Hi, my name is Jim Leggitt. I’m an architect, artist, author, teacher and a long time Denver resident.
This exhibition displays my book “Covid Stories” and 60 drawings I produced during two months of self-quarantine at the onset of the 2019 Coronavirus Pandemic. I became fascinated by the 1918 Spanish Influenza and created all of these stories based on events that happened 100 years ago. My project began on March 16th, the day we were ordered to stay-at-home to flatten the curve from Covid-19.
Within days I compiled historic photographs from 1918 and read amazing accounts of the pandemic written a century ago. In that year, hundreds of thousands died from the Spanish Flu, three million soldiers fought in World War One, and all faced food shortages, prohibition, and a changes to the American workforce. My goal was to post a new story every day on social media. That continued for the next 60 days.
I call these visuals “digital hybrid drawings,” which combine photography with hand drawing in a digital format. Every image was developed using Procreate on my iPad. A typical day involved two hours of research, three hours of drawing and another two hours of writing. I felt like an investigative reporter working toward a daily deadline, which demanded speed reading through the internet and quickly writing and illustrating the story. I was “on the hunt” researching articles about the Great War, Spanish Influenza, Women’s Suffrage, Politics, and Prohibition - discovering odd facts that I integrated into the stories.
Reflecting back on my task of producing daily pieces of art, I really enjoyed “getting to know” the people in those historic photographs and telling their story a century later. My intent was to be truthful to the historical events that happened. I also chose to construct situations, invent names, and attempt to formulate stories that highlighted the goodness in people trying to survive, fight and die for America, and maintain normal lives in the face of such hardship. Some stories had sad endings. It was a harrowing time. To my surprise, I discovered a very patriotic America, everyone working together, supporting the war effort, pitching in to help care for the sick, selling war bonds, growing food, promoting social causes, and helping each other with coast to coast solidarity.
Today, just like in 1918, we are living with similar stay-at-home restrictions, store closures, shortages, forced distancing and mask orders, but with a greatly divided nation and no constructive leadership in Washington. Learning from what happened in that remarkable time more than one hundred years ago, we should all take individual responsibility for the well being of America today, and do everything we can to stay informed, believe in the science, be creative, care for our loved ones, and be safe.