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  • Painting to cope during a pandemic


    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep people at home, how people cope and what they are doing during this time is a question that keeps popping up — at virtual work meetings, during teleconferencing happy hours and on social media.


    Creating art is often suggested to facilitate healing, practice self-care, or as one local artist is doing, combine with prayer.


    Mary Aquino, a parishioner of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, recently painted an image of a health care worker wearing a mask and holding her hands in prayer. We ran a photo of the painting on page 2 of the April 16 issue of the Catholic Herald, and I interviewed Mary for a podcast about stories of hope during the pandemic.

    mary aquino 1This is the first in a series of paintings by Mary Aquino showing the story of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic COURTESY MARY AQUINO


    Mary doesn’t describe herself as a painter, but the images she is creating — some based on her friends who are doctors and nurses — are incredibly inspiring, creative, and tell a story of these workers on the frontline of the coronavirus.


    Mary is creating a series of paintings and has shared the ones she has completed so far with the Catholic Herald. “Some of the paintings are based on actual people who inspired me and though they may not look exactly like them, hopefully they can tell it is them based on the clothing or setting they are in,” Mary said. “The prayer painting that came first represents all health care workers. The African American woman’s image — inspired by the pandemic — is just from my own imagination. The others are of Kelsey Bowker (wearing stethoscope), Maria Barba (seated) and Charlie Willkom.


    “I want them to know I am thinking of them and praying for them as I paint.”


    Because each person is wearing a mask, and you can’t see their full expression, Mary said she paints the eyes first — as that is where the emotion is felt most in the paintings.


    When I forwarded the email from Mary that included the image of the African American woman crying to our social media coordinator, Mary Stachyra Lopez, she said, “It took my breathe away.”

    sq-mary paintings collage


    The love, prayer and thought behind each painting come from an artist with much talent, even though she doesn’t think she deserves that title.


    Keep up the inspiring work Mary, you have touched more people than you realize.


    Rausch can be reached at stacy.rausch@catholicherald.com.


    © Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

    @Stacy Rausch