Advent Hope: Health Care Workers in the Time of Covid-19

Each year our church (Awaken Community in St. Paul) does an Advent Series, focusing on a variety of themes including darkness and hope. My art typically leans more towards the darker side, but in an especially turbulent year I decided to focus instead on hope.

Due to the SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic in 2020, masks have been an important part of both battling the infection and keeping healthcare workers safe, while also providing safe care. Working in hospice I've now had a great deal of patients and met a great number of family members who I only know by their eyes and not the rest of their faces - and what I find amazing is how much we can understand and communicate from just using our eyes for facial expressions. 

A typical (and appropriate) image that we've been seeing in the media now is of healthcare workers wearing PPE and looking exhausted, with deep sadness in their eyes.  These are important images, with many reasons for that sadness.  For these portraits however, I decided to do the opposite.  These 10 images are of 10 of my current co-workers wearing some of the different masks and other PPE that we wear, but the twist is that under the masks everyone is smiling - because part of our role as healthcare workers is to give hope.  I opted to not do a self-portrait in PPE for this series as I wanted to focus on those people who I see throughout the day (though I was only able to photograph a handful of my co-workers as I had a short window once I started the project before I needed to complete it). 

Thank you to these friends and to all healthcare workers who are striving to help during these difficult times. 

Jen, Hospice RN Case Manager
Stephanie, Hospice Medical Social Worker

Ashley, Hospice RN Case Manager

Jo, Facility RN

Michael, Hospice Medical Social Worker

Florence, Hospital Medical Social Worker

Sheila, Hospice LPN

Amber, Hospice Medical Social Worker

Penny, Hospice Resource RN

Sue, Hospice Music Therapist

01001001 (8/2020)


The great I

Both Masked and Unmasked Once the Same the Same the 01001001

Cry the Scream the Silence Complicit 01001001 see the I in me and in I

01001001 See you but Pretend not

Flow the See the Time starts now and turn me away to 01001001


Unmasked and Masked I see the Pretend the Face I cannot see

01001001 see so more clearly


The great I

Through Fingers barren the freedom of I The Rights of I the obsession of I

Not the me who you through trust I

but me - recognize Me through your eye


Run the time through Fear of you

Disguised as the glorification of 01001001

Touch from Afar but far from touch

Disconnected through I of 01001001

I walk away from the You that is not Me

Masked yet Unmasked 01001001


The photo is a reflection on how in the time of SARS-CoV-2, though many people are masked both literally and/or metaphorically through being hidden behind a computer, tablet, or phone screen, people have become a lot more vocal about their beliefs.  But without face to face communication much is lost in translation and much misunderstanding is perpetuated (I'm part of this problem just like everyone else).  

The "I" in a negative sense emerges - a disturbing trend of people focusing more on themselves than on others, perpetuated often times through electronic communication which serves to both advocate beliefs that can be harmful, and as a way to rally people to commit harmful acts.  This has been intensified by the murder of George Floyd and other people of color in a time that already has significant social challenge.  This photo is black and white as a reminder of how important discussions of race are right now, and how important it is to be anti-racist to the absolute best of our abilities.

01001001 is the binary code for capital I - in the brief reflection/poem above the number 01001001 should be read as "I."  This is the number stamped on my hands as well, as the electronic communication that can fuel both good and evil is generally entered by hand (or thumbs).  My phone is in my hands as a placeholder for the phones, tablets, and computers we communicate with.

Mask from Diop, a black-owned business based out of Detroit