UTSA Gallery 23 hosts student exhibition: ‘The Joy of Art: Turning a pandemic into beauty’

Sofia Garcia, Arts & Life Editor

This time last year, we were first learning about the pandemic and soon became confined to our homes for what felt like a century. During that time, people began tapping into their creative abilities and using art as an outlet for what the pandemic brought: fear, frustration, sadness, boredom and uncertainty. Hobbies were easily discovered by channeling those feelings into mediums like drawing, painting, photography, writing and sculpting. As students finished off their spring classes, there was finally more time to spend making art and creating more meaning in their lives during difficult times. The art they created is now being showcased in the UTSA Student Union Gallery 23 exhibition, “The Joy of Art: Turning a Pandemic into Beauty.” 

The featured artists in this exhibition are Vivica Young-Odor, Yenifer Hernandez, Catherine Fiscal, McKenzie Boop, Ruby Coker, Vanessa Mallari, Leonardo De Jesus, Catalina Shaw, Emily Green and Katie Quinlivan. Each of their pieces represents a different time in the pandemic for the artists. For example, Vivica Young-Odor’s piece is an immaculate drawing of The Joker, a character she resonates with.

Vivica Young-Odor

“I created this piece when the pandemic was putting a toll on my family as well as my own mental health, and I needed an outlet to express my feelings,” Young-Odor said in her artist statement. 

Another artist, Catherine Fiscal, used her sculpture, a wire representation of the words, ‘Are you okay?!’ to depict a transformative time in her life.

Catherine Fiscal

“After being asked the simple question, ‘Are you okay?’ I was able to open up and get the help I needed. Although this pandemic has brought its challenges, I can confidently say that it has helped me learn so much about myself and grow as a person,” Fiscal said. 

Fiscal enjoyed being able to channel her feelings into her art.

“Recreating such a pivotal moment in my life has brought me joy to celebrate the fact that I’m still here. With this conversation between my mom and I, it also taught me to appreciate those that check on us and the value of vulnerability.”

Like many people throughout the pandemic, artist McKenzie Boop found solace through art. In her digital design, Boop outlined the body of a woman on a black background. She used stationary with quotes as the pop of color, along with one single rose next to the outline. 

McKenzie Boop

“I pulled this piece together over time and learned a whole new style of art. It helped me find an art I’m really comfortable with,” she wrote in her artist statement.

In his compelling graphite drawing of George Floyd, Leonardo De Jesus portrayed his feelings about Floyd’s death. 

Leonardo de Jesus

“I made this in the first days of the riots over the death of George Floyd, and it made me think about how many times my mother has warned me about these things. It made me really think that could be me. In making this piece, I felt like I was personally contributing by doing what I know best in how it relates to the pandemic,” De Jesus said. 

Living through a pandemic has not been easy by any means, but through the art of self-expression, we can all find peace and comfortability. The contributions of each artist helped to produce a captivating exhibition for students and faculty to see. The exhibition is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m until April 1.