Artists: Emily C. Thomas and Jesse Butcher
Curated by Marlo Morales
As quarantine and social distancing forces people everywhere to separate themselves from one another, it seems as though the entire world changed. Humanity is learning what it is really like to be alone. Whether lone wolf or social butterfly, these days are not easy. From despair to rebirth, the responses to isolation range far and wide and no one can avoid them.
These pieces aim to explore the human experience during this strange and unfamiliar time. Jesse Butcher’s pieces capture the essence of solitude and the human experience throughout this unfamiliar time. On the other hand, Emily C. Thomas’s work address the self-reflection and mysticism which can accompany seclusion. These pieces aim to capture unfamiliar sensations and nuances of confinement. That does not mean that these are never before seen emotions or experiences. All of these pieces were made before the coronavirus turned the world upside down, but their sentiment holds true, and may even be more representative to everyday life than ever before. Everyone deals with unexpected change in their own way. One cannot anticipate these reactions and they are all correct and deserve to be acknowledged.
Through the visual confrontation with the realities of solitude, one accepts their impact and may even gain a new perspective. The coronavirus’s effects range far and wide and no one is immune. As one observes the changes taking place around them, one can’t help but wonder. Has society reached its most authentic form or are people simply not meant to live all by themselves?
Emily C. Thomas is a visual artist based in Memphis, Tennessee. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of California Santa Barbara. She has shown her work at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, Tennessee, and The Glass Box Gallery in Santa Barbara, California. She has also taught in the UC Santa Barbara, Department of Art and private instruction in AfterEffects. In 2015 she was also the recipient of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) Visual, Performing and Media Arts Award. Emily’s work can be found on her website https://www.emilycthomas.com/.
Jesse Butcher is a visual artist in Memphis, Tennessee. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. He also earned his Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in photography as well. He has shown Work at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee and Channel to Channel in Nashville, Tennessee. He currently teaches at the University of Memphis. Jesse’s work can be found on his website https://jessebutcher.com/.
When Life Fucks Your Lemons
These words speak to the sense of helplessness felt by many during quarantine. It seems as though life has fucked just about everyone’s lemons these days. Opportunities had to be put on hold and simple desires abandoned as a result.
Sitting alone on the computer is what many people will remember about quarantine. Reliance on technology, to connect with others and to try to emulate the life one used to live, is an obvious result of forced isolation. This time though proves to be the best time to reflect on one’s self and possibly even reinvent one’s self. Alone time allows people to reflect on who they are and the lives they have lived.
Both the appearance of these words and their meaning apply to feelings of confinement. Despair and loneliness seem to go hand in hand. The repetition of the same words in an almost identical fashion emulates the repetitive nature of day after indistinguishable day in quarantine.
An unexpected result of quarantine is the increase rates of domestic abuse. Home for some is not necessarily a safe place to escape from the dangerous outside world for everyone. While home is a refuge for some, it is a nightmare for others. This photograph of a bruise is a reminder of the realities of quarantine for some.
Dream Lover/Psychic Wedlock
This piece unites mysticism and desire in one painting. Ongoing isolation can cause out of body experiences, even if just in the form of a mind-bending dream. Furthermore, physical separation provokes a craving for physical contact and touch. This piece depicts the collision of these two sentiments.
Being confined to one’s home can feel like being restrained by chains. Vet dew people would choose to isolate in such a strict manner for such a long period of time. Undesired isolation out of medical necessity most certainly makes many feel as though they are being shackled into confinement.
I Became a Secret Hippie
Many repeating portraits denote the repetition of days in isolation. They also signify the spirit of mass solitude. By depicting many individual portraits together in one larger picture plane it is almost like being alone in a crowded room. Everyone is alone, but everyone is alone together.
This image communicates the emptiness which can come with as a result of solitude. Depending on the day an average space can feel cavernous without the presence of others. Conversely, those same spaces can seem to close in on one and become suffocating after too much time in confinement
Uncertainty is an undeniable element of life during the coronavirus. One cannot help but wonder if the world once known even exists anymore. Nevertheless, the hope that the world will return still remains.