Art + Science: The Pandemic: Linda Alterwitz
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the artists who were able to avoid severe illness or hospitalization were given a unique gift of time to respond to our world in a state of upheaval. Many were inspired to create new projects that responded to the unique time in our world. Others had the opportunity to revisit archives and return to unfinished work. This week features photography projects created during this time, focusing on unique connections that emphasize a calling for empathy, friendship or love.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the greatest threats due to its high mortality rates and the considerable impact it has had on psychological and economic arenas. Controlling the pandemic depended on a large proportion of the population becoming immune to the virus, either naturally, or artificially through mass vaccination. Vaccinations changed our stay-at-home experience, allowing us to tiptoe back into the world. Our Art + Science Editor, Linda Alterwitz has created a new series, Injection Site: Making the Vaccine Visible, that gives us a look at how the body reacts to the vaccine. Alterwitz states: “Injection Site: Making the Vaccine Visible so vividly shows reactions of the vaccine within our individual bodies and how we can react differently, yet the vaccine is a one-size-fits-all product for universal use regardless of size, shape, age, or health.“
Alterwitz is releasing a Special Limited Edition publication of this work entitled Injection Site: Making the Vaccine Visible. Pre-sales begin on December 12th, 2022. This hardback self-published book accompanies a 2023 exhibition at the Lilley Art Museum, Nevada. The limited edition of 100 was designed by Linda Alterwitz and Jace Graf and bound by Cloverleaf Studio in Austin, Texas. Included within the book is a limited edition 33″ x 7″ print.
In 2020, I thought deeply about how art could make a substantial impact upon the politically- charged global medical crisis. In the ongoing series, Injection Site: Making the Vaccine Visible, I invite viewers to experience a heightened sense of awareness to the physiological effects of the COVID-19 vaccination by traversing the science and constructs that have created divisions in the United States.
When the first COVID-19 vaccines were distributed in January 2021, I used a high-resolution thermal camera to document and track the body’s reaction to the vaccine. I have, to date, photographed 130 participants’ arms at their injection sites. The photographs were taken at different stages based on the amount of time since injection, ranging from fifteen minutes to four weeks after receiving the vaccine.
The resulting photographs reveal each participant’s unique immunological response to the injection, tracking the degree of physical reaction to the virus in a way that corresponds to their individual physiology.
The images document each subjects’ unique response, with darker areas in the photograph representing heat and inflammation. Some photographs reveal more heat radiating and spreading through an arm, while others reveal minimal visual heat.
Each of these portraits takes on formal qualities of the human image with an implied degree of spatial depth within each body. There is a surreal beauty that invites the viewer to engage in this difficult subject matter, illuminating the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine is not neutral to our bodies. Reactions to this work can evoke fear, reassurance, or even mixed feelings. As attitudes towards the vaccine continue to divide us both socially and politically with regard to personal choice versus public health, my intention is that this series of photographs will ignite conversation and inspire the viewer to pause, consider the actions and feelings of others, and strive toward a mutual understanding that will help promote and preserve the health and well-being for all of us.
Linda Alterwitz (American, b. 1960) is a visual artist utilizing photography, collage, and interactive methods. Her practice focuses on envisioning the unseen rhythms of the human body and our relationship to the natural world. An informative sixteen-year exploration within the fields of science and technology led her toward an in-depth investigation of the nexus between nature, society, and the individual.
Her current work integrates the authenticity of science and the communicative power of art, sparking dialogue on the intended and unintended consequences of humankind when we separate ourselves from our natural environment.
Alterwitz has received many grants including a strategic investment grant from the Montana Arts Council in 2020, the Jackpot Grant from the Nevada Arts Council in 2016, and a Puffin Foundation Grant in 2015. She was the recipient of the Nevada Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship in 2015. In 2020, she was a finalist for the 2020 Clarence John Laughlin Award. Her work has been published in Smithsonian Magazine, Orion Magazine, The New Statesman, Musee Magazine among others. She has exhibited her work in both traditional exhibition and site-specific installations in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Spain, Israel, Germany, Greece and Poland.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
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