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Covid Journals

© Accra Shepp

In March of this year Accra Shepp was sitting in his studio under lockdown wondering what he was supposed to be doing as an artist. What should he be looking at, what should he be talking about, what was his responsibility in this strange and hyperbolic moment?

Then it occurred to Shepp. He lived seven blocks from the first hospital in New York City to overflow with covid patients (Elmhurst Hospital). He lived in the epicenter within the epicenter. Shepp's neighborhood and the workers at the hospital were going “unseen.” There were news reports – dire descriptions of lack and uncontrolled contagion – but there was nothing to describe visually what living in the neighborhood looked like. On April 3rd, Shepp began work on the Covid Journals.

“As I followed the virus it began to change, just as it does in the body, so it did within the community. The lockdown led to mass unemployment, which created devastating hunger. Food pantries sprung up, organized by ordinary individuals, aided by restaurants who had ample supplies of food, but no one to eat it.

And then it changed again. When we learned of the murder of George Floyd, our already too-full-hearts overflowed into the streets. In spite of isolation and hunger and in spite of contagion, and the pandemic, people raised their voices to say, “No more.” And so, after the Contagion and Hunger, came the third chapter of the Covid Journals, Justice.”

The project will continue through the development of a vaccine. It will chart whatever future shifts occur in the pandemic, through the autumn and the coming cold weather as well as the presidential election.

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