As the COVID-19 virus death toll eclipses 100,000 in the United States — a huge portion of the approximately 350,000 deaths worldwide — tributes in various forms proliferate. The Queens Museum, in partnership with immigrant healthcare network SOMOS Community Care and advocacy organization Make the Road New York, among others, is preparing a huge mural dedicated to one of the hardest hit areas in New York City. A 20,000-square-foot mural by artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada is in the process of being laid out across the canvas of the Queens Museum parking lot. The resulting image, that of a masked medical professional, will be at a scale that makes it visible to satellites.
Titled “Somos La Luz” (“We Are the Light”), the portrait features the eyes of Dr. Ydelfonso Decoo, a physician and the secretary of SOMOS, who died of the virus.
Rodríguez-Gerada is a Cuban-American artist who works primarily at large-scale portraiture situated in urban environments — or “urban land art” — according to his website.
But the work likewise stands in recognition of the healthcare workers who continue to risk their lives in the fight against the as-yet unpreventable virus that has taken the country like wildfire. Even as individual states and countries negotiate the terms of “re-opening” — with no meaningful changes in the conditions that sparked the stay-at-home orders that have prevented even worse public health outcomes — one suspects that even a 20,000-square-foot reminder of the stakes might not be enough to discourage Americans from risking their health, and others’. Still, it seems that Rodríguez-Gerada is determined that his work create a space of hope and healing.
“I wanted to create a place to mourn, where we can contemplate the difficulties that so many people are going through, after losing so many loved ones,” Rodríguez-Gerada told artnet News. “It’s a place that, in a political climate where there is more division than ever, we can find a way to bring ourselves back together as a community and as a nation.”