Esther Pearl Watson

21 Nov 2020 – 6 Feb 2021

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Free admission

Vielmetter Los Angeles

Los Angeles
California, United States


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Vielmetter Los Angeles is pleased to present an ambitious series of new paintings by Esther Pearl Watson. “Safer at Home: Pandemic Paintings,” was begun in March at the onset of the shelter in place orders in Los Angeles and spans the timeline of the Covid-19 Pandemic through a diaristic narrative.


In a continuous series of over 100 paintings Watson chronicles her and her family’s experience of the pandemic and subsequent events that have unfolded over the last several months offering an opportunity to reflect upon this year of upheaval and change. 

Watson documents the daily anxieties and absurdities of quarantine in and around the city and suburbs of Los Angeles. In intimately scaled paintings, she depicts various places along her daily routine– from dropping off weekly care packages with her family members who live in group homes, to her studio in Glassell Park, to mundane activities such as buying groceries and taking walks in the neighborhood. The paintings show recurring images of local businesses struggling to stay open, Watson’s attempts to form a pandemic pod, and nervous neighbors adjusting to normalcy-in-flux as various pressures create perpetual daily uncertainty. Watson’s titles are sourced from her diary, extending the sensibility of her memory paintings, and documenting places like her mother's Senior Living facility or the La Fiesta Party Supply store, locations that reappear slightly altered as time passes and we continue to adapt. 

In an attempt to have some sense of control over her situation, Watson's landscapes cover the crisis in healthcare, human rights, labor, and education. Like ex-votos, a snippet of text and a date hang in the sky: ”June 26, 2020... A house down the street offers free home-made masks”. The paintings point to parallel struggles and celebrations through exterior glimpses of Los Angeles that exist alongside Watson’s daily routines.

The colorful and intimate paintings are arranged in groupings by month and are punctuated in stark contrast with drooping black banners containing numbers increasing in size as they depict the total US death count from the virus: 1, 250, 10,000, 150,000, 200,000 etc. The black cloth hovers and drapes, like an ever-present weight, growing and growing until it balloons to an ominous size. Over time we see the Coronavirus deaths double, sometimes within days, reminding us of the gravity of the situation.

While the fabric banners depict the undeniable deaths in the U.S., the paintings of exteriors portray the individual realities so many of us are experiencing. Many of our private struggles remain hidden behind walls. As the dates progress, we can see the conversation changing in the political murals on the side of a small business, yard signs, and the ever-ubiquitous Amazon delivery trucks in the streets. The pandemic paintings highlight how disparities, long overlooked, eventually become visible, raw, and explosive.

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Exhibiting artists

Esther Pearl Watson


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