A young Chicago-based artist is using her talent to encourage others to “flatten the curve” with paintings inspired by World War I and II propaganda art.
Sylvia Bueltel graduated two years ago from Loyola University Chicago, where she studied fine arts with a focus on drawing and painting. Along with her art career, she works at a store that was closed due to stay-at-home orders in Ohio, where she currently resides. She used the free time to create several paintings that, at a cursory glance, look like relics of a bygone American era.
We are currently working towards making prints available of the STAY HOME series thus far! Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out on twitter and Instagram with support and love!
Now time to paint another one ????https://t.co/t0Qe8UauV0 pic.twitter.com/nShoVtiKE9
— Sylvia Bueltel (@SylviaBueltel) April 4, 2020
“I started the pieces maybe two weeks ago because my job temporarily closed and I’ve had a ton of time,”she told Daily Caller. “I started reading news articles and began feeling so overwhelmed, and thought about how this sort of war-time situation was experienced in the past, during World War I and World War II.” (RELATED: Winning The Coronavirus War)
The paintings evoke a sense of national duty and solidarity, deriving the patriotic hues from famous propaganda posters like the “Rosie The Riveter” or the “I want YOU for U.S. Army” poster, which the latter helped recruit legions of young men to fight in both World Wars. Bueltel, who says she grew up in a a Polish-American community where she learned about World War II in Polish school, thought that this artistic theme would be universally understood and could reach the most people.
“I found wartime propaganda very interesting, and their purpose is to unite people, whether against a common enemy or a virus,” she said.
Bueltel’s paintings include an illustration of Uncle Sam stomping on the bell curve of a graph, with the words “Help Uncle Sam Flatten The Curve! STAY HOME” emblazoned.
Another includes the portrait of a doctor wearing a face mask, with “Help Those on the FRONTLINES” and “STAY IN Stop the Spread,” a contemporary take on World War posters that exhorted Americans to contribute to homefront efforts through growing victory gardens.
“I wanted my art to push the message of what we should be doing, which is staying home, staying away from people, and trying to self-isolate to lower the curve,” she said.
While this is Bueltel’s first time making art that plays on pop-culture themes and that appeals to a wider, general public audience, she considers herself a conceptual artist who considers the different ways art can be relatable to its viewers. She doesn’t stick to one medium, and has worked with several others beyond acrylics, including wax.
But she says every aspect of an art piece regardless of medium is intentional — in her pandemic-inspired art, harking back to the past added a layer of meaning that could appeal to all.
“I think what’s so powerful is that everyone can relate to them. Whether it’s a female character being brought to a World War II propaganda poster which primarily focused on Red Cross nurses who were usually female, or the colors, which are primarily U.S. and Uncle Sam colors,” she said.