In May, artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada began painting a 20,000-square-foot mural of a Queen’s, New York doctor named Ydelfonso Decoo. A pediatrician nearing retirement, Decoo worked on the front lines in New York City this spring and ultimately succumbed to Covid-19.
Rodriguez-Gerada, an internationally acclaimed artist, partnered with SOMOS Community Care, a health network that serves immigrants and other organizations, to create the mural in a parking lot outside The Queens Museum, almost in the shadow of the iconic Unisphere globe from New York’s 1964 World’s Fair.
Called Somos La Luz (We Are The Light), the work is meant to highlight the disproportionate toll the virus was taking on Latino and Black communities and put a human face behind the dizzying numbers of dead, with its mammoth scale representing the unfathomable enormity of this ongoing tragedy.
“It’s not just making something big, just for the sake of it, it’s also because what you’re saying is [this] important enough that it merits it,” says Rodriguez-Gerada.
In a YouTube video about the project posted in September, he said he hopes the mural will “call attention to the need to come together to mourn together during this pandemic,” and noted “In New York City the coronavirus is killing Latinos and Blacks at double the rate that it is killing whites and Asians. […] When we hear numbers, 100,000, 120,000, 140,000 deaths we should focus on the fact that each one in that 140,000 is a person who has died, who has left a family that is mourning, and how that impacts these families times 140,000.”
Since he recorded that video the number of deaths from Covid-19 has risen by more than 110,000 and is increasing as we type this. Yet Rodriguez-Gerada’s mural remains something of a rarity in the Covid age: a public expression of our collective grief…