“The road is mostly empty — just a stray dog and one other person wearing a funky homemade face mask,” says Richie Vios. “Most of the bars and saloons are closed; only essential establishments are open to the public, often with big warning signs reminding people to stay six feet apart and hand sanitizer all over the place. That’s the scenario where I live in South Texas. But just a month and a half ago, I was competing in the Lighthouse ArtCenter’s Plein Air Festival in Palm Beach, Florida. For me, the event marked the last days when the world felt normal. Shortly after, everything began to break loose. Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, and events I had scheduled into June began to cancel. Of most urgent concern, however, I had a 20-hour drive ahead of me from Florida to Texas. To break up the trip, I had a hostel reservation in New Orleans, where I was able to slip in some plein air painting.
“With the city already in the process of locking down, the famous landmarks and tourist spots were nearly desolate. I wanted to document history in this moment with my paintings of the Natchez Steamboat and St. Louis Cathedral, surreally absent the usual throngs of visitors.”
“When I arrived at my studio in late March, I took a weeklong corona-cation (coronavirus quarantine + vacation), doing little but watching the scary news reports on tv and erasing one event after another from my big whiteboard calendar. With so much else out of my hands, I decided to do the one thing within my control — paint. Thus began my Covid-19 painting series.
“At this point, I’m imagining a series of 12 paintings total in the series. They will be exhibited online at my website www.vioswatercolor.com or if lockdown guidelines permit, a gallery show may be announced to view the pieces in person. Forty percent of the proceeds from this series will go to local Covid-19 victim aid.”