Deming King Harriman’s ‘Isolation’ Series Looks Back on Plagues of the Past
Deming King Harriman imagines an alternate reality where KN95s and surgical gear are swapped for Venetian face coverings and fencing masks. Harriman, a mixed media artist based in Brooklyn, NY, “sought to create a fantasy world mirroring our current situation” with her Isolation series, a collection of digital collages featuring symbols of plagues past that also nod to our current pandemic predicament.
Bats appear frequently throughout Isolation, either in reference to the uncharitable ‘bat soup’ rumor circulating early in the pandemic or because they’re seen as symbols of death and rebirth. As a nod to historical outbreaks, Harriman casts her characters in a wide range of face coverings from different time periods and cultures. Venetian-style masquerade masks, for example, hint at the strong link between port cities and the bubonic plague. Infested with rats and fleas, every ship that docked in Venice between the 14th and 18th centuries had potential to spread the disease.
Despite their horrifying undertones, Harriman’s collages lure viewers into a false sense of security. Jam-packed with eerie symbolism, Isolation is hauntingly beautiful, a reminder that nostalgia often betrays us with gooey visions of an idealized past.
Still, Harriman implies despair isn’t our best option either. Life is a dance, her work suggests, between light and shadow, beauty and ugliness. Only by embracing both can we begin the hard work required for rebirth.
Jam-packed with eerie symbolism, Isolation is hauntingly beautiful, a reminder that nostalgia often betrays us with gooey visions of an idealized past.
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