By definition, the word “flotilla” refers to a fleet of ships. In regard to “Flotilla of Candles,” it is used metaphorically to describe hundreds of thousands of candles lit and set afloat in honor of those whose lives have been lost to COVID-19. When news broke that the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States had surpassed 200,000, and the number of losses worldwide hit more than 1 million, we were reminded all over again of the grim realities of the year 2020. Some of us living in classified “Red Zones” and “Orange Zones” have never had a chance to forget them.
In addition to serving as an acknowledgement of people lost around the world to the pandemic, “Flotilla of Candles” is a tribute to those who have battled ceaselessly against it. We know well enough about the medical professionals who have repeatedly put their lives at risk since the peak of the outbreak. In fact, any number have died from coronavirus themselves and lost both loved ones and colleagues to it. There are also, however, many more like public transportation workers, grocery store clerks, and farm workers who in the past have so often been overlooked or taken for granted, but who in 2020 proved “essential” to many communities’ survival.
This artwork started as a poetic tribute to my own children, lost under other conditions years ago. But the more I worked on it, the more I felt they would have wanted me to widen the scope to acknowledge stories of lives beyond our own. A pandemic, after all, is something which impacts world populations and not just 1 or 2 households or communities. Remembrance itself is a form of beauty and the year 2020 has given us a lot to remember.