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‘Despite Darkness’: Art in the age of COVID

Local artist Kat Chudy and Chudy’s partner of three years, Joshua Flores, have spent their time in quarantine creating and making art together. They hope to bring the Las Cruces community together in these unprecedented times through art that they hope documents the real emotions of ordinary people who are living through a global pandemic.

(Image courtesy of Kat Chudy and Joshua Flores)

Their show, titled “Despite Darkness,” opens Saturday, Feb. 13. Chudy and Flores will be displaying a collection of mixed media art pieces and prints they have created in quarantine together over the past few months. They hope that these art pieces will affect everyone on a personal level and that viewers’ own emotions will be portrayed and understood through their art.

“It gives people a chance to see something that they recognize and relate to — and maybe feel a little less alone,” Chudy said.

While it’s been difficult for people to join together and share life experiences during the pandemic, Chudy and Flores want the citizens of Las Cruces to know that their struggles and frustrations are valid and acknowledged, and that there are people who care and want to help.

Flores and Chudy have been using their art to release their own stress and anxiety that they have experienced while coping with the massive lifestyle changes that COVID-19 has forced on everyone.

They have been creating art as a distraction, while others may turn to different hobbies to deal with the ongoing stress of quarantine. “We’ll look at each other and wonder, ‘How do these people that don’t do art get by?’ There’s Netflix and video games and stuff, but we like to create,” Flores said.

Local artists Kat Chudy, left, and Joshua Flores pose for a photo in their home studio. (Photo by Nicole Liverett/Kokopelli)

When Flores is not creating art, he is working at an assisted living facility where he sees the people who have been impacted by the pandemic the most. He says the individuals who he cares for are always asking him about his latest projects. “I would love [for] them to see [the show]. I would like them to see everything that we do,” Flores said.

Chudy and Flores say they want their art to reach everyone in the local community. They view the pieces in this art show as a way to display the intense emotions of frustration, loss and worry that people have been feeling during the pandemic. “As artists, we have a duty to document and react to what is going on because these things end up becoming part of history later that people look back on,” Chudy said.

Years from now, there will be statistics and other scholarly findings regarding the losses of many varieties during this pandemic, but nothing can capture the emotions of those who lived through it like art in its many forms. When people in the future want to figure out what everyone thought about these times, they will look at the art. “I feel like these are all artifacts along the way of this journey,” Chudy said.

Art studio and home of artists Kat Chudy and Joshua Flores. (Photo by Nicole Liverett/Kokopelli)

Many pieces in the show incorporate materials specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, from COVID test kit boxes to the masks that all of us are required to wear anytime we are out in public. The show will unmistakably be a sole product of its time and undoubtably include materials that will later be considered artifacts of a time that was nothing short of devastating for so many who lived through it.

“Despite Darkness” opens Saturday, Feb. 13, at Art Obscura in Mesilla Park. The show will be open to the public from 12–5 p.m. on Feb. 13, and 12–4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through March 7.

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