SHREVEPORT, Louisiana — Hannah Lee, a Shreveport native, CE Byrd graduate, and accomplished artist, is completing her Masters of Fine Arts in painting at the New York Academy of Art. Well, she was, until the coronavirus made its way to the Big Apple.
She and her friends had heard about the virus, but it wasn’t until late February that it became real to them, at an art fair at the Javitz Center.
“It’s a pretty big social networking event and nobody was shaking hands,” Hannah said.
Within a week, people were getting sick and her school was closing.
“We don’t have access to our work. Our school is closed for an indefinite period.
Hannah left New York on March 16 and returned to Austin, Texas, which is her current home. Before he left, the normally bustling town had become eerily quiet.
“Nobody is in the street. The subways at rush hour were empty,” she said. “It was scary. The grocery stores were scary, there was nothing. There are cops. It’s like a war zone. It’s always like walking through the crowd to my apartment. I walked home and it’s probably 10:30 at night. And I saw 7 people and 15 rats.
The Javitz Center, where the art fair was held, is now used as a hospital. And like many of us, Hannah is out of school and out of work.
“I also paint weddings to pay for the paint during the week. The event industry doesn’t exist right now,” she said. “So these weddings are either canceled or postponed. But you can’t set a date.
The current work she is creating is very different from her art from a year ago, made up of people of all ages, musicians, old houses and landscapes. What she creates now are faces hidden behind masks. Interestingly, she started 6 months ago.
“The mask we put on to present ourselves to the world; we don’t want to be authentic because we’re afraid of how it will be received,” she said. “It also became a commentary on biases and the conclusions we jump to about a person before looking at what’s underneath. Ironically, with all this covid stuff, my work is now coronavirus art. Sounds like something I did in response to that time.
And what does she envision for the future of her work?
“When it comes to art, any act of creative imagination is, by definition, creating something in the hope and belief of what could be,” Hannah said. “And that is hope.”
And we could all use a little hope.
See more of Hannah’s work at www.hannahleeart.com or www.hannahpaintsevents.com.