AUTHOR’S NOTE: For this series of articles, I’m asking artists about the ways that the collective experience of trauma has influenced the personal significance of artworks they live with and know well. The widespread anxiety prompted by Covid-19 provided the original impetus, beginning mid-April, to ask my contributors if there’s a work in their collection they see differently now — if one in particular resonates with them and perhaps takes on new meaning at this weird, frightening moment.
As the moment gets ever weirder and more frightening, with sources of collective trauma proliferating like crabgrass, the malleability of an artwork’s meaning under the pressure of circumstances seems, unsurprisingly, to be as great as ever.
In the past three months I have had the privilege of being quarantined in my home. It has been challenging to maintain hope for better days, facing an inefficient Brazilian government that chose not to adopt measures that would have diminished what we have today, a total of more than 57,000 deaths.
In this scenario, Maria’s work invited me to rethink this construction of necessary balance in light of being face-to-face with brutality. I started to look more closely at details in the photo, such as the dry leaves, which cause me a certain melancholy; at the same time, there is a need to remain strong, as Maria seems to be, without holding the seesaw support.
Her balance is there in an elegant way, with her arms resting on her legs, showing a certain fluidity and intimacy with her most significant struggles.
Her work gives me courage.