Nora, USA

When The pandemic hit in March last year I was working as a server, but thankfully I stayed on the payroll. I got to be financially stable, but I didn't have to work. It was super lucky for my circumstance here. The lockdown and subsequent increase in free-time allowed for this turn in my relationship with self-expression/creation.I had never given myself enough time to make art when I was in food service.

I might sound a bit contradictory. I feel like a few changes have happened. I have more time. I've been drawing and developing my technique and my style. But in terms of having a lot more time with myself, I have a hard time with that and the personal aspect of art. There are a lot of aspects of myself, my identity that I haven't been addressing for a long time and I think a lot of that have to do with not really feeling like I have a career option and path and only looking at my art as a hobby and a childish pastime. But in quarantine, I have seen myself grow, and I start to think it is something I can actually do because I enjoy it. I allow myself to do it more. Before I was only thinking about my food service job, working 12 hours a day and on my days off I don't want to do much besides sleeping. Just the time with myself allows me to really start to get to know myself and my values and how I really enjoy being a painter. That was kind of uncomfortable, facing myself and the fact that I haven't developed my passion feels disappointing because it's a huge form of how I express myself. I'm not so good with words, so sometimes painting is the only way to express certain emotion, and I was really tapping into that before quarantine and when I started, it just brought a lot of feeling-sadness that I've never taken the time ever to focus on myself, focus on thing I like to do as opposed to this sort of outlook of trying to succeed or be successful in someone else's eyes just in general.

I started to pay more attention to my values and my morals too. They started coming up a lot because how I regarded the virus and the pandemic was different from what a lot of people did, especially in food service, because a lot of people just don't really care much about wearing masks. They really want to prioritize their own rights and freedom like getting to eat out and stuff like that. I just never really saw that side of humanity. It was really shocking. I guessed most people thought similar to me and would put their community first, but that's not the mentality of a lot of people I grew up with. It's a wake-up call.

The intense feelings of being disconnected from my family and community were brought up because of the lockdown, but I realize these are feelings that have existed for a long time, and are only now being intensified.

That painting represents my relationship to my body and that relationship to my surroundings. Just feeling very connected to the earth but also very separate in the sense that I live in Boston, but I don't really have a community here. My family is in the upstate and my friends are spread out. I feel very solitary but at the same I'm  recognizing there's a missing connection to the earth and a missing connection to the surrounding community because I think we are living a lot more individually because my family is very spread out and that affects me and my well-being .

My mother's side of the family came to the U.S. as Armenian refugees in the 1960's while my father emigrated from the Netherlands. The genocide happened there over 1 century ago and my great-grandmother had to flee from Turkey essentially and there was a lot that wasn't passed down from that end. That's something that I started to learn about more during the quarantine and through my painting too. I started to realize that I was missing this connection to my ancestry because my mum never really talked very much about. The Armenia culture was lost after my grandmother really Americanized and tried to fit in. She didn't want to be recognized as middle Eastern. She pretended to be french, and we lost the language. It's really sad for me because I see a value in that process of learning. It's a part of how I look and how I was raised in some ways, so I've been learning a bit more about Armenian history. Before I didn't really make the time to do it because you thought you were  busy or doing the ''more important thing''.

Having more time to myself was hard. Throughout adulthood I've struggled a lot with depression. I'm just generally a bit anxious as I got older. A lot of that was hard to be honest with myself about with quarantine. Being alone makes me realize how important social connections are even though I'm not the most social person. It's hard for me to keep in touch over text and call. I kind of isolated a lot more than I think is healthy. I can look at it as a hibernation.

The past year has simultaneously been a year of growth and cycling back... an ebb and flow of learning the intricacies of myself and feeling disconnected from who I thought I was.”