Blurring Lines for Saving Lives by Selva Ozelli (USA/Turkey)



During quarantine, a year ago last March, I began oil painting for the first time in my life. I started making portraits for the ‘United Nations Global Call out to Creatives – Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19’ art competition. I created a series of portraits that were then selected for a digital art show “Art in the Time of Corona”, hosted by the Pinelo Art gallery, which began on June 5th - World Environment Day. This particular portrait, ‘Blurring Lines for Saving Lives’, is inspired by my great childhood friend - Dr Esma Akin.

I wanted to acknowledge Esma’s personal sacrifice of putting her life on the line while caring for COVID patients during this pandemic, hence the title. Dr Esma Akin and I were close elementary school friends – we took art class together and travelled on the same school bus back and forth everyday. Esma then in fact saved my life, when I had a severe bout with pneumonia and was hospitalized a few years ago. She is an excellent doctor and a selfless human being in the way that she always puts others needs ahead of her own. She is borderless!

I say this as in my painting of Esma, she in essence blends into the background in her blue medical uniform and mask - there are no borders of “self” in her fight against the virus, which is depicted in green. Dr Esma Akin is truly an emblem of solidarity.

In my online exhibition Art in the Time of Corona, where this portrait features, I have explored the link between carbon emissions and Climate change with the cause of the pandemic. Based on my findings and research, I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous social and economic damage. Professor Andrea Manica, who co-authored a study that argued for human causation of climate change, argues that the fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions.

Carbon pollution defies national borders and is inescapable. The true cost of climate change is felt when it penetrates deep into our respiratory and circulatory systems and damages our lungs, which are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus - according to a report produced by WHO, which I state in my article: ‘The Need to Report Carbon Emissions Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic’.