New mural at Bread & Salt brings public awareness about coronavirus
Tatiana Ortiz Rubio’s “Stop the Spread” is part of a statewide public awareness campaign that aims to remind people to stay diligent in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Local artist Tatiana Ortiz Rubio is bringing more color to Barrio Logan thanks to a mural installation on the silo of Bread & Salt gallery.
The mural is displayed as part of the “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign by the state of California to raise awareness about continuing to do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is one of 12 original works being shared in public places throughout California. The state partnered with local artists to “reach disproportionately impacted communities with empowering messages of resilience, public health and community,” according to a press release.
The mural, which measures at 30’ X 45’ and is visible from Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bridge, is entitled “Stop the Spread” and, according to Ortiz Rubio, the piece is meant to provide comfort to those who have lost loved ones due to coronavirus.
It’s also meant to remind people to continue being diligent in efforts to stop the spread.
“My hope is that (it’s seen) as a way of remembering why we’re covering up. It’s not out of being forced to; it’s because we are responsible for that person we came in contact with accidentally in the supermarket or putting gas in the car. And you never know you how you affected them because you were irresponsible for those few minutes. And also to feel some comfort that they’re not alone if they’ve lost someone,” Ortiz Rubio said.
“You feel so far away from even your family at these times. I would love for it to be a message of, we are far, but we are with you,” she said.
Ortiz Rubio was born in San Diego to Mexican parents, but was raised primarily in Mexico City. After studying art history and visual arts at the University of San Diego, she attended the New York Academy of Art for her Masters and ended up back in San Diego after being offered a teaching position at the University of San Diego.
“My family was always in love with San Diego. My great-grandfather spent a few years here, my grandfather too, so it’s always been like home, in a way,” she said.
Ortiz Rubio was approached to participate in the state’s COVID-19 public awareness campaign by public arts manager Shelly Willis, who was tasked with finding public art works for the project. Ortiz Rubio was given free reign to come up with a concept and a location for the project, while sticking to the guideline that the project raise awareness for COVID safety.
She felt that the project was an important one for a few reasons.
“Art makes us experience something. We’re not just being told. We’re allowing someone to experience something and an experience allows you to learn much more,” she said. “As a way of raising awareness, artwork has a much stronger effect. It’s a much more personal way of communicating.”
She had previously exhibited at Bread & Salt during an artist-in-residence program, so her connection to the gallery and its location in one of the harder-hit areas drew her back.
“I love Bread & Salt, I love this family of artists they have here. I thought it was a great place to come back to, especially because the wall is so visible everywhere,” she said. “And this being a Latin American area of San Diego, they’ve been very hard-hit, I believe one of the most hard-hit communities because a lot of them are essential workers. So it’s been really tough. I wanted to give them something that not only they can enjoy as art, but also connect to, in an emotional, human way.”
The mural portrays a Latin American woman covering her nose and mouth with cempasúchil marigold flowers, a flower commonly used in Day of the Dead celebrations. The meaning, said Ortiz Rubio, is two-fold.
“One is obviously covering our nose and mouth with these flowers, flowers being something that we give to each other as a gift, as an act of love or caring. And so her covering herself in that gesture suggests that it’s not just for herself, but it’s a gift we’re giving others, the gift of being aware that we’re all connected and responsible for each other.”
The other meaning is to serve as a memorial to those we’ve lost to COVID-19.
“Being from both countries, I keep thinking of the people that we are not finding out about. I know here it’s probably very open. I trust what people tell me about who’s died. But not in Mexico. I really don’t. And so I keep thinking of all the people we’ll never know. I wanted to do a memorial where we can grieve as a community,” she said.
Ortiz Rubio said that this November, she’ll be back at the site of the mural to display an altar to commemorate the Day of the Dead, which will be open to the public. She also plans to modify the mural once COVID restrictions are lifted.
“That’s something I’m really excited about. When the pandemic lifts – and who knows when that will be – I want to come back and lower the flowers from her face. She’ll still be holding the flowers around her face, but more as just breathing them in,” she said. “Not only will the gesture of breathing will be accentuated, but it might seem a little bit like she’s offering them up to people. So it’s these two beautiful messages of being open now and breathing again. I thought that would be really nice to have it transform because otherwise, I don’t know how long we can keep seeing these images. They’re heavy.”
For more information on Ortiz Rubio, visit tatianaortizrubio.com or follow her on Instagram at @tatiana_ortizrubio. The “Stop the Spread” is displayed at Bread & Salt gallery at 1955 Julian Ave. in Logan Heights.
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