Artist Statement \\ Dr. Valerie Gillespie '98

Masks of Humanity presents a layered view of our shaken world. Throughout the course of our global crisis, components of our civilization have been traumatized as we collectively redeem composure in our efforts to rebuild, regain and salvage remnants of our past stability. A stability that perhaps never was. Uncertainty continues to endure as we each work to heal our distinct sufferings. All of us touched in varying ways, nonetheless, faced with the same disruption of a supposed calm and collective past. As the world stood still, long enough for realization of the pandemic to actualize, the essential worker persevered. In a time of abnormal conditions, the essential worker, kept our communities intact, provided services to ensure our normalcy and braved the unknown for the safety and security of strangers.
As I painted each day over the course of the past few months my sentiments on who the essential worker was changed. Each layer of paint presented itself a challenge as I sought to not necessarily memorialize but symbolize the importance of those that never stopped. I thought about our frontline workers along with those that had a choice to stop but kept going. In our own right, many of us became essential workers. Essential to someone or something. In my progression of truth, I came to a point in my artistic process where the figure no longer was enough. White and black pigment soon clouded the canvas, covering the doctor, the chef, the educator, the firefighter, the police officer and the contractor. The art no longer was about the job, but rather about the greater story of our citizenship. The work became about our humanity and the entities within it that shed light into our troubled past and present.
We will never be the same. We all experienced something greater than us, together. As we forge ahead, I feel that we might never return to how things were. Perchance, that, all along was what our universe intended.

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