Mixed media portrait artist highlights health care workers

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DR. ADELINE FAGAN, LAFAYETTE, NY: Fagan had just started her second year of residency in Houston as an OB/GYN when she got sick with COVID-19 in July. Fagan died from the disease. Her warm personality was among her many positive traits remembered by others.
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IVETTE PALOMEQUE, HOUSTON, TX: As a traveling nurse, Palomeque said her divorce in March 2020 spurred her to answer the call for the need for trained nurses in New York City, one of the early epicenters of the U.S. outbreak.
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STUART HARMAN, CYPRESS, TX: For five weeks, Harman ensured the safety of his wife and two children—a 3-year-old and a 5-week-old—by quarantining by himself and having them move in with his wife’s parents.
It was late March 2020 when former high school art teacher Kristi Nelson sketched a portrait of a nurse in personal protective equipment on the sidewalk in front of her Missouri City home.

She was inspired by her sister-in-law and her neighbor, both nurses, who had previously sent her selfies of them decked out in PPE. Word soon spread when another neighbor—a nurse at MD Anderson Cancer Center—saw the drawing during her nightly run and posted it to the community’s Facebook page.

“This whole thing wasn’t intentional,” Nelson said. “I drew a nurse on the sidewalk outside of my house when we were playing with my kids.”

Nelson said she first drew the sketches as gifts for each nurse’s service. The two shared the artwork on Facebook, however, and Nelson began receiving requests to sketch portraits of health care workers across Greater Houston.

“A lot of people started asking me to draw their nurse friends, I would draw them, and then what I was doing was spreading in a very organic way,” Nelson said.

By the time she paused her sketches earlier this spring, Nelson had drawn 105 health care workers, forming the basis of the second of two editions of her published book, “Masked Heroes: A Tribute to the Frontline Workers of COVID-19.” The book not only displays Nelson’s artwork, but shares the experiences of the portrait subjects.

Nelson said the pandemic’s effect on the people she drew motivated her to continue her work.

“Seeing my neighbor every single day come home from work, go to her garage, and have to change her clothes before she could even go inside was very eye-opening for what they were all experiencing,” Nelson said. "It was just so scary, and what I was doing was bringing people joy, so I felt like I couldn’t not do it."

Now on pause with her sketches as she takes a break, Nelson is focusing on her family but said she plans to leave the door open to future work.
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


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