Portraits of the Pandemic is an exhibition of self-portraits made during the pandemic by artists in Dubuque and surrounding counties in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The exhibition is inspired by the Stay Home, Make Art movement with the goal of helping local artists remain visible during the pandemic and to share their work with the wider community. It also aims to examine how the pandemic and the subsequent effects to our social and physical interactions have reshaped our lives.
Sooner or later, every artist turns to the mirror for a subject. Artist Frida Kahlo, while convalescing from a terrible injury, once said, “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” As the nation went into quarantine in March 2020, life for many in the Tri-State area was abruptly reduced to their immediate surroundings. Business closures and the sudden shift to more people being home day and night affected us all to some degree. During this protracted period of uncertainty, isolation, and controversy around the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many must look inward for ways to stave off boredom, depression, frustration, or fear, DuMA called on our local artists to submit a work that represented their personal experience. Through the works in the exhibition and the artists’ personal reflections, we can address and gain a deeper understanding of our own experiences and thoughts of the time.
Since June, the museum has featured many of the portraits in a dynamic virtual exhibition across social media and the museum’s website. The museum exhibition brings together a wide selection of these works.
Moreover, everyone who submitted their work is represented in the exhibition, highlighting the importance of including everyone’s experience during this time.