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  • Writer's pictureA.S. Morris

Isolation and Art History.

Munch, Van Gough, and Hopper three names that are known to many. If art history is not your thing; they are artists; painters. Each were respective members of three different movements in art; post-impressionism, expressionism, and American realist. Three different periods of art which overlap each other, building on one another, influencing one another. All had pieces that depicted isolation. This is not a blog post to dazzle you about art history. Anyone who has studied art is likely thinking I have missed a few key elements regarding the aforementioned talent; I'm aware. Today's fun fact; I studied art in Philadelphia for college; ultimately landed in healthcare, story for another day. Anyway, the point of today's musing's will eventually be teased out; hopefully. If this ultimately makes no sense treat this as you would a children's story; just look at the pictures.

Edward Hopper I Elevan A.M. I 1926

When the pandemic started over a year ago (yes, A YEAR AGO), the enforced solitude and isolation was welcome. Perhaps you can relate to Hopper's painting above; no judgement here if you stared out the window with no clothes on. You do you. A forced slow down and pause. A time to take a break and refocus on some much needed quality time. While challenging at first it was a good change of pace. Folks were getting creative with how to entertain themselves. Families were finding ways to reconnect. Crafty problem solving, pulling together, and memo's on handwashing were the new way of normal. It would be over by summer and life will move on. I don't want to ruin the end of the story however, that was not the case (imagine this in Morgan Freeman's voice for effect).

Winter became spring, spring became summer, summer became get the idea. Life kept moving forward yet the world almost seemed to stop spinning. I would imagine by now we all know someone(s) who had COVID, perhaps you are navigating the world grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID. A very real disease that shows no mercy. Trying to wrap your head around the idea that a pandemic has devastated millions of people; it's not easy. None of my textbooks in school provided guidance on how to navigate a pandemic. The last pandemic occurred 67 years before I was born.

Edvard Munch I Death in the Sickroom I 1895

Here we are almost a year to the day when the world came to a complete stop. In my part of the world Saint Patrick's Day was when lockdowns, shut downs, and cancellations galore went into effect. Maybe it was appropriate for it to coincide with a drinking holiday. At that point in time I never would have thought we would still be facing such hurdles a year later. For me personally the biggest hurdle I continue to face is the isolation. I sit in an office 8 plus hours a day with a door shut on video conferences in complete solitude.

Isolation (isolated) is defined as, far away from other places, buildings, or people; remote; having minimal contact or little in common with others. Synonyms for isolated can be solitary, lonely, out of the way, secluded, unaccompanied; there are plenty of options...pick your poison.

Things isolation has taught/highlighted:

  • Solitary confinement is not for me; a life of crime is no longer in the cards and orange isn't my color.

  • I hate the color beige; my office walls.

  • L shaped desks are dreadful; I sit in isolation, in the corner....

  • I've never been so grateful for windows; I have one in my office and know that is a luxury when you work in a hospital.

  • Silence is truly deafening; I threatened a colleague if they didn't get a new office chair. I could hear them squeaking through their closed door through my closed door....

  • I never showed enough appreciation for engaging with colleagues in person.

  • The words you use and format of typing is crucial. Without seeing people in person it is so important to focus on how you are electronically communicating. There is such potential for things to be lost. Misunderstood.

Things that isolation has encouraged; not in a good way (for me):

  • Nobody thinks twice when you don't emerge from your office all day; we're all professional hostages these days

  • Videos are optional ; even on video conferences - apparently by the end of this were just going to be talking to black boxes with names on them.

  • Showing up to work is a struggle when you know you're in a cell all day.

  • Guilt you feel on days when you'd rather work remote than in person.

  • Increased social awkwardness and let me yell this conversation at you from six feet away while we are at it.

  • Lack of engagement with new people; small talk on zoom is painful and very few people are willing to meet in person.

I could go on and on with this list; we all have lists of what this pandemic has taught us. The good and the bad.

Vincent Van Gough I Old Man in Sorrow. On the Threshold of Eternity I 1890

Part of me thinks I am not the norm when it comes to a preferred in person environment. In a conversation the other day, on zoom, someone was raving about the efficiency remote work offers and isn't it great that you can stack meetings without having to walk to others etc... This isn't for me. I like to go to meetings. I like to have breathing room between meetings to process what I just discussed or learned. I miss hallway conversations. Hell, I miss the hallway.

At some point, good lord willing, the pandemic will be declared over. When that will be and what that will look like is to be determined. We all have some bizarre list of things we can't wait to do once the world is back to "normal."

I haven't experience normal for a couple years now. I'd really like for that to come to fruition. I'd really like to feel settled and be my adorably nerdy, boring self. However, that is a work in progress. A lot of work. For me I have to make a conscious effort to not let the isolation become a detriment to my mental health. This is easier said than done. Trust me on that one. There are scientific articles, websites, blogs and over 135 million google results discussing the impacts of isolation on mental and physical health. Yours truly has already shared her overachieving ways when it comes to depression, anxiety, and PTSD. A trifecta of mental health struggles. A trifecta of a shitshow when it wants to be.

Perhaps through the lens of Renoir we can hope of a not too distant future where merriment, non-socially distant reverence, and normalcy exists.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir I Luncheon of the Boating Party I 1881

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