Artist Nilou Moochhala has embarked on a heartfelt work, “Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience: A 2021 Public Art Project”. The work consists of 100 mixed media drawings printed on meditation flags at Menotomy Rocks Park, 129 Jason Street, Arlington along with 26 meditation flags hosted at Kickstand Café, 594 Mass Avenue in Arlington’s Cultural District. Here’s a peak into her work and process.
THE VIRUS SERIES Beginning on March 13, 2020, I began a daily meditative drawing practice which continued for a year. At a time of chaos, fear, uncertainty, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this practice offered a way to process and portray the emotional, mental, and physical feelings of living under lockdown. Using abstract mark making, expressive color and texture, the rhythm of shapes and movement of lines, I sought to document a specific moment in time; the collection of 365 drawings became an archive of a pandemic year.
COMMUNITY INTERVIEWS For my Spring 2021 Artist-in-Residence project with the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, I developed a powerful complementary body of work: 50 sketches drawn in response to the community pandemic stories of diverse Arlingtonians. I interviewed leaders in town government that ranged from the Town Manager to the Fire Chief. I reached out to front-line workers, teachers, medical professionals, local business owners, and engineers. I spoke to students, working parents, and retired seniors. Some of the stories I heard were heart-breaking – but most were inspiring accounts of resiliency, compassion, and humanity.
MENOTOMY ROCKS PARK INSTALLATION The centerpiece of Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience is a major installation in one of Arlington’s most beautiful green spaces, a rustic park which offered respite and sanctuary for many during the pandemic. Within the woods here, in the midst of a pine grove, I sought to create an inviting place where visitors can reconnect with nature and engage in peaceful contemplation and healing. 100 meditation flags are suspended in this grove; 50 drawings from my original Virus Series complement the 50 new drawings created in response to the pandemic experiences of others through these community interviews.
The installation is inspired by prayer flags used by many cultures to promote peace and strength. Each flag has it’s own story to tell. “Responding” captures the Fire Chief’s responsibility to direct his team to go into any emergency situation despite a highly contagious virus. “Madness” for the neighbor who works at a large grocery and remembers the chaos of the first day of lockdown when every shelf was swept clean by desperate shoppers. “Heartfelt” for the café owner whose priority was to keep her staff safe, and “Mourn” for the business owner forced to close. “Wary” for the elderly resident who felt she could only breathe freely when outside riding her bike on a sunny day.
Each separate flag illuminates a particular aspect of the pandemic, a unique story. Experienced together as a whole, one senses the interconnectedness of all of our individual experiences and stories during this strange time of shared isolation.
Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience is on view through October 2021. Funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Investment Portfolio/Project Grant, Friends of Menotomy Rocks Park and individual supporters. For information, visit ArtsArlington.org.