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Northwest Culture 0

Artist Kat Wilson’s ‘Quarantine Habitat’ Series

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The exact date that it changed varies a bit for everyone, but exact dates don’t matter much at the moment. The world is undeniably different now.

For the most part, we are all living in at least some form of isolation in our homes right now. We are hunkered down with our nuclear families, or with roommates or friends. In some cases, we are completely alone.

We are in survival mode. We are trying to take care of each other and take care of ourselves. We are trying to work, or find work, or maintain sustenance while we also try with varying degrees of success to educate our children, and comfort them, and explain this to them, and help them understand why things are different.

We are unkempt and untidy. We are seeking normalcy where we can find it. We are howling with our neighbors to find connection. We refresh social media feeds looking for family, or ideas on how to cope, or news, or solidarity, or common ground, or hope.

None us know how or when it will end. And though the world has seen calamity and sickness and despair before, I don’t think any of us have ever seen anything quite like this.

Enter artists who recognize all of this and know that it has to be captured for all the bewildering, uncertain, incomprehensible mess that it is.

One of the best local examples we’ve seen of this comes from Arkansas artist Kat Wilson and her new Quarantine Habitat series of user-generated portraits on social media.

It is an extension of Wilson’s acclaimed Habitat Series, where she captured people in their homes, surrounded by their possessions, with dramatic lighting to highlight their humanity. Photos from the series have been shown at museums and galleries all over the U.S., including at the world-class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

With her new series, in this new normal, and consistent with social distancing guidelines, Wilson is asking her subjects to photograph themselves in their own quarantine situation, and post them to social media with the hashtag #quarantinehabitat to document these crazy and uncertain times we are all living in at the moment.


The Jordan Family, #quarantinehabitat, Fayetteville March 2020

Wilson prepared some instructions and commissioned other local artists to help her bring them to life through graphic design and video. Then, she put them out into the world and waited to see what happened.

Already, she has received some impressive submissions (check out the hashtag on Instagram to see about 60 posts that have been created so far). And though she’s not sure what she’ll do with the series once it’s all over, she hopes to get a lot more.

“I have no idea (how many I’ll get), but I know I want it to feel like NWA did a collaborative art project to share with the world,” Wilson said. “I’ll keep doing this until this is all over.”

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Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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