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Artist paints 45 heroes in 45 days: Portraits of heroes in the fight against COVID

Posted March 10, 2021 7:01 p.m. EST
Updated March 10, 2021 7:57 p.m. EST

— With brush, oil -- and a lot of heart -- Maria Bennett Hock painted 45 portraits or 45 heroes in 45 days.

Every portrait is of an employee at Duke University Medical Center.

Hock, a portraitist, longed to give countenance to the faces of Duke University hospital.

"These people put their lives on the line. I wish I could help," she said.

So she created canvases full of heroes to honor the work Duke employees have done this past year – simply by going to work each day in the face of a pandemic.

She didn't only paint doctors. She painted kitchen workers, nurses, heroes.

They sent her selfies because she couldn't visit in person. She got out her paints and began preserving their faces.

On October 30, she posted the first one.

It ended up being 45 paintings in 45 days.

"Sometimes I look at them and I just cry, thinking about them and what they're doing," she said.

Hock said she hopes people who see the portraits come away with the gravity of the situation.

"I told them when I took the selfies, I didn't want a bunch of smiling faces," she said. "I want to know what you look like at the end of the day. I want people to feel their exhaust."

Preserving the exhausted faces of heroes in paint.

Heroes like Amanda and Anna and Chavonne. Bidgette, Bryan, Brianna. Alysia. Denise. DeMetris. Carlos. Emilee. Ebonee. Elizabeth. And Elizabeth. Frankie and Kamara and Katherine.

Greg, Grisel, Heather, James. Jason. John. Julia.

And ... Leon.

Leon Rogers, whose job is to transport patients from the lobby to the clinic. He sings to every single patient who comes through his way.

"I'm also blessed to be able to sing to every one of them, just to be an uplift," he said.

And when it was all done -- the 45 heroes come face to face with their portraitist. Each received the painting as a gift.

The 45 portraits were on display at Duke University hospital for the last three months. But today, they went home with those 45 hospital heroes.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is the most important body of work I've ever done," said Hock.

For heroes like Lindsay, Liz, Lynn, Maria.

Michelle. Nora. Rebekah. Sandra.

Rose Anne and Sharon. Tammy and Timothy. Troy and William.

Workers who deserve admiration -- like a great work of art.

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