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Reflections on Social Distancing

Emily Katral ’20 wrote about her experience and feelings with social distancing for the Social Justice 12 class. She used art as a way to showcase how she was feeling
The first two weeks of “social distancing,” “lockdown” and “quarantine” were nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster for me, personally. See, the first little while of it my brain had hardly recognized or accepted the fact that this would be our new reality for the following months of the year. Of course, at the time we hadn’t known the timeline of this pandemic. As time escalated and a few days became a week and then a week became two weeks, I noticed myself feeling frustrated and excessively restless. Like a puppy stuck in a kennel, it was difficult for me to accept not being able to see my friends in person, to hug them and laugh with them and go on drives and all the other things that we teenagers do. Not to mention the realization that we wouldn’t be having an in-person grad! That we wouldn’t be experiencing our senior year of high school to its full extent. Phew! Sitting at home, in Vancouver, with the company of my mum left me and my anxious brain thinking about all the expectations and plans I had for this seemingly bodacious year (2020! Holy smokes!). I was so stoked, like many other Grade 12’s, to get my license, to graduate, to spend springtime and summertime living it up before we all had to buckle down for university. This brought me a lot of inner grief and feelings of pitty, why us? Why me? This was supposed to be a great year. We all felt that it would be a great year. As time progressed, I began to accept the new reality and have days where I felt like “hey, I can do this, this isn’t so bad” and days where the negative emotions would prevail yet again. To reiterate, it was an emotional turmoil.
 
As this project was placed into the Social Justice class fruition I knew right away that I wanted to use my hands and my creative mind. However, my ideas did not fall into a linear projection. At first, I wanted to make a zine, this I still plan on doing, just not for school purposes. A zine felt too impersonal towards what I was really trying to express. So I thought some more, a playlist perhaps? Poetry? Journal entries? No, no and no. None of these ideas sat right with me, there needed to be more oomph! One day, as I sat on the couch, I began staring at all of my art supplies. My brushes, tubes of paint and bare canvases. Every supply stared back at me and called to me. I had not painted since winter break. This was because around that time I had just finished my FINAL piece for my IB Art class. Truth be told, I was sick and tired of painting! Too much art had to be created, so quickly, one after the other and once I handed in the concluding artwork, I wanted to be finished with painting for a long while. Yet I had been struck with the urge to paint again, my passion, my love to create, that spark self-ignited and I knew that my assignment had been brought to life. 
 
Finally, I felt ready to release myself from my slump. I thought to myself, what better way to represent the continual change of emotion and the progression of time, then through clouds. Clouds, which are also constantly changing as each day comes and goes. With paint in my hair, on my face and clothes and brush on canvas, I pushed every feeling of resentment I beheld into the fabric. This was my mechanism of coping, and day by day I sat for hours, layering blues and purples, white upon white in a frenzy of strokes. Soft, and harsh pressure and movement, creating a mess that slowly started to look like the sky. While some days I enjoyed painting, other days it felt like a chore, but as with anything I pushed through it and reached a point of contentment. Through this project, and not to sound cheesy, I learnt what it meant to tap into your inner feelings. I learnt that it was okay, that I should not be ashamed, to feel sadness. We as humans always strive towards finding happiness, being happy, however, life does not travel in a straight line. Life swoops you upwards, sideways, upside down and straight back up again, and allowing myself to express these angles of life through painting (and writing) has really helped me develop as an individual in her adolescence. 

In between classes and after school I would sit by my canvas playing with colours, watching them transform right before my eyes. I like to place meaning into the colours I use, in this painting, the primary colour is a deep shade of blue that makes up the majority of the background. This represents the harrowing sadness that fuelled the piece itself, all of the negative emotion, represented by a mix of blues and purples sits beneath a layer of thick fluffy clouds. Interestingly enough, the colour purple is a very unique colour to use within artworks. In colour theory, purple is a mix of red and blue, the colour of red typically represents anger or passion, whereas blue represents sadness, so when these two colours mix to create purple, a specific tone (an almost ominous tone) is created within the atmosphere of the painting. To contrast this and make the painting more visually appealing I used stark titanium white to depict the clouds. Light colours represent the feeling of vitality, hope and healing, which diverge against the melancholy blue. These colours are not harsh on the eye, nor do they provoke a heavy feeling of what a rich blue is typically associated with. Every layer I paint from this point on will only thicken the clouds, emphasizing the feeling of hope and diminishing the darkness of the background. Eventually reflecting that with time comes change, and change can only happen with time. Soon, once this pandemic is over, we will only be seeing white fluffy clouds against gentle skies. 
 
I often find myself questioning the ways we as humans can become stronger together. I see that now, more than ever, humanity is beginning to take a stand against systematic corruption we witness in our country, our neighbouring country and nations abroad. People are devastated and exhausted from the continual parts of weakness in the promises made by our “leaders.” We as Canadians are lucky enough to live in a country like Canada, but even here are instances of racism, police brutality and broken promises. More and more, Canadians are not allowing this to be forgotten about, we are not allowing this to be swept under the rug until the next tragedy occurs. I observe myself that my generation of individuals does not stand for such things, that we fight for things that shouldn’t be happening. We are young, but we are strong and endlessly trying. Along with this, we won’t be youth forever, and soon it will be us who will become old enough to vote, become politicians and truly change parts of the system we disagree with. I look up to women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who speaks her voice, who doesn’t change her physical appearance to suit that of her male counterparts, a small example of how she presents her beliefs would be from this article recently posted (Article Link). I look towards individuals such as Bernie Sanders, a politician in his 70’s, who despite his age fights for minorities and reversing economic inequality (Article Link). It really gives no excuse to the elders around us to be prejudice towards other races because “that was the norm when they grew up”. For now, we wait and change in other ways. Sharing via the media, signing petitions, protesting, educating ourselves as well as others, correcting the people with racist remarks or disrespect without hesitation. All of these actions though seemingly small become great movements if the majority of people participate and that is how change is slowly beginning to be made. I remember Rosa Parks, an iconic historical figure who made great waves of change in America, with her “pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott.” (referenced from Link). Systematic change is possible, but systematic change will only happen if we fight for it, like we are doing within the tumultuous year of 2020, like we have been trying for years and years before the present. The systematic change we fight to see will happen, through courage, patience and resilience.
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