May 11, 2021

A colossal portrait to put a face to the invisible victims of COVID-19

The artist Jorge Rodríguez Gerada gives his last touches with his paint gun to the 2,230-square-meter portrait of the Latin American pediatrician Ydelfonso Decoo, one of the first health workers killed in New York as a result of COVID-19.

He wants it to be the face that represents the thousands of “invisible” names, the tens of thousands of people who have died from the coronavirus during this pandemic, explains Henry Muñoz, co-founder of the organization Somos en Estados Unidos and curator of the work.

His image is not well perceived if it is not from a bird’s eye view, from the air, where a drone from the Cuban-American artist’s team based in Barcelona helps him complete his work, printed on the floor of the Queens Museum parking lot.

“Muñoz, who now works with the Somos foundation, 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 do it almost like an altar, in a way that the People can go and leave candles and things like that to thank all the people who are leaving their lives, “says Efe the painter, used to raising works of this size.

A colossal size that is not the result of chance but reflects “that this really is an important moment and this work speaks of this, the tribute that we must give to these people.”

At no time does he detach himself from the portrait of the pediatrician that he holds in his left hand and consults continuously, together with the images offered by the drone.

In a nearby stall, his team prepares all the material, so that the work can be inaugurated this weekend. Buckets and buckets of paint accumulate in three large DIY areas in the area, in the extreme north of the Queens neighborhood, one of the most hit by the virus, and home to a large number of ethnic and cultural minorities , especially Latin Americans.

“There are many heroes and those who have fallen. The number of deaths is 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: the front like the nurses, the doctors, those who take the buses and the trains. It was to pay homage to all these people, “Rodríguez explains, from an angle of the still unfinished portrait, which looks like a blue lake on the asphalt.

Like other of his works, Rodríguez Gerada explains 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 assures that he would like this work to be picked up by these eyes from the air “so that everyone can see it”.

The work, like many of his works, will not last on the asphalt of the Queens Museum parking lot, but it collects all the possible images so that it is not lost in time or forgotten, like so many names, as many efforts, as so many heroes in this crisis.

Somos, a healthcare association made up mostly of descendants of immigrants, two thirds of them Latin Americans, has collaborated with the NGO Make the Road and the New York museum in El Barrio to carry out this artistic project.

Rodríguez Gerada only needs to complete his eyes, so that all his work can be seen, the face of the Dominican pediatrician Ydelfonso Decoo, with his blue cap and mask, like the one worn by the artist and many New Yorkers today to prevent the virus keep stealing lives.

Jorge Fuentelsaz


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