Art of Social Distancing

Art of Social Distancing

Yesterday, my friend, Femi, called from Maryland and we had a long and beautiful conversation on the art of social distancing.

He wanted to buy a painting.

I told him I was happy to sell a painting and sent him a picture of the work.

I said the painting would look good as a Zoom backgrounder—like when FOX News calls and wants your opinion.

Are you going to panic because the artless interior of your home would suddenly become exposed to hundreds of millions of people on television and social media?

Or will you rush out and purchase some art—painting, sculptures, prints, photographs, whatever—to create a background?

You realize that whatever background you create says a lot about you.

Lately, I have been studying the interior deco of the pundits who appear on television in the era of social distancing.

Also, I’ve been paying attention to the backgrounds of the participants in all Zoom meetings, conferences and classes.

As a professor who is compelled to instruct online in the era of the pandemic, I am also conscious of the background of my Zoom classes.

“I am concerned that the painting is too abstract,” Femi said. “I like it but I want something more surreal, more African.”

“I have lots of those, as you know,” I replied, “but as my friend, I would recommend to you an art that fits this era of social distancing.”

“I hear you,” Femi responded. “But what do you mean by saying the painting would make a good Zoom backgrounder? I could easily pull a Zoom background off the internet as use it when I need it.”

“Sure, you could,” I explained, “and it would look like something pulled off the internet, artificial and sterile. That says a lot about you.”

“But the painting you sent me is too calm,” Femi continued. “It looks like a mural in a daycare center, too easy and too simple.”

“True,” I said, “it appears simple. Appearing simple is different from being simple or easy. It is very difficult, and not in any way easy, to make things look simple and easy. To make complex things look simple and easy takes many years of study and practice.”


“In this series of paintings,” I explained, “I am paying attention to heat. Visual heat. Our minds react to visual heat all the time. Everything visible produces visual heat.”

“I see,” Femi said.

“The visual heat of artworks in the daycare centers for kids is soothing, comfortable, and quite balanced out,” I explained.

“True,” Femi agreed.

“These days, there is a place for an art that produces calm, soothing, and comforting visual heats,” I said, “in a world ravaged by COVID 19. All public places should have them. Museums should commission them. Just as people who participate in Zoom meetings. It’s an essential business investment.”

“Send me your bank account information,” Femi said, “and I will text you the address to send the painting.”

“Plus the cost of mailing, please,” I reminded him.

Be safe.

Socially distance.

Koro dey town o.

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