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Drawing On Greek Myths As Inspiration For Illustrating Life During The Pandemic

Narcissus stares a little too long at his reflection during a video call. Stuck at home, Medusa tries to cut her own unruly curls.

In his series Greek Quarantology, illustrator Jonathan Muroya recasts Greek gods and myths to creatively capture aspects of life during the pandemic.

The series started as an assignment during Muroya's last semester at the Rhode Island School of Design this spring. The prompt was to create an illustrated series that relates to the world amid the coronavirus, similar to the New York Times Opinion series, Art in Isolation.

Muroya says he asked himself three questions as he brainstormed ideas: What are people doing in quarantine? What are Greek characters known to do? Where can those two overlap?

Tantalus reaching for last roll of toilet paper — just out his grasp — feels relatable after several months of pandemic life. Even muscle-bound Hercules uses exercise videos to stay fit in quarantine.

"Probably at my worst times I'm Jason on the couch in his golden fleece watching TV," Muroya says. "Probably at my best, maybe Persephone, just wanting to be outside."

Muroya researched and selected ancient Greek mythological characters who embodied a quality of quarantine life. He struggled with how to depict the Minotaur, a half-man and half-bull monster that was caged in a labyrinth. After a few adjustments, Muroya settled on a Minotaur working on a maze puzzle.

Muroya says that the pandemic hasn't completely uprooted his daily routine. He spends a lot of time by himself, working on illustrations, as he did before the pandemic.

For most illustrators, says Muroya, there's a part of them that "enjoys the solitude and just being in a room" with their work.

Jonathan Muroya is an illustrator based in Providence, R.I.

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Emily Bogle