Iliana Cosme-Brooks, a senior double majoring in Arts and Humanities and Public and Professional Writing, has found solace in creating during the COVID-19 pandemic and has picked up embroidery, sewing, crochet, and knitting.
She was selected to receive a $500 CREATE! Micro-Grant to respond critically and creatively to the events of the pandemic. Her CREATE! Micro-Grant project, titled “Synonyms for, Symptoms of, Suffocation, Solitude,” is of a mask and an exaggerated and oversized sweater that she made to illustrate how she has felt during the pandemic.
“The oversized sweater is meant to be difficult to move in. It’s even difficult to put on with the lack of shaping and extra-long cuffs,” Cosme-Brooks said. “The eyeless mask is made with scratchy yarn, cuts the wearer off from everyone else, and is uncomfortable.”
The project took a sufficient amount of planning and trial and error and was completed in about three months, which is about four times longer than her usual pieces for her personal wardrobe.
“I spent a large part of my childhood making props and designing hats, but I never viewed any of that as art, let alone art worth a grant,” she said. “I also did not consider myself an artist until after winning, when I got many emails referring to us (the winners) as ‘artists.’ It’s one thing to say, ‘anyone can be an artist,’ but it’s another thing when you are included in ‘anyone.’”
Without this project, I don’t think I would have been able to start processing the internal impacts the pandemic has had on me.
Cosme-Brooks used the grant money to buy material, including purchases made from a yarn store that is owned by women of color.
“I wanted this piece, while representing the negative emotional impact of the pandemic, to have a speckle of hope for the future in the form of socially conscious materials,” she said. “I’ve always loved making things, and that has also led to my long-term interest in researching western fashion history. I love seeing how society impacts what we wear, and how what we wear impacts society, particularly for women.”
Working on this project allowed Cosme-Brooks to start processing the internal impacts and to emotionally reflect on her experiences during quarantine.
“Without this project, I don’t think I would have been able to start processing the internal impacts the pandemic has had on me,” she said. “I kept myself busy, but in exchange, I didn’t spend any time on my relationships, trading them for the ability to stay in a mostly positive mindset. I do like the fact that this project doesn’t tie in with any of my academic interests though — it feels a bit more like my own in that respect.”
Written by Kyleigh Meyers-VanDouser