Behind The Mask

May 26, 2020

To the billions of people who have visited the site, the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 global dashboard provides a useful, if sobering, tool to track the spread of the virus. To Jake Johns, it provided an opportunity to create art.

Johns’ “Masked” shows a woman reading a magazine with a white surgical mask across her face. The mask is connected via blockchain technology to the open-source data that powers the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Three images of the same painting of a woman reading a magazine She's wearing a surgical mask that gets fainter in the second and third images.
The mask on Jake Johns’ “Masked” is connected to data feeding the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker map and changes in transparency based on the number of daily cases.

“As the number of global confirmed cases goes down in the tracker, the mask will disappear, and the original painting will be revealed,” says Johns. In partnership with Async, a community of artists and programmers, Johns auctioned off “Masked” and donated the proceeds to Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 response.

For Johns, both the art and the donation have a personal meaning. He was living and working for Walt Disney and an art school in Shanghai when the pandemic began.

“We were getting ready to leave China anyway, but the outbreak sped that up,” he recalls. He first stopped in Japan, where he stayed for about a month before returning to the United States. “People were going crazy at the time. Everyone from mainland China was going to Japan. It wasn’t a vacation, it was an escape.”

He believes that “Masked,” and other creative works developed in response to COVID-19, can carry a powerful message.

“It adds to the idea that we want to get through this thing, and we can get through it together. Art helps give us that push,” he says.

Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Promote and Protect Health