The Saints Wear White envisions the interior walls and ceilings of a church in China’s Hubei province – where the COVID-19 pandemic began – transformed into a large mural depicting doctors and nurses dressed in white protective gear. It is an homage that expresses gratitude to medical workers.
The project takes inspiration from the historic style of church painting and fresco. Instead of illustrating biblical scenes of saints or deities, the mural shows the anonymous medical workers who are selflessly putting themselves at the frontline of the virus. The project pays homage to these heroes and saints during the time of a crisis. This visually immersive space is a place for remembrance, solace, and gratitude.
As an art form, fresco painting is powerful in evoking the emotion of respect and sublimity. In Hubei Province and especially Wuhan, Western influence brought in churches and church art starting from the 19th century. In this context, this religious architectural and art form is chosen to celebrate and advocate for secular life-savers. To Western and global viewers, a church in China may challenge stereotypical cultural assumptions – it guides people to focus more on the essential content (medical workers) and not the country itself as an exotic entity, especially at a time when the disease invokes racism and xenophobia. The work may help people around the world feel emotionally touched in a common way and unite together. Therefore, it is both locally relevant and globally understandable.
The 3D renderings of this project are both an architectural proposal and visual art. Since the project was designed in February 2020, it has been shared widely online, bringing positive emotion and energy around the world, at a time when the world needed it urgently.
A version of the project is made digitally at Grand Central Station, New York.