How does one deal with the stress of isolation during quarantine? Some of us picked up new hobbies while others might have found meditation or new series to binge. Many of us lost it completely. But there are those creative few — many of them artists — who found ways to cope through unique methods.
Luiza Carvalho, a 24-year-old from East Dallas, is one such artist who found a solution to isolation. As an artist who paints primarily watercolor scenes and still life, her style became arguably out of fashion during a global pandemic. The lightness in her watercolor strokes didn’t seem to fit the larger picture encompassing the modern world.
“A lot of still life that I normally do, you know, the fruit in the bowl and the flowers, it just seemed kind of impersonal and too light at the moment,” Carvalho says.
She wanted to find a way to connect to her friends and family outside the house and bring them joy from afar. She found inspiration from a shadow box her mother had put together, displaying items that reminded her of her daughter. The artist named her quarantine series “Distant Still Lives.”
“Just watching any movie or show, and there’s a crowd of people and you’re like, ‘Ah, I miss that.’” Carvalho says. “It gives you that nostalgic feeling. You know, even a photo of things at your friend’s house, it makes you miss them, but in a warm way. You feel close to them at the same time. That’s really what I was trying to capture.”
Going through social-distancing with her boyfriend alone, the artist says that she wanted to use her sense of longing in her artwork.
“I really miss my friends and my family, and seeing them all the time,” Carvalho says. Trying to create through the pandemic has been trying without her usual sources of inspiration surfacing along the way.
“A lot of the times I get inspiration from traveling or going on walks and discovering new places, but that’s something we can’t really do right now," she says. “What we want right now is being close to our loved ones.”
Carvalho's idea was to paint her friends' view of the still life around them, from photographs depicting the arrangements of their own personal objects.
“It’s almost like a social experiment,” the artist says, seeing the series as a way of getting to learn more about others, in addition to adding to her sense of appreciation from afar.
For the first piece in the series, the painter chose her close friend Hannah as subject. Carvalho describes her as “super colorful, talkative, loud in her presence, like the photo itself.” Capturing her friend's presence from a photo and a painting brought her a feeling of connectivity along the way.
“Her photo … just looking at it, I know it’s her," the artist says. "Her love of cats, her favorite snack. It made me laugh when I did it.”
In contrast to her portrait of Hannah, her next two had a closer resemblance to her own point of view. Carvalho’s next two paintings, of her friends Holli and Josi, were put together from photos from Dallas and Colorado.
“Though it’s their vision, I reinterpret it again, and that brings both of us together in a way,” she explains of the collaborations. “We all went to design school together, so the way they framed it was interpreted, for me, [was] in the mind of an interior designer. Directly how you lay things out.”
In this moment of reminiscence, there’s a flicker of happiness that crosses that artist’s face.
“Nostalgia," she says, "but in a warm way."