Creativity in Quarantine: Instagram Art Challenge with John Dominé & Kalin Talbott

Written by Savannah James

Since the commencement of the world-wide quarantine, artists and creatives have been thinking outside the walls of their isolation to keep spirits high. Many have taken part in the Getty Museum Challenge, a viral social media phenomenon that began when the Los Angeles Museum asked their social media audience to ““recreate a work of art with objects (and people),” resulting in an explosion of the recreation of famous pieces like Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss,’  daVinci’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ and Vermeer’s ‘Milkmaid.’

New York based John Dominé and Kalin Talbott were early adopters of the challenge, as it filled the void their hectic pre-corona schedules accounted for. Dominé is a street art photographer and Talbott is a visual merchandiser for Bloomingdales and street art enthusiast. “I’m used to spending 6-8 hours outside every day,” Dominé told UP.  “Being forced to isolate indoors kind of freaked me out.”

For their first portraits, they each chose taking on Rene Margriette’s “The Son of Man,” and Vermeer’s ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring.’ While the duo enjoyed their attempt at the challenge, they decided to push it a little further. “We quickly found that working from classical pieces was not going to sustain us for the duration of the quarantine,” Dominé told UP. “We needed to represent the work we love; contemporary art.”

Working from their respective homes, Dominé and Talbott each took on a new artwork every day which they posted to their Instagrams. Unlike the Getty challenge where most of the chosen works were historical classics, the works Dominé and Talbott chose were elaborate, forcing them to exercise their limited resources as best as possible. “It is most definitely a challenge coming up with fresh, accurate recreations everyday using only existing items in my tiny Chinatown studio,” Talbott said.

What started as a fix to satiate their persistent creative hunger quickly turned into an online dialogue between them, the original artists, and their followers. “This not only made it more inspiring for us both, we were then able to begin connecting with living artists through Instagram, thus shifting the project into a conversation with both the artists and our online communities.”

Much of Dominé’s inspiration has come from popular murals, such as Buff Monster’s melting eyes and Tito Ferrara’s massive portraits. Talbott’s, on the other hand, are more fashion oriented, given her passion for costuming and design. Despite their varied approaches, the two always circle back to each other in their posts, holding each other accountable. “I would not have been able to make this journey by myself though. Through daily conversations with Kalin and subsequent inspiration, we continue on this path,” Dominé said of their artistic partnership.

Talbott and Dominé became friends over their shared love for art and have travelled the world together taking photographs. “[John] shoots wonderful photos of me connecting with the art in one way or another. This city is bursting with visual splendor under most circumstances, so you can imagine the initial disappointment when the shelter in place order was announced and we could no longer run around on our endless hunt for fresh inspiration,” Tablott said over email.

Both Talbott and Dominé agree that lending their creativity to this challenge has helped them grow not only as creatives, but on a much more personal level. “It was pretty scary to make myself vulnerable like that. This gift of time (under terrible circumstances) has given me a different vision and really taught me that sometimes you need to take chances and make yourself vulnerable in order for real growth to occur, “ Dominé explained.

For Talbott, the project added another dimension to her relationship with art; “While I’ve been interacting with both street art and fine art for years, this project has challenged me to think outside the box and spend far more time with each work than I previously was,” she explained.

Though the shelter-in-place rule remains in New York for the foreseeable future, both Dominé and Talbott are looking forward to continuing this project when life returns to somewhat normal. “Many artists and fans have asked if we would be doing a show of the work or coming out with a book,” Dominé said. “I would love to have a party to celebrate the represented artists once we are all able to do so!”

“I am hopeful for the creative shift we will be seeing on mother earth, both locally and globally,” Talbott added.


Savannah James is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Art History at FIT, she felt called to pursue writing as a way of further exploring art and culture and its evolving relationship with society. She is interested in storytelling and the various ways life can be documented. Savannah is also a contributing writer for the Bushwick Daily and Bklyner.