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Patron saint of pandemic: With venues closed, performer Abbey Crawford finds a new creative outlet

UPDATED: Fri., May 15, 2020

Abbey Crawford is a trained cabaret singer, has been acting in theater for more than 30 years and works as a hairstylist at the Jewel Box Salon. Essentially, every aspect of her life involves creativity.

But when her salon, theaters and performance venues closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Crawford had to find a new creative outlet.

Enter: “Pandemic Saints.”

“Pandemic Saints” is a photo series Crawford created of just that, faux saints representing a variety of aspects all related to quarantine and the coronavirus.

The first one Crawford posted on Facebook, dubbed Our Lady Quarantine, features an ethereal-looking Crawford wearing a beautifully patterned top and an elaborate headpiece, one hand hovering over her heart.

Our Lady Quarantine came to be after Crawford asked her daughter to help her re-create makeup looks she saw on TikTok.

“It was the first time I had makeup on in probably three weeks, and my hair was done up and I had just colored it and curled it. Then I started getting into my costume stuff,” Crawford said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is so funny. … She looks like a saint like on a candle.’ I put it up just for fun, and people were like, ‘Oh my God, I need a signed copy of this. You have to put this on a card. You have to print this. You have to put this on a candle.’ ”

Crawford enjoyed the response, then thought she should have had a roll of toilet paper in her hand.

“And I was like, ‘Wait a minute! I can do another one next week.’ ”

The second saint, Saint Charmin Papier Toilette, features Crawford wearing a wig and black outfit, proudly holding a roll of toilet paper.

From there, Crawford easily found inspiration for more “Pandemic Saints” photos.

Our Lady Plastique Gauntlet shows Crawford glamorously wearing black gloves, as if to say, “Take my hand, but stay 6 feet apart,” while Our Lady des Collations shows Crawford carrying an armful of junk food.

“It’s a comfort because nothing happening right now is normal,” Crawford said. “The things we’re grabbing onto to make us feel normal, snacks are one of those things.”

For Saint Hygiène des Mains, Crawford is holding a bottle of hand sanitizer she was given for her birthday, and, as Saint Visage la Masque, one of the darker saints, Crawford has a skeletal mouth painted over her own (courtesy of her daughter) while holding a face mask.

“It was kind of my editorial on ‘If you don’t wear a mask, you’re going to kill somebody,’ ” she said.

With her most recent saint, Our Lady de Racines de Cheveux Naturels, Crawford rocked her natural roots in a nod to the multiple clients she’s had “freaking out about their hair.” She also hopes to create a saint who speaks to our inability to hug friends and family.

“It’s been fairly therapeutic and cathartic to express myself in this way because I have a lot of creative energy, but when you’re in lockdown, you can’t hang out with your friends, and all my friends are very creative,” she said.

“It’s an interesting world because I would rather stay home and stay safe and keep my kids safe than to go hang out with a bunch of people. It gives me my sanity for the time being since I don’t feel like singing. At least I have an outlet. I’ve never been so thankful for my costume trunk in my life.”

By “costume trunk,” Crawford means closet. Because of her work in theater and “the fact that (she’s) a little eccentric,” Crawford has amassed quite the collection of clothing. She has pieces of costumes from the Spokane Civic Theatre, which she purchased from the costume shop, and if she has to wear a wig for a show, she often buys it, too.

She’s also bought and had headpieces made in the past, and Crawford and her daughter love to go thrifting.

It takes about an hour for Crawford to get ready to take a “Pandemic Saints” photo after having thought about her desired look over the week. The photoshoot, which takes place in her bathroom, takes about half an hour and often features a variety of poses and props.

When Crawford is happy with her photos, she uses the app PicsArt to edit them, usually adding a heavenly glow and a faux French name for each saint to the photos.

Crawford considered the “Pandemic Saints” series something creative she could do from home and was surprised at how invested people have become. She’s heard suggestions of using photos for a calendar and pack of tarot cards, and a friend, artist Jeremy Whittington, illustrated three saints as a birthday gift for Crawford.

She said he plans to illustrate the other saints as she posts them, so, theoretically, she could come out of quarantine with a pack of tarot cards. The “Pandemic Saints” series, and people’s reactions to it, also have shown Crawford just how important the arts are for our well-being.

“I wasn’t joking when I said this is my sanity right now because it gives me the opportunity to express that part of me, but also it gives people, they’re enjoying it just as much as I am, and I couldn’t be more happy about that,” she said.

“I would rather stay home and keep myself safe and keep my clients safe rather than go back to working early. I know there are a lot of people who don’t feel that way, but I’m telling you, as long as I’ve got these saints, I think I’m going to be just fine.”

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