Aaron Gronstal Creates Comic Illustrations to Translate Emily Mendenhall’s Unmasked into Visual Form

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Illustration from the Unmasked comic, showing people in boats and floats, having drinks and putting sunblock on during the summer 2020 in Miller's Bay, Wahpeton, Iowa
Page from Aaron Gronstal’s comic illustrating Emily Mendenhall’s Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji / Credit: Aaron Gronstal

Aaron Gronstal, an astrobiologist and visual artist from Okoboji, uses comic illustrations to translate Emily Mendenhall‘s Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji into visual form. These illustrations tell the story of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in a small tourist town in the Iowa Great Lakes region: Mendenhall and Gronstal’s hometown of Okoboji.

In Okoboji, the collective commitment to public health turned to the economy during the Summer 2020, as many people rely on tourist income from the 100 days of summer to stretch over the year, and losing that income was inconceivable. Mendenhall arrived in June 2020 in the middle of an outbreak, where she observed how nearly everyone was unmasked, given that Iowa was one of a handful of states that did not enact a formal “stay-at-home” order.

Aaron Gronstal designed, drew, colored, and edited this piece to help tell the complicated story of COVID-19 in Okoboji.

Read the piece on Sapiens.