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Beauty in the Beast

Lorraine Z Lerman

Images of floating galaxies of Coronavirus molecules in translucent colors shot with ultra sensitive electron microscopes inspired this series. By March 2020, Covid-19 was the news in the whole world, and it became the focus of my artwork with an eye to color, shape and design,  and a blind eye to the shattering effects of this “Beast”. I sought the Beauty in the Coronavirus Beast. 

The images of Covid-19 are sketched and painted in gouache, then translated into clay monoprints. The clay monoprints in embroidery hoops feel like the view of the virus through the eye of an electron microscope. Embroidery hoops are women’s tools, lightweight, familiar, and the fabrics are embellished with threads and beads from my jewelry-making. I think of Judy Chicago’s ‘Dinner Party’, the arts and crafts of women, how she respected it, hiring master embroiderers and needleworkers as well as glazers, ceramicists, lacemakers. I invoke these women with gratitude. They represent the hands of women, sewing, years of women sewing in homes, factories, sweatshops. 

Mitch Lyons, the artist who developed the clay monoprinting technique, used Reemay, an industrial fabric, for clay monoprinting. For this series I printed on fabrics made of cotton, polyester, Pellon, and chiffon-like pieces, materials on hand as shelter-in-place restricted movement. 

Clay monoprint as a medium allows me to play with color and design along with the unpredictability and luck of the moment, to express myself positively in the midst of this calamitous period.