Recent Work > Hours Days Weeks Months Years Decades Centuries

Hours Days Weeks Months Years Decades Centuries
2020–2021
India ink and graphite on paper
22” in diameter/each

Hours Days Weeks Months Years Decades Centuries, 1
India ink and graphite on paper
22" in diameter
2021
Hours Days Weeks Months Years Decades Centuries, 2
India ink and graphite on paper
22" in diameter
2021
Hours Days Weeks Months Years Decades Centuries, 3
India ink and graphite on paper
22" in diameter
2021

In the spring of 2020 at the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic on the East Coast in the U.S., I was obsessively checking the maps of the coronavirus infection and death rates in the New York Times every day. At that time, both infection rates and death rates were represented as circles on the map. You could see where the hot spots were by looking at the size of the red circles on the Covid-19 infection map, and black circles were used for the death rates. The sizes of these circles were growing each day at an exponential rate, to the point that eventually, the New York Times switched to the color-coded maps for each state, because the size of the circles got so big that they started covering the whole state.

Each day, I was horrified looking at those circles growing larger and spreading throughout the country.

Then, the murder of George Floyd happened, and the Black Lives Matter protests followed. The New York Times was tracking the BLM protests and where the protests were taking place. Again, there was a map. When I first saw the map, I had to do a double take because I was seeing black circles on the map. A strange Deja-vu moment, but immediately followed by hope and joy once I realized what I was looking at.

But of course, human health and racism are intertwined deeply. We witnessed racial health disparities during the Covid-19 pandemic. More Black and brown, Hispanic, and Indigenous people suffered and died from the coronavirus at disproportionally high rates compared to white people. People who live nearby industrious sites and waste plants are mostly people of color and they suffer from pollution from these sites. We know that pollution affects physical health. Research has shown that nature has mental health benefit, and having green space in the urban areas improves people’s mental health. But much of urban neighborhoods lack green space and many of these areas were historically the Redlining areas where Black and brown people were clustered to live by laws and design.

There are many disparities in this country and in the world—access to healthcare services, income gap, education, access to safe and clean water, and food. Again, we witnessed these aspects during the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide. The poorest people are the one who suffer the most.

Living in isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic had a strange effect on my relationship to time. Time stretched. Hours became days, days became weeks, weeks became months, and eventually we passed one year mark in March. Thinking how all of these things are interconnected—racism, public health, infectious diseases, health inequality, economic inequality, and environment—I am reminded that the roots of all these issues go back to years, decades, and centuries. There are many layers of histories hidden that we need to see, and I think (I want to believe) that we are seeing these layers more clearly now.

One night in my studio as I was working on these black circles on paper, I saw the graphite marks shining against the black background. I liked that shining light and started to paint around the graphite marks so that I didn't obscure their shine with ink.

Seeing the graphite lines in in the drawing, I was struck with this notion of seeing. The graphite lines are visible when the light hits at a certain angle, but not visible from another angle. It also depends on the angle where I was looking from. This was very exciting to me.

Naoe Suzuki, May 1, 2021