Artist hopes her work gives people a virtual hug

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – We’ve all found ways to get creative during this Covid crisis. That’s especially true for a local artist. Huntsville artist Margaret Dukeman is coping with the Covid-19 pandemic like the rest of us. “I’m really hoping that this art touches people in a way that they get a hug,” she recently told me while sitting on the front porch of her home, “A hug has been so missed.”

She’s focused her energy on a project that started in April. “Normally, I got to Ireland for six or eight weeks at a time and that adventure couldn’t be done this year because this year had its own program set up for us,” she said with a smile, “So I thought, how can I get that similar adventure, similar interaction with people?”

That’s when her degree in graphics design kicked in. “And I thought, how fun to put words behind a painting,” she said. She gave several of her neighbors a blank canvas to write down their feelings. “And then I take that and sit down and really study the words to come up with visuals,” she told me.

One of them was for a student who had come home early from college. “At first, I thought it was going to be me helping her and then when the board came in and I saw the things that she was saying, I was realizing, thinking back to my college years,” she said, “And I realized that it was as much cathartic for me to have the overlap and the echo of some of those same feelings as what she had.”

With each choice of color and brush stroke, she realized, we all have something in common. “One was a small business owner and they put a person doing yoga,” she told me, “And I took that person and I put it in a nest, the idea of your home is your safe place and your nest.” Margaret added, “It’s amazing how we are all having very similar feelings.”

She connected with others who were struggling through their words and her art. “It’s something they can take, and they can have,” she said, “not that we’re going to forget this year any time soon.”

The loneliness of isolation has affected us all. “A lot of times I’ll see people that seem to be having a problem with this, which most of us are,” she said. Some she approached about the collaboration have been reluctant to express their feelings. “Some words, you just need to get them out of your mouth and onto a board and getting them out is very therapeutic for you and just let me know if there are just some words that need to have a little more paint,” she would tell them.

I asked if it’s been therapeutic for her as an artist. She immediately said, “It has given me as much of a hug as it has for them, I think. Because of the fact that I’m able to sit and read what they are doing, I don’t feel so alone.” She added, “Because a lot of what they’re feeling is the same and if you have just a bit of interaction, I think it really helps everybody.”

Margaret’s great great grandparents were from Ireland. She has spent so much time there; she was invited to be part of a juried exhibition for locals. It’s called, “West Cork Creates” and runs through January. You can follow the link to her website, margaretdukeman.com to see her work that is on display and for sale.

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