Kamloops artist's portrait of a nurse wearing metal mask takes on new meaning | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops artist's portrait of a nurse wearing metal mask takes on new meaning

'The Front Line' is a an art piece by Stace DeWolf that is hanging in the Intensive Care Unit at Royal Inland Hospital.
Image Credit: Original artist/ Stace DeWolf

The painting by a Kamloops artist of a nurse wearing a metal mask captured some attention in Kamloops at the beginning of the pandemic, but in light of staffing issues in hospitals and ongoing protests against vaccine mandates and masks has imparted a new, darker view on its meaning.

It's also got Stace DeWolf pondering another piece to reflect the chaos.

The image of a healthcare worker, titled 'The Front Line' by artist Stace DeWolf, was a piece commissioned as a gift for a nurse and was hung in the intensive care unit at Royal Inland Hospital.

READ MORE: Artwork honouring a Kamloops nurse turns into food bank fundraiser

This year, chronic staffing shortages in some interior hospitals are being compounded by the stress of the pandemic and wildfires, leaving some acute care units short staffed and emergency rooms backed up.

For DeWolf, the current state of affairs in hospitals has caused a change in perspective of his artwork.

"At the time I was creating with the hope and expectation that things would start to change for the better in regards to COVID, so there was hope and positivity in the pieces," he said. "Now I see the masked nurse as a character who is coping with increasing staff shortages and tougher working conditions. The mask is more like a muzzle now, because nurses are not allowed to say very much to the public about what is going on inside or what their working conditions are like."

The original piece still hangs at Royal Inland Hospital, alongside two more art pieces by DeWolf, one of clasping hands and one of a doctor making a peace sign.

"The hands were a simple way of symbolizing healthcare workers and the community showing resolve and staying strong together," he said. "The doctor image is of an epidemiologist who was heavily involved with helping COVID patients."

DeWolf says he is planning on adding a fourth piece to the trio, and this one will have a different message.

"I see a lot of people not taking COVID seriously, challenging science and the government and putting more unnecessary weight on our healthcare teams," he said. "I have seen a lot of acts that do not show support for our hardworking front line workers and it is a slap in the face for the ones trying to save lives. This is what my added piece will be about, I just need more time to think it through."

For DeWolf, he feels a personal attachment to the commissioned piece.

“My wife is in healthcare and my mother-in-law teaches nursing in the Middle East, so I wanted to create a piece honouring front line healthcare workers, and the idea of a metal face mask is sort of illustrating the patchwork of kind of re-piecing things back together and sort of indicating and trying to say they are in the front line of a battle in the trenches,” DeWolf says.

DeWolf will be adding to the project at Royal Inland Hospital after completing some other commissioned pieces that are currently in the works.

READ MORE: COVID and wildfires creating health care crisis in Kamloops, Okanagan


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