Suzette Marie Martin at Eclipse Mill Gallery

Viral Load, Bearing Witness to the Pandemic

By: - Aug 15, 2021

Viral Load, Bearing Witness to the Pandemic
Friday, August 6th through Sunday, August 29th 
Eclipse Mill Gallery
243 Union Street, North Adams, MA.
Gallery Hours: Friday - Sunday from 11:00 to 6:00.

“Viral Load”, an exhibition of works by artist Suzette Marie Martin at the Eclipse Mill Gallery, is a meditative suite of ten mixed-media paintings on canvas, bearing witness to the cumulative, collective loss of the COVID-19 pandemic. Larger-than-life-size figures, each positioned in gestures that signal states of emotional and physical distress, are enclosed within webs of medical text and diagrams of the SARS CoV-2 virus. Included in the exhibition are preliminary charcoal drawings that reveal the working process for this series.

Suzette Marie Martin is known for her use of expressive body language, symbolic background elements, and a minimal palette of charcoal and paint. Her work has been featured in Orion magazine, and her most recent solo exhibition was at the Edward Hopper House Museum in Nyack, NY. She relocated to North Adams from the lower Hudson Valley, NY during the pandemic, and is currently exploring themes of environmental collapse. 

Artist Statement, Viral Load

Viral Load, Bearing Witness to the Pandemic, by Suzette Marie Martin, is a series of ten mixed media drawings on canvas, centered on the emotional consequences of cumulative, collective loss experienced during the CoVid-19 pandemic: sickness and death, social isolation, economic insecurity, disrupted routines, delayed or canceled life events.

There is much to grieve.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s work on death and dying identified five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance. Martin adds to this list: Loneliness. Fear. Frustration. Anxiety. Confusion. Exhaustion. The figures in this series are positioned in gestures that signal these emotional states.

Larger-than-life-size nude bodies wear the minimal “personal protective gear” of mask and gloves. Arc lines encase the isolated figures in webs that visually link each canvas in the series to the others. Translucent acrylic washes and splatters suggestive of infectious transmission provide muted layers of color over gestural marks of charcoal and graphite.

Psychology shows that when the emotionally reactive, instinctive mind is triggered, information processing and rational thinking are difficult to maintain. Each figure exists within a field of partially dissolved, confusing and incomplete text snippets of the pathophysiology, symptoms and complications of CoVid-19, along with schematic diagrams of the SARS CoV-2 virus responsible for this devastating disease.

On a personal note: Before Martin transitioned to a career in the arts, her professional background included medical training. She was a medic in the USAF, and a Licensed Practical Nurse, with several years of hands-on experience caring for the sick and dying.

Each painting: 40" H x 30" W, charcoal, acrylic paint, water soluble graphite, colored pencil on canvas, 2020. This series developed in association with CoVid-19: Critical/Creative Studies in Music, Image, and Text, Ethics and Humanities Grant, Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.