Tallying the Toll of COVID-19

Art Student’s ‘Accounting’ Makes Toll Visible
By Sala Levin ’10 | Photo courtesy of ELIZABETH KATT

As the numbers of Americans dying of COVID-19 continued to climb, Elizabeth Katt MFA ’22 struggled to visualize the loss. What does 100,000—of anything—look like? What about 200,000? 400,000?

For her ongoing livestreamed project, “an accounting,” Katt is turning intangible numbers into something plain to see: She sits in a bare-bones studio and tallies one mark on adding machine tape for every American felled by the virus, according to data from Worldometer.

Katt has divided the project into long sessions. “Part of (the project) is the time it takes,” she says. Add to that the discomfort of sitting on an unpadded stool for hours. “I knew I wanted it to be a grind because (living through the pandemic) has been a grind,” Katt says.

A former nurse who served in the U.S. Air Force, Katt knows what it means to keep company with the dying. After leaving the Air Force, Katt “started to consider things I had always wanted to do and art-making was what was calling me,” she says.

The isolation of her work mirrors what many people have felt while staying at home, says Justin Strom, associate professor of art and Katt’s adviser. “There’s very little opportunity to go out in galleries or museums and show something like this,” he says. “Reflecting that solitude she had to do to perform this was appropriate for the piece in the end.”


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