While the streets of New York City may have emptied since the start of the lockdown, street art has maintained an aggressive presence, spawning a new genre devoted to addressing the pandemic and how it's changed our lives.
One artist of note in that vein is Sara Erenthal, a Brooklyn-based, self-taught artist whose work focuses on displacement, survival and liberation. "Art is my therapy," she tells Time Out, "I’m always creating art about my daily struggles, experiences and hopes, so my work naturally turned to the crisis as soon as it became a topic of conversation."
Often appearing on objects discarded next to the curb (mattresses, appliances, pieces of furniture, etc.), her art depicts lone female figures above messages that range from public service-y ("Please wear a mask and practice social distancing") to heartfelt ("Can't wait for the day when I can hug you again"). This approach dates back to a habit of collecting canvases off the street to save money on art supplies. "One day I found a window that I wanted to take home and work on instead," she says, "but it was too heavy, so I drew on it and left it. Later, I learned a couple had picked it up, and since then I've been drawing on any object with a good surface."
Going out in the middle of the crisis certainly entails risk, but Erenthal's says she feels compelled to pursue her work because it is "an important part of my sanity.” She adds, "I only create work where there's enough space for people to walk around me safely."
Erenthal has created about 50 covid-related pieces, some in Manhattan, but mostly in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights. But as she’s quick to point out, her current project is a continuation of her work as a whole. "I’m hoping to share beauty, positivity, hope and the feeling of not being alone," she says. "I also love that the trash I work on is often adopted and saved from the landfill."
You can see more of Erenthal's work on her Instagram account.
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