What the Hell Is Happening Here?

Just when you thought you’d seen all you ever needed to see from the Cuomo pandemic press briefings, the self-appointed governor of the entire East Coast has outdone himself. On Wednesday during an afternoon briefing, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a “self-portrait of America” created by “thousands of Americans.” The portrait was not an oil-on-canvas painting of a giant Zoom meeting, but rather hundreds of face masks pinned together to form a wall-sized collage. The governor explained that without being asked, people from across the country had sent face masks to New York along with notes. “You have to look hard to see it, but this spells out love,” Cuomo said of the collage—which I can assure you does not spell out anything no matter how hard you turn your head and squint.

Call me captain obvious but if the people of America were so moved by the plight of New York, wouldn’t it make more sense to, sanitize the masks and distribute them to those in need? Like, I don’t know, the essential workers literally begging for any sort of extra supplies. Or maybe also the homeless population. Could the masks have been deconstructed and the fabric used to make full-body PPE? Was there really no other option for these masks than to put together a second-grade arts and crafts project and display it during a press briefing about subway cleanliness?


Governor Cuomo, who looked and sounded as if he’d had enough of everyone’s shit, decided to take subtle jabs at his arch-nemesis Mayor Bill de Blasio’s management of the MTA. “It’s not my job to come up with the cleaning schedule, just tell me what to do to get the trains cleaned and I’ll do it,” Cuomo said. If only the people of America had sent a thousand disinfectant wipes.

Update 2:54 PM: Governor Cuomo has tweeted that his office will “find good homes” for the masks shown in the art installment. Rest in peace to this iconic piece of contemporary art.




I don’t get the snark. They weren’t glued down or encased in clear resin as some kind of permanent art installation. This was a temporary display that was meant to communicate to the public that “thousands of masks have been sent to New York from around the country— made with love.” This is as a visual representation of just some of the sacrifices that many people are making for others. And do you truthfully believe in a pandemic that Cuomo’s office would just hoard them all for use as a permanent art display? No way.

Like so many people around the world, I’ve been busy sewing fabric masks. It’s definitely a labor of love, but I’m happy to do what I can. The time and energy spent (and financial expense, since fabric isn’t typically free) to make these could be devoted to other pursuits, but I can’t help but think of the person who might eventually wear the ones I’m making... so I’m making them as durable and as well-fitting as possible. I’m disabled and unable to work, but I can sew, and this is all I can really do for others right now. Making and sending masks to others isn’t what any of us should have to be doing. And even with all the effort that goes into making them, a mask only offers the smallest amount of protection. But here we are. It’s all we can do.

So for me, it was both inspiring and sobering to see so many masks all in one place. It’s also a great visual that represents all the people funneling their pandemic anxiety into their sewing machines.