PANDEMIC ART, HUMOR, AND FASHION
As someone whose mysteries center around a female geneticist, Dr. Alexandra Blake, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear me say, “It runs in the family.” Just as my son, Christopher Ripley, has my blond hair and blue eyes, he seems to have my interest in pandemics. I wrote IMMUNITY, a mystery novel about an epidemic during a presidential election, long before the start of COVID-19. And, just a few months before the emergence of the infection, Christopher, a cinematographer, shot a prescient and tender music video about the young survivor of a pandemic. (Click image above.)
Pandemics have long sparked novelists’ creativity, from Daniel Defoe’s A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR in 1722 to Albert Camus’ THE PLAGUE in 1947, Michael Crichton’s THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN in 1969, and Margaret Atwood’s THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD in 2009. Some novels have even posited China as the birthplace of a pandemic. In a 1981 Dean Koontz novel, THE EYES OF DARKNESS, Wuhan-400 is a weaponized virus created in Wuhan, China with respiratory symptoms and the ability to wipe out the world. In Ling Ma’s 2018 novel, SEVERANCE, New York millennials deal with pandemic called Shen Fever. In all these novels, resilience is a central theme as is the cultural question of where we go from here.
In the midst of COVID-19, artists have teased and comforted us, reworking old masters, such as Mona Lisa, with new masks. Jennifer Baer created travel posters, urging you to “Visit Your One Houseplant.” There’s even an online COVID Art Museum. The world of advertising has responded to the pandemic as well. Using ping pong balls and mousetrap, the Ohio Public Health Department created a brilliant PSA illustrating why social distancing works. And the government of Ukraine warned its citizens to wash hands, maintain social distancing, and wear masks by re-imagining classic works of art.
COVID-19 has also inspired fashion design. Dozens of ETSY sellers offer teeny earrings in the shape of toilet paper rolls. And the president of Slovakia proved she could rock a fashion mask that matched her dress. On the other hand, as I look out my window, I see a fashion mishap--three cops on horseback, whose black masks, black uniforms and black cowboy hats make them look more like bandits than like the law.