By Wendy Grossman Kantor
May 14, 2020 11:00 AM
Credit: Nastya Sunnytarova, Ilya Gridnev; Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665/Mauritshuis Collection, The Hague

Middle School art teacher Katie Brown has been scrounging her Pittsford, NY home, searching for props to recreate artwork starring her 2-year-old daughter Lydia.

For a Marie Cassett painting, Brown found a straw hat in her closet. For a Briton Riviere painting, Brown snuck a treat into the sleeve of Lydia’s blue Elsa dress to entice her 10-year-old dog into cooperating too.

“I just love being like the art director of this mini photo shoot,” says Brown, 36, who posts her recreations on her Instagram. “It’s fun to think about what I have in the house, and how I can make it work.”

On March 25, the J. Paul Getty Museum posted on Twitter to challenge people to look around their house and find three things they could use to recreate a work of art. (Getty staff were inspired by the Dutch Instagram account Between Art and Quarantine.)

Thousands of people around the world — like Brown — have since participated.

“Some of these creations are genius-level,” says Annelisa Stephan, Getty’s assistant director for digital content strategy and user experience design. “People are using what they have and getting really creative.”

From Rosie the Riveter wearing a face mask to toilet paper collars, anything seems possible.

Credit: Bryan Beasley; J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles

“I thought it would taper off, but there’s still great ones coming in,” Stephan says. “I love that people are using this time to look at art in such an intense way.”

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Alex Hao, 22, recreated one of his favorite paintings, The Son of Man by Rene Magritte. It depicts a man wearing a business suit and bowler hat with a green apple blocking his face.

“It gives you something to do. It’s creative. It definitely helps take your mind off things. And it definitely sparks conversation,” says Hao, who works at a startup in Oakland, California. “It’s a social activity, in this time where we don’t have social activity face-to-face.”

Credit: Quim Gonzalez; Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial / Bridgeman Images

In Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, 47-year-old mom Kristen Marino took out her old art history textbooks to amp up her children’s homeschool curriculum. Her 16-year-old daughter Amelia picked Botticelli’s Birth of Venus for the family to recreate. Her 12-year-old son Simon had one stipulation: No nudity.

For the clamshell, Marino (as Venus) stood in a round orange saucer sled draped in sheets and a towel. She upcycled angel wings for her son and husband out of plastic grocery bags.

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“Right now, what we’re all going through is serious and overwhelming and I find myself checking the coronavirus sites to see what the numbers are up to four times a day,” Marino says. “It’s so overwhelming, you need something to lighten it.”

And, it made a killer art lesson with a lasting impact.

“The kids will not forget this painting now, that’s for sure,” Marino says.

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