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September 2020 LIC-A Member Highlight 1, Bonnie Astor

Pandemic Notes from a LIC-A artist and semi- retired nurse

I’ve been painting my way through months of pandemic isolation. I realized that answering the call from Gov. Cuomo to work as a nurse in a hospital was not tenable for me, but I would contribute to the effort in other ways.

One of my first paintings was Hygeia Repels Corona, a meditative piece which visualizes an ancient Goddess with powers to create health all around her. Hygeia is the root of the word hygiene. I created masks using this image as well as posting on social media.

The next piece, PICU Strong, depicts my niece whose nursing team retrained from working with sick children to taking care of COVID affected adults at Columbia Weill Cornell Hospital.

The painting is now hanging in the PICU at that hospital, and I created canvas duplicates for each of the nurses in the team.

The pandemic moved into late spring and summer in my home studio, I was so grateful to hear less and less sirens each day and to open my windows at 7 pm each evening to cheer for the health care providers and front line workers. Although I have been a nurse through many health crises, in the US and internationally, including HIV/AIDS, this one was particularly gruesome. Hearing ice cream truck bells fill the air was a reprieve.

I followed the data apps on numbers of ill, dead, and recovered. I read and read and have continuing education credits for COVID care. Now, I follow the pharm companies who are moving ahead with trials for vaccines and anti-retrovirals. And I paint. Black Lives Matter demonstrations flashed over the city and the country, and I painted and supported and empathized. I zoomed with educators from cultural institutions throughout the city and we discussed, changed outlooks and made promises about inclusivity and ending racism.

Things started to turn around at the time I painted Upside Down World. I could finally see a lovely sunset, and a beautifully colored ocean, and was feeling more positive about our future.

More paintings, and curated on line shows when those opportunities appeared. My latest painting, completed the other day, is the most colorful and happy. Beauty and the Beast reflects the virus alongside flowers blooming. It was inspired by frequent walks to Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria Park and Old Astoria gardens. How could such beauty exist simultaneously with such pain. Yet it does.

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