic paintings express.

Since the pandemic’s beginning, there have been many changes in our day-to-day life and also in the broader environment. There’s a tension between how the planet is seemingly healing itself and how we humans believe that our world is essentially at a standstill. Now more than ever, it is evident that environmental health affects humanity and vice versa. For a long time, humans have been a virus for the earth, and are, in a sense, the perpetrators of structural violence on the planet.

My project was designed to highlight this tension.

One canvas is painted with a figure holding a living plant, painted in bright colors, to demonstrate life and growth. The other canvas has the same figure holding a container of trash, painted in muted colors demonstrating death and heartache. The pictures beneath both canvases coordinate with these themes.

The dark side depicts the littering of personal protective equipment, grocery store shelves empty, mass death, doctors defeated by the COVID-19 and defiance of general safety measures. The light side shows more time spent with family, communities banning together, and nature healing itself. Each photo is captioned with ideas and concepts from our Medical Anthropology class that are powerful on their own and further illuminate the various scales of the project on a more grandeur scope.

I hope that this project will inspire you to think about your life and the lives of those around you as well as the life of our planet. We are one symbiotic being that requires respect and effort from all parties to thrive!

Rashid, Haroon. “We Fell Asleep Written by Author Haroon Rashid.” Medium, 26 Apr. 2020. medium.com.
We are the Cure and the Virus
Our planet is our home, yet we treat it as if we are its master. We destroy it to save ourselves while destroying our own along the way. Our lives can also be led in beauty and strength if we have the right focus.

This is the bright side of humanity. The brain is health and the earth is thriving. Beauty and life is the main product. Beneath are pictures of community, growth, love and health, all consequences of this way of thought.
Notice that the tree the figure holding is alive and three dimensional, smelling of fresh dew. That’s the fresh air that we are naturally supposed to breathe.
The Cure Photos
A close up of the group of photos listed under “The Cure”.

The Virus
This is the dark side of humanity. The brain is shriveled and the earth is dying. Pollution is the main product. Beneath are pictures of structural violence, death, and conflict, all consequences of this way of thought.
Notice that the figure is holding a bucket of trash. The air is polluted and it’s taking a toll on the Earth as well as our bodies.
The Virus Photos
A close up of the photos listed under “The Virus”.