Alum Chris Ware’s New Yorker Covers Reflect Life Under the Pandemic

Left: "Bedtime," Right: "Still Life"

SAIC alum Chris Ware (SAIC 1991-93, HON 2019) designed the covers for the April 6 and May 4 issues of The New Yorker, both reflecting life during the coronavirus. Ware is a cartoonist whose work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and his graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth won the Guardian Prize in 2000. Since 1999, Ware has contributed 25 covers to The New Yorker.

The April 6 cover, "Bedtime," depicts a medical worker pausing in a crowded hospital hallway to wave goodnight to her family over a video call on her phone. “The last real job I had was delivering blood to hospitals, in the early 1990s. A beeping pager would drag me out of bed to groggily pilot a white Ford Escort to local emergency rooms, where I got to know the tired but determined lab techs and nurses," Ware said. "While they signed the requisite paperwork, we’d small-talk about what recent movies they might’ve seen, or they’d tell me about their families. Then I’d drive home, embarrassed by my thin ambition to be an artist but grateful that at least I could go back to sleep.”

The May 4 cover, “Still Life,” scatters snapshots of temporary city life separated by white grid lines, like city blocks. Discarded rubber gloves, a desolate train platform, yellow flowers, an empty bed, and silhouettes in apartment windows dot the cover. “Time everywhere has seemed to slur, to become almost Groundhog Day-ish, forced into a sort of present-perfect," Ware said. "But disaster can also have a recalibrating quality. It reminds us that the real things of life (breakfast, grass, spouse) can, in normal times, become clotted over by anxieties and nonsense.”