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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