When artists Georgeann Herzog Walton and Lisa Curry painted during the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, they drew inspiration from renowned late artists and the pandemic itself.
Curry painted Girl with the Mask, modeled after Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s famous 1665 piece, Girl With the Pearl Earring. His painting depicts the bust of a woman looking over her shoulder, her ear adorned with a prominent pearl earring. Curry’s painting is similar, with the exception of vibrant colors on the woman’s visage, headpiece, clothing, and – most notably – a stark white mask obscuring her mouth and nose.
“The beginning of COVID as an artist and being on lockdown was very hard on me because of the news, and all the doom hampers your creativity,” said Curry, who co-owns Raw 1899, an art gallery and wine lounge in San Angelo. “After a couple of weeks of that, you have to pull up your bootstraps and deal with it. I took an online class, and we were all doing portraits.”
She thought creating her own rendition of Vermeer’s renowned portrait would be fun. “She speaks to me because I’m a nurse [and] an artist,” Curry said.
Walton, of Stanton, portrayed an actual artist, this one 20th century Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, with her depiction of him with his palms facing out, a face mask dangling from his thumbs as if poised to demonstrate how to put the mask on his colorful face. The acrylic painting – on a 3-inch thick canvas bolted to a wooden piece that illustrates a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer above and to the left of Picasso’s head – is titled Social Distancing.
“I use a lot of acrylic, but I also use papers, foil, and wood pieces,” Walton said, describing herself as a mixed media artist. “I like to paint on paper, and then my husband, if I draw a pattern, he’ll cut out the wood for me. I like it to be different in some way.”
Walton initially had a different plan for Picasso’s hands in Social Distancing, but when the pandemic struck Texas last spring, she mulled the idea of making more of a statement with it. “I was about to enter [an art] show, and I thought, ‘Hmm, we’re all starting to wear masks; would Picasso wear a mask? Probably he would.’
“And then there was a shortage [of hand sanitizer], and I thought, ‘I’ll just make my own,’” she said with a laugh, adding, “It was early on, before people were doing things [art-wise related to the pandemic] and I thought it would be novel.”
Barbara Jones, of San Angelo, also found inspiration during an unprecedented time. Jones is accustomed to painting landscapes while outside and did not completely stray from that habit. Her painting, Jesus Watching Over San Angelo, is just as the title describes it: Jesus, his back to the viewer, holding a staff, a lone sheep beside him, seeming to survey the San Angelo skyline, with a bridge and its signature Concho River and iconic Cactus Hotel in the background.
The idea for the oil painting came to Jones, 86, because she was worried about COVID-19.
“I was just concerned about the area and the people in it. That’s the only thing I could think of to do,” she said, of painting Jesus Watching Over San Angelo. “It started out [as a prayer]; I was given the inspiration and the picture of what I wanted to do, but I had to find some research material to get the inspiration that was shown to me. And that’s the way it happens with most of my expressions of faith.”
Jones, who has been painting for the past 50 years, called the painting “a rush.”
“It was fun to do . . . and it just came together,” she said.
Jones, who lives with her son and his wife and has her own studio behind their house, said being an artist keeps her young. “If I don’t paint, if I miss a week or two, I’m a grouch,” she said, chuckling.
Curry can probably relate to the therapeutic value of art, particularly during difficult times. “She took me out of that slump of listening to the bad [news about the pandemic],” she said, her eyes welling with tears, of the woman she painted in Woman with the Mask. “She gives me hope, and she’s everything I’m about.”
Today, Curry’s painting is displayed in a Midland museum as a reminder for patrons to don a mask before entering. “I love her; she makes me really happy,” Curry said. “I’ve sold tons of prints [of the painting], so to me she’s out there making other people happy too.”