Framing 2020: how a local student saves what he lost

Pandemic Postcards

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–A local high school senior delivered on an assignment of putting 2020 into a frame. He used that frame to surround what he wanted to save.

“All my art is coping with something basically,” Justin Cockrell told me in his art room at Wellington School. “So it’s like sort of like finding new ways to find the bloom among the thorns basically.”

The thorns were thick for Justin Cockrell in 2020.

“Around January of 2020 my Grandma had a stroke and was in the hospital in a coma for a while,” Justin said.

His Grandma Catherine and Grandpa John helped raise Justin. Ever since his mother died when he was 8, so Grandma’s house at 6404 was home. She died in April of 2020.

“Before that, I was just kind of making things I wanted to,” he said. “All that grief sort of centralized things in a way.”

“He’s made some pretty powerful work,” Justin’s visual arts teacher Jamie Bennati said.”I think people can connect to who might be going thru things as well.”

He lost his Grandpa four months later.

“The day we buried my Grandma and my Grandpa there were cardinals in the backyard,” Justin said while smiling. ”It was a way of like oh they’re here with us still.”

He was awarded a Gold Key for his textile self-portrait.

“I guess it was made when I was processing my grief,” Justin acknowledges.

The textures all have meaning. The material often holds emotional value. His mother of Mexican descent never learned Spanish and always wanted to be a teacher. Justin wants to teach Spanish someday.

“Grief doesn’t have to be someone dying grief can be losing a friend,” Justin said. “Grief can be like finding out you’re not going back to school for the rest of the year, grief can be like getting a rejection from something you really wanted to do.”

Art will always be a part helping him find the bloom.

“I’m excited for him,” his teacher said. “You think we’re not done hearing from him?” I asked. “No, I don’t think so.”

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