After two years of extreme isolation, artist Laura Parker emerges with her COVID-19 paintings

Laura Parker is not new to surviving through struggle. She has been battling a rare, progressive disease called Sarcoidosis for the past 17 years. She is not unfamiliar to the ravages of pandemics either, as she was at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, volunteering (alone) in the largest AIDS orphanage in Khayelitsha, South Africa. 

But the COVID pandemic has been especially difficult for her. Being immunocompromised, Parker went into extreme isolation starting March 1, 2020, after her doctors told her that she would likely not survive COVID. In her longest period of isolation, she did not have human contact for 14 months. She could only peer out of her second floor window to thank the neighbors for groceries. After two years, groceries are still being delivered and wiped down.

After two years Laura Parker

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Photos courtesy of Laura Parker

Artist Laura Parker

This extreme isolation and stress took a psychological and physical toll. According to Parker, “At times, I simply miss the feeling of a hug.” Not having human contact along with the dreaded daily news feed gave me PTSD, panic and insomnia. I’ve seen how my isolation has caused my dog Henri Matisse to have severe separation anxiety.”

Through all of this, Parker’s perseverance to survive has pulled her through the dark days, as she has done for decades. As an Abstract Expressionist she went back to her art to find refuge – releasing her fear, loneliness, grief and sense of loss onto the canvas. As a large-scale painter, she was forced to work small in her home, using the canvases set aside for her “Art of Healing” workshops. “I was my own source of healing,” Parker said.

After two years Social Distancing

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“Social Distancing” by Laura Parker

Out of this, she created the 10-piece COVID-19 Series as the virus took over, showing how our world changed with it. The paintings include Taking Over, Lungs, VIRUS, Social Distancing, New York, Flattening the Curve, Tension and Fear, Rebuilding, Mutation and Wound.

Parker’s humanitarianism is now expressed in her art. Many of her pieces have social conscience: trauma, violence, injustice, discrimination. You can feel the overwhelming emotion and energy coming through her paintings which are raw, honest and vulnerable.

“As an Abstract Expressionist, what I create is purely intuitive and subconscious. It comes from being deeply moved by something and the inability to change it. Typically, they are feelings of sadness, anger, or grief by what I see in the news. By expressing and releasing those feelings onto the canvas, I’m not carrying them with me,” said Parker.

After two years Mutation

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“Mutation” by Laura Parker

After persevering through the psychological toll of extreme isolation for more than two years, Parker recently moved to Laguna Beach from the Midwest to start “living again” after COVID. She has decided to emerge through her art at the Annual Balboa Artwalk, taking place this Sunday, May 15 along the South Bayfront Promenade. Although she still carries the risk of getting severely ill from being in contact with others, she decided that connecting with community is worth pursuing.

“I have a strong desire to share my art, my story and teach others creative self-expression and healing through art,” she said. With COVID restrictions being lifted, she acknowledges that “the gulf between me and the rest of society is widening.” As she ponders how she will live in a post-pandemic world, she chooses to do more than just survive. Parker chooses to live.