My name is June He. I am a Chinese artist, designer and writer currently residing in United States since 2007, about half an hour drive to New York city. Beginning from February 2020, I have been staying at home out of caution for Covid-19. It has been an ongoing surreal experience since then, with logistic hurdles and emotional turbulences.
From February, Newspapers and TV reports were bombarded with grave stories about Coronavirus in different languages to different communities. During that time, I collected newspapers and magazines in English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Bengali, etc. Every culture was talking about the same topic and spreading the same fear. I compiled assorted information together and presented multi-media collages for my art pieces. They convey the anxiety before the coming storm.
By mid of March, the governor in New York requires citizens to stay at home. People were hoarding toilet paper and groceries. Stock markets slumped so badly it triggered circuit breaker mechanism several times in two weeks, breaking historic records. Fear overwhelmed everyone like a tsunami. Everything changed in a dramatic speed on a daily base. We did not have time to contemplate but to embrace immediately. My oil paintings and collages during this time caught the confusions and struggles many people faced in front of the unknown future.
I live in the suburbs of New York city. Luckily, I can work in my studio/home while in quarantine. The only time I leave home is for grocery shopping and walking my dog. Most people follow the guidelines from the government, but the confirmed cases and death numbers are skyrocketing every day since late March. Anxiety is spreading among the community. By using artistic expression, I try to heal myself from the emotional turbulences.
Many people lost their lives, and more are losing jobs. I know friends who passed away because of the pandemic. I know friends who rely on government support. My gallery exhibitions and public events in New York city are either canceled or delayed for foreseeable future. I spend more time everyday connecting virtually with friends and family members to support each other and keep on going.
“Fear is not only felt in the bones but also expressed in the genes.” This 2009 report from Association for Psychological Science gives us a hint of how fear can change us to certain degree. As further studies show, this genetic change can be inherited from the next generation. I foresee a fundamental change in human behavior moving forward into a post-pandemic society. This is only the beginning.
As I am writing this statement, it is late April. Numerous pieces of daily news have been hammering my sensibility. From anxiety to depression, from denial to acceptance, I feel isolated but calm. I have never missed so much of my family and friends. But spring is coming. The cherry tree in front of my studio is blossoming with lovely white flowers. The bright yellow flowers of forsythia are celebrating the prosperity of life. I see the hope, and I am glad.