May 2, 2022

International exhibition focuses on children's pandemic self-portraits

Tucson is the show's first stop outside of Germany.

Self-portraits Hana This self-portrait is from 12-year-old Hana in Japan.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

It's been more than two years since the COVID-19 virus started wreaking havoc around the world, leading to millions of deaths, businesses shutdowns, social distancing, mask wearing and other issues.

Self-portraits eyes and mask This is part of the painting made by 9-year-old Mariane in Armenia in 2020.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

During the the isolation and confusion of 2020, a program by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany sought drawings or paintings of self-portraits from children around the world.

Self-portraits Duru This drawing is from 12-year old Duru in Turkey.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

The library received hundreds of images and some of those it acquired are now part of a traveling exhibition which is on display at the University of Arizona.

Kathy Short is a professor in the Department of Education, and she's impressed by the kids' creations.

The contributors range in age from 3 to 18 years old, and she hopes the public takes note.

"I think too often we underestimate the ways in which children are experiencing thinking about their world," she says.

Short also wonders what's become of the children who participated, such as 13-year-old Marina who submitted her work from Ukraine in 2020.

The nation is now being devastated by the Russian invasion.

"What strikes me about this self-portrait is not only the skill of this 13 yo child and the way that she’s drawn herself but also thinking about what is her life like right now," Short says.

"And what is she living through, just having experienced covid and now facing clearly much more conflict and danger in her life.”

Self-portraits Marina drawing This is the self-image drawn by 13-year-old Marina in 2020 in Ukraine.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

Self-portraits Marina photo This is a photo of 13-year-old Marina in 2020 when she drew her self-image in Ukraine.
International Youth Library / Germany

In addition to the artwork at the gallery space, organizers have also added numerous books for children that deal with covid and the pandemic.

The exhibition at UA will be open to the public until Friday May 13 at the Worlds of Words library which is located in the education building on 2nd Street east of Mountain Avenue.

From there, the self-portraits are scheduled to travel the Mariposa Museum & World Cultural Center in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Kathy Short UA Kathy Short in the Worlds of Words library at UA's Department of Education.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

Self-portraits books In addition to the international show with self-portraits, the Worlds of Words library also has a collection of books written for children about the coronavirus pandemic.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

Self-portraits gallery The gallery with the self-portraits from around the world is located in the Worlds of Words library at UA's Department of Education building.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

Self-portraits virus close up This image of the coronavirus is part of painting by 13-year-old Udhara in Sri Lanka.
Tony Paniagua / AZPM

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