Colossal New York portrait gives face to invisible COVID-19 victims

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

New York City, US, May 27 (efe-epa).- Artist Jorge Rodríguez Gerada adds some finishing touches with his paint gun to his 2,230-square-meter portrait of Latin American pediatrician Ydelfonso Decoo, one of the first health workers to die in New York as a consequence of COVID-19.

The artist wants Dominican Decoo to be the face to represent the thousands of people who have died from the novel coronavirus during the epidemic, said Henry Muñoz, co-founder of the organization SOMOS Community Care and curator of the work.

The Cuban-American artist’s team, based in Barcelona, Spain, helps him complete his work with the help of a drone, since the image painted on the asphalt of the Queens Museum parking lot is only seen fully from above.

“Muñoz… asked me if I would be interested in paying tribute to a doctor who died from the virus, a pediatrician who was one of the first to die, and to make it almost like an altar, in a way that people can go and leave candles and things like that to thank all the people who are giving their lives,” the artist told EFE.

The size of the piece reflects “that this really is an important moment and this work speaks of this, the tribute that we must give to these people.”

The artist holds a smaller portrait of the pediatrician in his left hand and continuously studies it along with the drone images.

In a nearby stall, his team prepares all the material so that the work of art can be inaugurated this weekend.

The area is filled with buckets of paint which were found in three large DIY stores in the north of the Queens neighborhood, one of the hardest hit by the virus and home to a large number of ethnic an cultural minorities, especially Latin Americans.

“Many heroes have fallen. The number of deaths has a disproportionate number of Latinos and African Americans who are falling and this has to do with the jobs they have in the United States and more than anything in New York: on the front line, like nurses, doctors, those who take the buses and the trains. This was to pay homage to all these people,” Rodríguez said from a spot at which the unfinished portrait looks like a blue lake on the asphalt.

Rodríguez says that he likes to play with “how we see the world from above,” how we look at reality through applications such as Google Earth or Google Maps, and that he would like this work to be picked up by these eyes from the air “so that everyone can see it.”

The art piece, like many of his works, will not last forever on the asphalt of the parking lot, but all possible images of it are collected so that it is not lost in time or forgotten, like so many names, efforts and heroes in the coronavirus crisis.

SOMOS, a health care organization made up mostly of descendants of immigrants, two thirds of them Latin Americans, has collaborated with the NGO Make the Road and the El Barrio museum to carry out this project.

Rodríguez only needs to complete the eyes to see the entire face of Decoo, with his blue cap and mask, just like those worn today by the artist and many New Yorkers to prevent the virus from stealing more lives. EFE-EPA


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