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Joanne Leonard on Coronavirus Curves and the Art of Everyday Life

Little prince
Lit­tle Prince and Covid Curves, Joanne Leonard, 2020 

Joanne Leonard, Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor Emerita at the Stamps School, dis­cusses how art helps us process tragedies and trauma for Med­i­cine @ the Museum, a vir­tual inter­view series by the U‑M Museum of Art (UMMA) that explores the ways that objects from the UMMA col­lec­tion can help us explore cur­rent events and themes related to COVID-19

In her episode of Med­i­cine @ the Museum, Leonard talks about her process of mak­ing the News­pa­per Diary series, includ­ing her recent work, Lit­tle Prince and Covid Curves.

Leonard’s recent piece, Lit­tle Prince and Covid Curves, jux­ta­poses a page from the children’s book, The Lit­tle Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with a clip­ping from The New York Times from April 7, 2020. The Lit­tle Prince page con­tains two illus­tra­tions, Draw­ing #1,” and Draw­ing #2,” sketches under­taken in the story by the book’s nar­ra­tor as a lit­mus test of the dis­cern­ment of those he meets. Both sketches rep­re­sent an ele­phant that has been swal­lowed by a boa con­stric­tor, but the top image is con­fused for a hat by those who can­not imag­ine what might be inside.

The New York Times image in the lat­est addi­tion to News­pa­per Diary con­tains two curves show­ing the chang­ing num­ber of coro­n­avirus cases in China. The shape of the now-iconic COVID curve mir­rors the sketches of an ele­phant swal­lowed by a boa con­stric­tor from The Lit­tle Prince. 

This sym­me­try is an oppor­tu­nity for dis­cern­ment and invites com­par­isons between the two con­texts. What would the nar­ra­tor of The Lit­tle Prince think of our responses to the COVID curve, and what uni­ver­sal themes are we liv­ing through in this moment of pan­demic? How are chil­dren and their par­ents cop­ing with the pan­demic in their every­day routines?

Artist Joanne Leonard on Coro­n­avirus Curves and the Art of Every­day Life | umma​.umich​.edu