A slice of American cheese with sewed thread forming a face

Lyra Purugganan’s American Cheese Series is an example of the use of humor in her artistic approach. Purugganan said the piece is a criticism of American patriotism and how inauthentic it feels to call herself an American. Credit: Lyra Purugganan

It’s possible to find creative inspiration even if you have to stay between four walls most of the time.

Quarantine disrupted the normal means of doing daily tasks and discouraged social interaction. Students, artists and local creatives had to find new ways to draw creative inspiration and work in a time where both access to resources and opportunities for collaboration were limited.

Genevieve Wagner, a fourth-year in studio art, had to be self-motivated and find inspiration to make art during the lockdown. Wagner, a printmaker,  said that observing and appreciating her own surroundings made it possible for her to create. 

“It made it better to draw the spaces around me, because by doing that I noticed little things are really beautiful,” Wagner said. “By drawing that and translating it through pen to paper, it made me appreciate little moments in the quarantine.”

Fellow printmaker Lyra Purugganan, a fifth-year in art, said using art as a tool to deal with hardships faced during the shutdown was beneficial to her creativity. This inspired her “comical” approach towards her work during difficult times.

“It’s a way for me to cope with being in a very stressful time like this. I personally think it’s necessary in the art that I make and I like seeing it in other people’s art, too,” Purugganan said. “There are parts of (my artwork) that is very serious, but I think the approach is more comical than the undertones.”

Purugganan’s use of humor as a form of personal expression is exemplified in her American Cheese Series. Using American cheese singlets as a surface to create her artwork on, Purugganan said that the series is a criticism of American patriotism and how it feels both wrong and inauthentic to call herself an American. She described this feeling as “cheesy.”

Observing his surroundings through a camera lens, local street photographer Andrew Yates, known in Columbus as “Yatezy,” drew inspiration from his network of artists in the city.

“I tried to just stay around the creative people I’ve been around and other photographers and stuff, because then if we didn’t have, say, models to shoot, well then we can just be each other’s models and keep the creativity going that way,” Yates said. “Looking at other photographers still working during a time like that and seeing what they’re able to do also inspired me to be like ‘Hey, I can still create with everything I have right in front of me.’”

Yates said that the inspiration he drew from Columbus’ artists and photographers also came from content they posted on social media. 

No greater opportunity was presented for the local art community to come together and produce content during quarantine than the protests that went on in Columbus following the death of George Floyd, Wagner said. 

“You saw so much love and honor in the artwork that people put up on the boarded up buildings,” Wagner said. “I think it was just a time for everyone to look at Columbus and observe it for what it is.” 

Yates said that the protests allowed him to use his platform to show the lengths people went to make their voices heard.

“It’s really history repeating itself. It presented, to me, a super dope opportunity to capture history,” Yates said.

Purugannan feels that the protests reaffirmed her confidence in her work as well as in the Columbus art community.

“It’s definitely created like a tighter-knit art community,” Purugganan said. “I guess I have also seen the importance of being an artist, especially during all of the protests.”