Lauren Morell, a VCUarts Qatar alumna, shares the inspiration behind her latest project of creating face masks out of scraps and recycled fabric to reflect on human solidarity amid the current pandemic.
As COVID-19 envelopes our planet, the sight of face masks being worn by people all over the world has become a symbol of the pandemic.
Some may find the sheer ubiquity of face masks as a constant reminder of danger; others may look at it from a more positive outlook, as a profound ritual, where all nations across the globe are coming together as one, committing to social responsibility towards one another, facing the same unprecedented events, sharing the same feelings of doubt and most importantly, sharing the same hope for a safe gateway out of this unenviable situation.
For Lauren Morell, a graduate of the Class of 2020 with a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar - a Qatar Foundation partner university - the practice of wearing face masks sparked the inspiration behind her three-piece art.
“The name, WE COME IN STYLE, which I chose for my three-piece artwork, was inspired by the fact that despite all the anxiety, stress, and depression people are experiencing everywhere since the beginning of the pandemic, they are choosing every day to fight back in their own ways,” Morell says.
People are turning this harsh event into a time of reflection, to reach out with help, to make better choices for a better tomorrow
“People are turning this harsh event into a time of reflection, to reach out with help, to make better choices for a better tomorrow. With that being done, they are committed to wearing face masks, making a solid statement about equality – that we are all in this together, and we will walk out of all this together.”
Morell, who is a Latin American from Los Angeles, California, is currently working on three frames for face masks. Each of them holds a statement that reflects her feelings and the message she wants to send out to the world through her art.
To me, fashion has always been my enabling tool. It isn’t just tailored garments you see on runways. To me, fashion stands for communication and self-reflection
“To me, fashion has always been my enabling tool,” she says. “It isn’t just tailored garments you see on runways. To me, fashion stands for communication and self-reflection.”
Morell says although the mixture of emotions she faced through the pandemic could have brought her down, she didn’t allow those thoughts and feelings to get to her. “I decided to use my skills in honing those feelings into an artwork that speaks my heart and mind. I started working on ‘framed’ portraits of face masks, for its resemblance of human solidarity and responsibility in the light of this global crisis.
“I started gathering all the upcycled fabric I’ve had left over around my studio and decided to communicate an emotion of happiness and celebration of a global phenomenon through the vibrant upcycled scraps stitched together to form those masks.”
Morell’s three framed portraits are all made of 100 percent cotton and upcycled linen – scraps of fabric that she had scrambled up to make the masks. Each of them will contain a slogan. The first reflects ‘EQUALITY’, the second ‘WE COME IN STYLE’, and the third is a portrait of the fabric scraps bundled up together in the context of “we are one, we are all in this together”.
What we are witnessing in the world today strengthens my faith in caring for the society and even for global issues such as protecting the environment
Morell has been living in Qatar for nine years. She expresses herself as a “third-culture kid”, who lived a nomadic lifestyle, jumping from city to city and never actually having a place to call home. And this has left a big impression on her beliefs.
“Growing up, culture, diversity, and equality have always been my main inspiration, and continue to be so,” she explains. “This means I have never been disconnected from global and local events. Caring for the community has always been something I pursued, and what we are witnessing in the world today strengthens my faith in caring for the society and even for global issues such as protecting the environment.”
As a fashion designer, Morell believes that staying true to her brand ‘LORENAA MICHELLE’ and being sustainable in the manner of how much she consumes and what she lives by is extremely important. Aside from her art project, she is intending to make reusable, washable, and breathable masks from leftover fabric, that will be 100 percent cotton, to make sure her community is staying safe every day.