Camas artist’s painting captures surreality of quarantine

Anna Norris says her inspiration for 'We're Not in Camas Anymore' artwork came while standing inside Natalia's Cafe, looking at desolate downtown streets

(Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Natalia's Cafe owner Erica Slothower (right) and manager Wendy DelBosque (left) hold Camas painter Anna Norris' recent work, "We're Not in Camas Anymore," featuring DelBosque looking out the cafe windows onto the desolate streets of downtown Camas during the height of the COVID-19 quarantine, on Friday, May 22.

(Contributed photo courtesy of Anna Norris) Camas painter Anna Norris shows the stages of her recent painting, "We're Not in Camas Anymore," featuring Natalia's Cafe manager Wendy DelBosque looking out the cafe's windows at empty downtown streets during the first few weeks of the statewide quarantine meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re Not in Camas Anymore” reads a handwritten card under one of Camas artist Anna Norris’ most recent paintings. 

Displayed inside the front window of Natalia’s Cafe in downtown Camas, the painting — featuring Natalia’s manager Wendy DelBosque, left hand on hip, peering out the front window of an empty cafe toward an equally desolate downtown street — the painting has been receiving a lot of attention lately, somewhat surprising its creator. 

“I have to say, I’m really shocked at how many people have commented on it,” Norris said. 

The painting’s reception may be due to the fact that Norris seems to have perfectly captured the surreal mood of the months-long quarantine meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Norris, who opened a Norris Arts with her husband, Ted Norris, a ceramics artist, at 1605 N.W. Sixth Ave., in Camas in December 2018, had been looking forward to another great year in business when the coronavirus pandemic hit and the governor’s “stay home” orders impacted daily life throughout Washington state in late March. 

A few weeks after the quarantine started, Norris was inside Natalia’s Cafe with DelBosque, looking around the downtown Camas core that is normally bustling with life on a sunny afternoon. 

“It was a gorgeous day but not a soul on the streets,” Norris said. “I looked at Wendy and said, “What are we going to do?’ It was like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ like a house had been dropped on us.” 

DelBosque, who has been cooking daily pick-up meals at Natalia’s since the start of the quarantine, is the main subject in Norris’ painting. 

DelBosque said customers like JJ Moyers, a laboratory technical consultant staying at the Camas Hotel who recently told DelBosque she was the only person he communicated with some days, make working during the quarantine worthwhile. 

“People need that human contact,” DelBosque said. “That’s why I come here everyday.”
DelBosque and Natalia’s Cafe owner Erica Slothower have kept the cafe going from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with pick-up meals available and have been able to provide more than 400 meals to community members in need thanks to generous customers who often add a $10 meal for a person in need to their own cafe orders. 

Norris said she also would like to give back to the community. Although the “We’re Not in Camas Anymore” painting will soon hang in the Attic Gallery, Norris said she is considering giving the proceeds to local charity, possibly one that helps feed people in need. 

“We’re not open or making any money, so this is a way I could give back to the community,” Norris said. 

Although their studio is not open for normal business right now, Norris said she and her husband have still been creating artwork and have found a way to get ceramics supplies to former students and fire the artwork in their studio while social distancing. 

The quarantine hasn’t impacted Norris’ creativity. If anything, she said, her work is thriving. 

“I’m painting a lot more now than I ever have,” she said. “The light in the studio is beautiful and I have huge pieces out and can work on all of them and never have to put them away.” 

To see more of Norris work, visit the Attic Gallery online at atticgallery.com/product-category/anna-norris/

To learn more about Natalia’s Cafe, visit facebook.com/nataliascafecamas/.

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