We are all coping in different ways with the drastic life changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. One beautiful way some CreakyJoints and Global Healthy Living Foundation patients are spending some of their quarantine time is creating artwork. Of course, Jennifer Walker, a GHLF and CJ member who has been sharing her artwork for years with our community, is among them.
Jennifer, who lives with rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma, and osteoarthritis — among other chronic conditions — was advocating from the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic for more attention to be paid to the unique needs of immunocompromised and chronically ill. Jennifer has been using her art throughout this crisis to help her address the many emotional ups and downs she’s experiencing. We asked her to share pieces that symbolize them.
Here, a Q & A about Jennifer’s work in general and her above piece titled ‘Keep Out.’
Q: How is creating art helping you cope with your coronavirus pandemic emotions?
A: Art is helping me cope with quarantine and the coronavirus pandemic by giving me a tangible outlet to process the shock, dismay, pain — and more — that I am feeling right now. I very often have an image to express long before I have the words. So this helps me get to those words.
Q: Do you find your approach to art has changed at all during this crisis compared to what you normally create?
A: Yes, it has. When I get overwhelmed emotionally and/or mentally I shut down. I won’t create and have no desire to do so. This is common with creative types. Since I know this about myself, I have entered into an art challenge with a fellow patient advocate and we take turns giving each other prompts. This has kept me fresh and our topics have been fun. So it has become a great, easy and fun way to destress. I get to focus on what I am creating and shut it all out. And the prompts are interesting, funny, light topics. We don’t do anything serious. It has kept me creative.
Q: Is there anything else about your art in the time of coronavirus you’d like us to know about?
A: My art allows me to touch others when we are social distancing. It allows me to get close when I can’t do that with anyone outside of my quarantined space. And since so many folks are tuned in to social media, it gives me the chance to shout even louder and further about the patient experience in such a precarious and uncertain time.
All pieces are digital art. Charis Hill, a fellow patient advocate, is my model/inspiration as usual.
Q: Tell us about ‘Keep Out.’ What emotion is this representing?
A: This piece is depicting the intense desperation that I feel in trying to keep COVID-19 out of my life — whether that means my body or losing my friends.
Q: Can you describe what’s happening and why you chose to depict desperation in this way?
A: I brainstormed how to portray this intense push inside me with my boyfriend. It felt like I was cracking pushing against the forces coming at me. Ned suggested a person inside an egg shape trying to hold it together. I loved the idea because it portrayed the power of the effort and the fragility of the push back.
Q: How are you personally coping with your desperation right now?
A: I can’t focus completely on this emotion or I will get overwhelmed. I try to think and function one minute, one day at a time. I remind myself of or find something to be happy about each day. I try to laugh and move and smile a little bit each day. That is all I can do right now.
Q: What do you wish this piece to convey to others who are not #HighRiskCovid19?
A: I want them to see the desperation. I want them to understand the struggle of trying to manage our health, get medication during lockdown, and protect ourselves and our loved ones. I want them to see how strong the person is but also how fragile the shell is. It could go any second and her world will collapse.
Stay in touch with Jennifer and other patient advocates through our GHLF Patient Support Program for the Coronavirus Pandemic for chronic illness patients and their families. We will be providing updated information, community support, and other resources tailored specifically to your health and safety. Join now.