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Carrying the banner against COVID-19

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Denver muralists Pedro Barrios and Jaime Molina are the first in a planned 10-artist series, “Flags of Resilience,” in which artists lend their unique perspectives to the discussion of the day by creating a flag. (Courtesy of Pedro Barrios and Jaime Molina)

As a small-gallery owner and as an artist – and like many of us – Thais Mather was blindsided by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enter the added urgency of the George Floyd demonstrations and the world at times seems to be at a tipping point.

And that makes it the perfect time for artists to lend their unique perspectives to the discussion.

“We’re under lockdown. Every day. Running a business is challenging for us because we had no income,” Mather said. “But I felt like I had to find some kind of positive labor to do during this time. This is a reflection of how we perceive and present labor itself. Also I wanted to aid people that were dealing with the most difficult challenges of the virus.”

Mather thought a great way to express that was for artists to develop flags to convey their feelings of today’s world.

“It was conceived under the impetus to create an iconic language of misery during this time,” said Mather, who owns Good Folks Gallery. “I wanted to give people a message that presented artists’ experience, their experiences during these times, and almost create some kind of language around what was happening. The flag seemed like a very interesting medium to do that.”

And thus was born “Flags of Resilience,” a long-term, artist-run project featuring commissioned work by local and internationally known artists in response to their unique and communal experiences in today’s global climate, she said. Each artist’s design, printed on limited-edition, 3-foot-by-5-foot flags, addresses global topics of isolation, community, family, fear and hope in this historical moment in time.

“When we were facing the double pandemic, facing up to our systemic racism in the culture, that really changed the tone of the project,” Mather said.

Noted Denver muralists Pedro Barrios and Jaime Molina created the first flag and its run of 100 flags is nearly sold out at $50 apiece.

“Similar to a family crest, or even a traditional totem, (the flag) can be a way to express to the world who you are and what is important to you,” Barrios and Molina said in a written statement. “What makes you, and your pack of humans, who you are. This simple act of expressing yourself through traditional means in a very non-traditional way can be incredibly empowering and inspiring.”

Mather said the project can have a lasting impact as a way through the creation and dissemination of iconic imagery emblazoned on flags, it seeks to ask the questions, who have we lost and how do we honor them? How does the pandemic exploit and reveal important ways we’re all connected? And perhaps most critically, how can we affect broad socio-political change in the best interests of humanity?

Each current artist will select the next artist in line, who won’t be announced until the next flag set is ready to be unveiled, which should be Aug. 7, Mather said

Each artist also selected the charity that will receive the funds raised from the sale of their flags, with Barrios and Molina choosing the International Rescue Committee.

The project was sponsored by Santa Fe galleries form & concept and Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, and the flags can be purchased on their websites.