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Arts & Extras: Roanoke County artist regards coronavirus times through classic art

Arts & Extras: Roanoke County artist regards coronavirus times through classic art

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“We are all struggling with what to make of the coronavirus,” wrote Roanoke County artist Debbie Vinci. “I saw an opportunity to creatively document the impact of COVID-19 on the world today.”

That’s how Vinci, 65, explained the funny and poignant series of images that she has made and shared on her website. Titled “In the Time of Corona,” they take well-known masterworks and alter them to reflect circumstances people across the nation are facing as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

American artist Edward Hopper’s most famous painting, “Nighthawks,” depicts patrons gathered late at night in a 1940s diner. In Vinci’s version, the diners are gone and a sign on the window reads “Delivery and Takeout Only.”

In her version of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s iconic 1893 masterpiece “The Scream,” the screaming figure wears a protective mask. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night” is shown empty of customers and tables.

Perhaps the funniest in the set is a riff on pop artist Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints of Campbell’s soup cans. In Vinci’s version, the cans are converted to rolls of toilet paper decorated in the same red and white pattern, and the fancy script reads, “Don’t Hoard.”

Vinci said she intends to add more to the series.

Originally from New York, Vinci moved to Roanoke eight years ago. “My family brought me here,” she wrote. “One-by-one, my sister, my parents and my children migrated to and settled in the Roanoke Valley. I made the move after my grandson’s third birthday. I enjoy the small town feeling. Roanoke has become my artistic inspiration and my home.”

As it has with most of the rest of the world, the COVID-19 crisis changed Vinci’s focus. Her portfolio online includes many photos of beaches, flowers and striking architecture.

“I had always been interested in photography as a hobby but in 2002 my sister-in-law gave me a digital camera and I soon realized that I had finally found the perfect way to express myself artistically as well as utilizing my computer background,” she wrote. “I am just now getting into a really exciting new genre: compositing, which brings two or more photos together to create something entirely new.”

The “Corona” images are produced using that technique, she wrote. “I chose iconic and recognizable artwork, so the viewer could immediately make the connection of what was altered to reflect this current life in coronavirus times.”

She hopes that in its way this series will help convey the need to maintain social distancing and safety practices as everyone copes with the pandemic. “People have lost their jobs, family members, daily routines,” she wrote. “In general, I try to stay busy and upbeat. I’m so thankful and blessed that no one in my family has come down with COVID-19 yet (and with a daughter in NYC that is an ongoing concern).

“If there is one bright side to this pandemic, it is the absolute burst of imaginative and truly inspiring art — in all its many forms — that has appeared.”

To see more of Vinci’s work, visit

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Mike Allen covers government happenings in Franklin County and Botetourt County for The Roanoke Times and also writes the weekly Arts & Extras column.

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