We’ve all been told that boredom, isolation, and cabin fever can inspire greatness (beyond the greatness inherent in mastering Zoom backgrounds, bread baking, and jigsaw puzzles). Yes, yes, Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine during the plague, and Sir Isaac Newton figured out some equations that led to calculus and also began to study the forces of gravity.
Another creative heroine battling COVID-19 quarantine listlessness—displaying the superhuman strength to resist rewatching Fleabag or downloading the Animal Crossing video game—has emerged: lifelong travel-junkie Jennifer Baer.
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Baer’s clever coronavirus-inspired travel posters began showing up on social media in late March, delighting those stuck inside and dreaming of distant horizons. The posters allow us to laugh at these uncertain times of lockdown and self-isolation, casting them instead as times of homebound adventure.
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The need to travel runs through Baer’s DNA: Her parents and grandparents worked for United Airlines. As an adult, she regularly takes epic trips, like hut-to-hut hiking through the Dolomites or stand-up paddleboarding alongside whales in Hawaii. When California’s shelter-in-place order was issued, Baer had to cancel a May trip to Tofino, B.C., and was confined to her 400-square-foot apartment in Palo Alto.
Says Baer: “As someone who travels frequently, I found myself dwelling on my own loss of freedom. It felt selfish, but the feeling was still real. . . . I watched as a few of my friends jumped in to rally the community to source N95 masks and PPE gear. They ran out to help. I burrowed deeper into my couch.” Then, the idea of using her artistic skills to reframe our shared quarantine experience of being trapped inside as something romantic and exciting occurred to her. The concept of the posters started coming into focus.
Baer has some experience in the travel poster game: As part of her job as a graphic designer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, she has been tasked with making posters to promote the annual European Lunar Symposiums. Her illustrations for the meetings in Berlin, Amsterdam, and London, among other cities, definitely feel more about visiting those earthly cities than exploring outer space.
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The coronavirus poster series is not done yet—Baer hopes other graphic designers and artists will participate in the campaign. “We have a lot to offer: hope, critical messaging, and if nothing else, levity. We’re all trying to push back on the darkness. The artist’s toolset is the only one we have as we show up to do battle. Fortunately, it’s mighty in times like this.”
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