Artistic resilience in a time of adversity

Resilience with a dose of optimism might best describe the work included in the Roche Diagnostics art exhibition, Faces of a Community. When a call to artists focused on portraiture was released to the public in early 2021, the theme had the power to create conversation, suggest accountability, inspire compassion and express identity in new, artistic ways. The result—46 artists looking in and through the eyes of others to tell important stories relevant to this juncture in our history, a time punctuated with loss and longing.

Roche has partnered with the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance (SAACA) since 2004, merging their biotech community and the general public through access to the arts via quarterly art exhibitions. What started as a simple campus beautification and “get to know your community” project 17 years ago has grown into exhibitions that are truly tied to the company mission of doing now what patients need next as well as a rich and impactful arts+business integration experience. 

Faces of a Community illustrates the tempo and often private-gone-public sentiments of residents near Roche’s Southern Arizona site—artistic expressions that seem to reflect more broad 2020/2021 social themes of loss, exclusion, inequity, power and longing.

Artist Lucretia Torva decided to create a very large (4’x 5’) portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to accentuate her contemporary and historical importance. She chose a luminous metallic background to honor Ms. Bader Ginsberg, creating an elegant visual statement. This painting is just one in a larger series highlighting living and deceased icons including Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.* The RBG piece includes a caption that supports the ideas Lucretia wants to portray to the audience. “Ruth was a natural for this series of larger than life portraits. She devoted decades to making our lives better. The ‘quote’ I chose to accompany her portrait is actually a phrase she used to describe herself in a 2017 interview: Flaming Feminist Litigator.”

RGB by Lucretia Torva

During the pandemic, galleries and museums were shut down. Lizzy Lubitsky’s work was impacted by this new virtual art viewing conundrum, but took up the challenge to further express her deep interest in the intersection of art and technology. In her paintings, this interest manifests in the use of diagrams and data visualization. She shared that “even when we are together physically, the mandatory separation of six feet remains but the collective consciousness among artists and scientists is alive, no matter the distance.” During this time of isolation she’s grown creatively by learning to let go of perfection and embrace experimentation and failure, which is important to artistic and scientific growth.

Lizzy shared her process in creating Cecil’s Socks, a jigsaw puzzle of anecdotes and imagery. “The title describes a very literal pair of socks a friend was wearing on a particularly transformative trip we made to the Mars-like landscape of Lake Powell. The socks are represented in the piece as bright red cherries on a vibrant yellow background. Two chairs greet the viewer, stoic and uniform, like the guards outside of a palace. As a transplant from Philadelphia, the desert landscape is so new to me, with a magic that seems to never end. The piece also speaks to my tendency towards depression and anxiety, a feeling that can grow when experiencing a new place for the first time. I included the desert cowboy’s face as a mirror, symbolically isolated among the colorful textures of the painting.”

Alex by Navi Naisang

Navi Naisang is new to Southern Arizona and was looking for ways to form community, especially during lock down. Having an outlet to create new work that portrays people who impact her personal life as well as trying out a new, desert-influenced color palette piqued her interest in participating. The painting, Alex, illuminates a coworker and potential muse. Navi shared that when feelings overwhelm, her first instinct is to paint to try to resolve them. “Alex has such a sunny personality, I couldn't resist painting him a fiery Arizona orange.”

After the murder of George Floyd, Kell Nelson began a series of work that speaks to racial violence in the United States. Two of her pieces in this exhibition, It begins in trouble and Out of nowhere, address this complex topic. In these pieces, she is repurposing found photographs from the 1950s that show white boys holding and posing with guns. In other pieces from this series, the white boys are seen aiming the gun at the person taking the photo. “It is important,” Nelson says, “to remember the names of the victims of gun violence. It is also important to remember who was holding the gun, who pulled the trigger.”

Out of nowhere by Kell Nelson

When finalizing the Faces of a Community exhibition, Roche and SAACA considered not only the quality and creativity of each piece, but dug deeper into some of these fascinating backstories. Some work directly addresses the realities of quarantines, rendering what loneliness feels like, while others focus on the current political landscape. 

Many of the works transport us to a specific place and convey a distinct state of mind. All celebrate life and remind us of the importance of community in a time of adversity, leaving us with a glimmer of hope for the future.

Enjoy the show!


*Only RBG is included in the Faces of a Community exhibition. To view more paintings in this series, go to the artists' website.


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