“For Better or for Worse”
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Location: South side of Taylor’s Bridal Boutique
How it Describes “My Elmira”
“For Better or For Worse” was my reaction to being in lockdown for a second time. Now that we are in the third wave, the lockdown definitely carries an emotional weight that is difficult to manage. This painting reflects “My Elmira” because the couple is the epitome of what I think of when it comes to a tight-knit community like Elmira. When I saw the photo taken by Nicole DeLoach Hubbard, the chief nurse anesthetist at a hospital in Tampa, Florida, I knew I had my inspiration and was very appreciative of her positive feedback on it when she saw it. Hubbard snapped this photo of her two married colleagues, Ben Cayer and Mindy Brock, before they were about to start their shift on their hospital’s COVID-19 Airway Team. What struck me when I read the article about this viral photo (“This Photo of a Husband and Wife Working on a COVID-19 Team Shows the Reality of Working in Hospitals Now”) was that the husband and wife had argued earlier that morning but put it aside to serve the greater good, their COVID-19 patients. Their commitment to each other and their patients transcends this photo and resonates deeply with me. I chose to use this intimate moment shared between husband and wife as the focal point of my painting because it reflects our global predicament: sacrificing our own wants and needs to protect the larger community. The risk that these two nurse anesthetists take every time they go on a shift to intubate and extubate patients is awe-inspiring and courageous. The affection and love they share despite the barriers of their PPE is undeniable. I chose to enclose them in a glass globe suspended in dark waters to symbolize the fragility of our existence and the chaos that has overswept us as a result of the pandemic. But it is not the silent and microscopic coronavirus particles that I faintly painted in the water that break the globe open, it is the hope and light that burst through the protective glass enclosure that offers a glimpse into a brighter future. The couple’s intense gaze on one and other and their passionate hands on the sides of their masked faces symbolize a commitment and purpose much greater than themselves. They are a reflection of what frontline workers all over the world are doing to combat the virus and sustain the larger community. It is selfless, dangerous, necessary, and heroic. So when I feel like I’m drowning in turbulent waters like the ones in my painting, I look at Ben Cayer and Mindy Brock and focus on the light and spirit within that can illuminate even the darkest of times. I think this piece can comfort and draw people into Elmira because of its universal quality. For better or for worse, we are all in this together.
My body of artwork explores my journey dealing with grief and anxiety and focuses on portraiture. During this COVID-19 pandemic, I became interested in expressing the plight of healthcare workers and the impact of the pandemic on the individual and our global village. I also witnessed the intersection of two pandemics: COVID-19 and racism. 2020 saw a rash of protests arise against racial oppression and systemic racism. By moving beyond my own journey to capturing the courage of frontline workers and marginalized people, I can channel their stories and lost voices through expressive portraits in the hopes of inspiring change.
Watch Carol Folino’s video to learn more about “For Better or For Worse”
I am a local Art and History teacher for the WRDSB and grew up in Waterloo. I have a wonderful husband and three sons. Prior to the pandemic, most of the paintings I created were self-portraits and dealt with mental health issues. My artwork has shifted to capture the courageous experiences of healthcare workers and marginalized people. My paintings are done in acrylic paint using vibrant colours, realistic portraiture and stylized nature elements.