After painting +150 healthcare worker portraits, local artist to self-publish book

It’s all about the eyes.

At least for Jayashree Krishnan when she painted one of her portraits of a health worker treating patients in a COVID department. This is essentially the only part of them that you can see through all of the personal protective equipment they wear.

This has been the Seattle-based artist’s passion project since May 2020 – painting portraits of healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

It all started when she created one for her cousins, who both work in Michigan hospitals.

“I posted it on social media and suddenly there was a huge amount of appreciation and encouragement,” she said. “Patients and family members, you know, everyone was so grateful for that […] That said something to me. It has been said that art is not just about the work of art, it opened the space for people who were not health care workers to step in and say something encouraging for them. “

In just 10 months, Krishnan has painted more than 150 portraits of health care workers. During this process, she heard her stories about what it was like to fight COVID-19 firsthand. Krishnan himself publishes a book called “Caring for Humanity” which contains these paintings and stories.

Krishnan’s portraits will also be on display at Columbia City Gallery from Friday, February 19 through March 21. 140 of them are shown in the exhibition.

[This Seattle artist has painted more than 80 portraits of healthcare workers]

Through word of mouth and some contacts, Krishnan has made contact with the health care workers she paints – many here in Seattle, some across the country, and even worldwide. After Krishnan posted some of the portraits in the front window of her home, she said a neighbor who works at Virginia Mason asked her to do a series of portraits. Then a health care worker in Philadelphia made contact, and so on.

Krishnan joked that after creating so many, she could probably paint these portraits with her eyes closed. Over time, she said she had refined her technique and could now do about two to three a day.

“I posted every day [the portraits]. The other people in the unit were waiting for their turn, “she said.” It definitely gave them something to look forward to even though they went through very terrible times at work. Little did I know that these portraits would actually make someone feel better. It was a big deal for me to hear that getting a work of art in the mail or physically seeing these portraits actually made people happier. “

This series is about so much more than just a work of art, said Krishnan. It’s about sharing their experiences – what it was like to work in COVID units in the beginning, how it has changed and how some of them, for example, signed COVID themselves.

“Things were just so difficult for them. They had a flaw [of PPE] with the overwhelming number of patients who came in. And on the other hand, there were people who refused to wear masks, “she said.

“As a citizen who wasn’t in the medical field, talking to all these different people who deal with it every day, it started to become real [me], right? There is reality, and then there is this alternative defiance of doing a simple thing like wearing a mask because it could actually save lives and help these people who struggled against it every day. “

Krishnan never intended to turn this series into a book, but was inspired by the stories of these health care workers about how the past year has affected them – “some are sad, some are heartfelt, and some are hopeful,” she said .

We have seen Seattleites similar to Krishnan’s use of art in many creative and inspiring ways during this pandemic. Like local artist Patrick Nguyen, better known as Dozfy, who painted murals on the boarded-up exterior of restaurants and bars in town to spread the positivity in the middle of quarantine. We’ve also seen many companies support non-art healthcare workers – like Ba Bar on Capitol Hill, who partnered with the Seattle Science Foundation and local sponsors to feed 100 hospital workers a day. Krishnan’s portraits seem like a mixture of examples like these.

Krishnan holds special in her heart the connections she has made through this process. Although no two stories were the same, she said some common things she heard were about the exceptional level of teamwork and struggles in fighting a virus that had never been dealt with before.

But there was a common theme that binds each of these stories together – “People who stand up for other people,” hence the book’s title, “Caring for Humanity.”

Because Krishnan is a self-publisher of this book, those interested in purchasing a copy can leave a $ 10 deposit to get an estimate of the number of copies to order. She said the book would most likely cost around $ 40, and that $ 10 would be used for that cost. People can also buy a book for a health professional they know or choose to donate so they can send free copies to those featured. Visit their website for more information.

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