She drastically altered her life because of COVID-19. This zine project helps her feel less alone

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2024 - 11:53am

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While the world has largely moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic, for Michelle Dawn, that’s not possible.

Dawn is an Arizona artist who suffers from a chronic illness that lands her in the high risk category when it comes to the coronavirus. So, she still has to be careful about COVID-19 today in ways that many of the rest of us have left behind. 

It’s an isolating experience that led her to find a community of her own online. There she met Katrina Dreamer, and the pair became friends.

They have created a new zine together — "The Covid Logs." It's dedicated to the experiences of chronically ill and disabled people during the ongoing pandemic. 

Michelle Dawn
Michelle Dawn
Michelle Dawn

Interview highlights

MICHELLE DAWN: So I have a genetic condition that makes me disabled and also chronically ill. It makes me high risk, which means if I get COVID, I'm at a higher risk of death or getting long COVID. And it also makes me immunocompromised, which means that I'm more likely to catch COVID and also less likely to be able to fight it off.

So tell us a little bit about what that meant for you living through this pandemic. I mean, it was difficult for everyone, I think in many ways, but this sounds like a whole different level for you.

DAWN: Absolutely. It was completely life changing. I felt so alone the past four years and isolated. I have to do a serious risk assessment anytime I literally do anything, anytime I go out into the world. And it's not really because of COVID itself. It's more so because of people, people's unwillingness to mask, to test, to stay home when they're sick. People have just really denied the severity of COVID and its effects.

What do you think it is like if you had to pick one thing because it sounds like there are many, right, but what do you think maybe the top thing is that people do not understand about what this has been like and what it's still like for somebody like you who has a chronic illness?

DAWN: I, I feel like people are just sort of misled about the severity of this. Like, yes, I am drastically affected by it because I am more high risk for things like death. But this affects everyone, like anyone can contract long COVID. It's been really hard for me to deal with that level of grief as far as seeing people just acting in a way where they just, they truly don't understand what they're getting themselves into, how it's affecting people around them and yeah, it's, it's just very, very isolating.

So, have you managed to stay away from COVID up until this point?

DAWN: I have, I have not gotten COVID yet. My immediate household has not gotten COVID yet, and it's because we've drastically had to alter our lives.

So you and another person have also gotten together and, and created some, some real art out of this, it sounds like. So I want to talk about "The COVID Logs," the scene that you have created. Where did this idea come from?

DAWN: So I in feeling isolated, I have been able to find a wonderful community mostly through Instagram of other like-minded people who practice disability justice. And it's really helped me to feel seen and less alone. And one of the people that I met through that is Katrina Dreamer. They live in Colorado, and they're the co-creator of "The COVID Logs." And we just had so many similar values and interests. We actually have the same chronic illness, and it was actually Katrina's idea. They came up with wanting to make a zine called "The COVID Logs" and just have it be something for the disabled and chronically ill community. People who feel forgotten and obsolete by this COVID experience. So this zine was just a way for us high risk people who feel disregarded to be like an outlet for our community. A place for us to connect and feel less alone and then also just a space, hopefully a vehicle to get our voices heard. It's a topic that not a lot of people are talking about.

So let's talk about what this looks like. I mean, this is large. It's 98 pages. It's 36 different contributors. Tell us about what's in here.

DAWN: Yeah. So, in the fall we put out a call for artists, and we got an overwhelming response. So many submissions, and yeah, it turned into basically it went from a little zine to 100-page book. It's a full color, it's a collection of different artwork and poetry, essays, just people's narratives about their experience of what life has been like since 2020.

So what are some of the ones that stand out to you? There's one I really loved in here. One artist took greeting cards, right, that she had gotten during the pandemic, even their grandmother's last letter, which was, you know, really touching and, and made artwork out of it. What, what, what do you love in this?

DAWN: Yeah, I, I absolutely love those pieces as well. Amy Pascal definitely stands out. They have beautiful paintings. One called "Still Life with COVID," one called "Well Wishers" and another called "What Doesn't Kill Us" and just a beautiful representation, somewhat abstract, of what their experience has been like.

And then another one that really stands out is by Bug Crew. They submitted, it's a short act graphic novel. It's beautifully illustrated and there's text involved, and again, just surrounding the ideas of community care and the importance of that in a COVID world.

Michelle Dawn
Michelle Dawn
The Covid Logs, from Michelle Dawn and

Tell us what you contributed to this as well because you're also an artist and, and do your own kind of work, right?

DAWN: I am. Yeah. So I often do a motionless which is a manipulation technique with Polaroid photos. And I worked on a series back in 2020 when this all started, I kind of used art as an outlet. And I created a series of three photos called "Unseen Unheard. And it's a motionless and also double exposure of myself. And I'm kind of blurred, and there's a overlaying layer of floral and different plant life over the top of me. So you can't fully see the image of myself. And it's just sort of was made to represent that feeling of being unheard and feeling obsolete. And also, again, just like the zine a way to kind of connect with other people in my community and help people to feel less alone and let them know that, hey, you know, I'm experiencing something similar to you.

Yeah. What does it mean to you to have done this and to be able to let other people who have been through similar experiences also be able to tell their stories?

DAWN: It's just, it's been so important to me obviously, this affects me personally so much. But it's also important to me because just the idea of community care is something that's extremely important to me. The idea of wearing a mask to not just protect yourself but to protect your community and strangers and just everyone that you come in contact with. Also, COVID disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous communities and other people of color. So wearing a mask is not only care, but it's also just a sign of solidarity, and all of those things are so important to me and our zine really helps get that out into the world.

So many people have just stopped talking about COVID. They think it doesn't exist anymore or it's not dangerous and it's just not accurate, like those aren't the scientific facts. And so it's just so important to me to get this out into the world and to help other people who are in my position to not feel alone and also just to put it out in the world as an active community care.

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