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Jeffrey Wilcox Paclipan is an artist who uses marginalized and discarded materials to create new objects imbued with greater meaning. His mixed-media installations have been seen at galleries nationwide, including the Hathaway Contemporary Gallery in Atlanta and Life on Mars Gallery in Brooklyn. He’s part of the Studio Artist Program at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. (Photo by Rachel Jeffs)


Looking back on 2020, a combination of events stand out to me. Mandates to shelter in place due to COVID-19 in conjunction with rising protests in response to racial inequity and social injustice gave me an intense feeling of déjà vu. I retreated to my home studio and felt compelled to create even more than usual. While clearing out works in storage, I came across a painting I had not seen in over 25 years. Back then, I was coping with two traumatic, life-changing experiences against a backdrop of the spread of HIV and headlines about the mistreatment of marginalized communities worldwide. In the self-portrait, I was 25 years old and sitting in front of a European bullet train in a desert. I imagined myself speeding to the future and wondered what it would be like. The visual gave me hope and, ever since, I have focused my work toward positive energy, transformation and a celebration of life. Twenty-five years later, we are still dealing with social and racial injustices and a new virus that is a pandemic. But I have changed. 

I now see my studio as a place of solace. I appreciate how painting has helped me cope with and overcome difficult situations. I know that creative expression restores my equilibrium. Practice has taught me that art is healing.

Ultimately, I’m an optimist. I believe healing and solidarity is possible if we practice moral authority and show more empathy and understanding toward one another. I am confident that we are in good hands with dedicated scientists, brave essential workers and compassionate front-line health-care professionals concentrating their efforts to help us survive the coronavirus. And I envision a world where we’ll emerge from 2020 remembering the benefits of slowing down and collaborating with one another for the sake of the collective.


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