Between COVID-19, a sinking economy, political strife, and a bigger spotlight on racially motivated violence, the news can be tough to read these days. All you have to do is glance at a few headlines before that awful sinking feeling takes hold in your stomach. Most of us are already dealing with a lot of stress in our lives as it is, and a constant barrage of bad news just makes it worse.
Brooklyn-based artist and designer Sho Shibuya took a literal approach to the self care log-off in a serene new series. Feeling battered by the rising cases of coronavirus in New York City at the time, Shibuya found solace in the city’s sunrises. He decided to photograph each one and recreate it on the front page of The New York Times in acrylic paint.
“I realized that from the small windows of my studio, I could not hear the sounds of honking cars or people shouting,” he told Spoon & Tamago. “I could hear the birds chirping energetically and the sound of wind in the trees, and I looked up and saw the bright sky, beautiful as ever despite the changed world beneath it.”
Each one of these paintings appears on Shibuya’s Instagram, beginning on April 27th, 2020. At first, they’re like windows of escape in the middle of all the stress-inducing text, taking up only a fraction of the page, one captured “from a small airplane window.” Over time, they grow to encompass the entire page. On May 24th, he leaves a headline intact: “U.S. DEATHS NEAR 100,000, AN INCALCULABLE LOSS.” After that, they typically obscure every last bit of news.
One painting is entirely black, captioned simply “Black Lives Matter.” Others range from the inky indigo depths of a sky only just beginning to awaken to pastel hues of orange and lavender. In some cases, Shibuya’s even layered multiple sunrises over each other in perfectly aligned rectangles. The comments on each post are flooded with requests to purchase the works, which seem to have hit a nerve with New Yorkers in particular.
“The spirit of the project is that maybe, even after the pandemic subsides, people can continue some of the generosity and peace we discovered in ourselves, and that the sky reminds us of every day with a sunrise through a small window,” says Shibuya. “If there’s one thing the news has made clear, it’s that we need generosity and peace for all people now more than ever.”
Shibuya is the founder of Placeholder, a brand design studio focusing mostly on graphic design, advertisements, and creative projects designed to “go viral” in the old internet sense that we’ll never hear the same way again. Previous projects have included unique biodegradable ‘Thank You’ bags that pop up out of flat sheets of paper, hand-lettered Japanese katakana, and a strikingly unique “Millennial pink” retail space for menstrual garment brand Thinx.
Check out more of Shibuya’s work and keep up with new pieces on Instagram, where his stories, fittingly enough, are often just beautiful shots of the sky.