Welcome to 40 MASKS, a virtual exhibition of new works on paper inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s how it happened:

I put out a call on social media for people to send me their masked or “COVID” selfies.

I started drawing the ones that spoke to me most in the first series of 40.

My hope is that we can support the arts virtually while raising money for a charity close to my heart.

Because we can’t connect in person, I encourage you to share your masked selfies via Instagram (tag me at @nataliehopemcdonald) with the hashtag #40MASKS.

Thank you for visiting.


Masks. They’ve become a ubiquitous symbol of our time. They are synonymous with the pandemic and a new normal that has changed the way we live, work and interact. Even though this is an evolving process, I ultimately wanted to explore how this new iconography is itself evolving as a symbol of resistance against this virus, a show of respect for front-line workers and even a fashion statement at a time when aesthetics have been eclipsed by necessity.

As I began working on these portraits as a way to make sense of being under quarantine, it became immediately clear that the illustrations would be unlike any portraits I’ve ever done. Because peoples’ faces are obscured by material, the usual characteristics we might use to define someone – things like physical beauty, race and even gender – are also obscured. Subjects who submitted their photos from Philadelphia, Berlin and New York, for example, could be anyone, from virtually anywhere. They are symbols of our time, albeit mostly anonymous ones. In some cases, people have used these utilitarian face coverings to make powerful political statements and express creativity despite the deeply somber reminder of what each mask embodies: our deepest fears about dying.

Though none of us can possibly predict how long we may need to endure life with our camouflage, the stark iconography – one that literally masks our faces and ultimately our emotions – will persist in defining not only how we engage in our communities, but also how we ultimately express and care for each other during one of the greatest health challenges of our generation.


Because many of us are experiencing financial challenges during this quarantine, I’ll be donating 10 percent of sales to the Dirty Frank’s Family’s Go Fund Me. I chose this fund because the people at this bar/gallery have always been incredibly supportive of my art. It’s a place that welcomes a truly diverse group of regulars that have become an extended family. Many of the staff are artists themselves, and as such, for every sale that’s made, I will post to this online fundraiser page the amount (and with permission, the buyer’s name or simply “anonymous” with the hashtag #40Masks).


Each original 9×9-inch portrait is drawn by hand on acid-free paper, signed and framed for $100 (includes shipping and charitable donation). The artist is also currently accepting orders for custom portraits in masks to also benefit the Dirty Frank’s family through May 31.


If you see a portrait you like, please email the artist here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s