As much of the US locks down in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, an artist couple has created a striking digital artwork, titled Safety Match, that illustrates the importance of staying at home to help stop the spread of disease.

“We want people to understand the severity of this crisis,” Juan Delcan told Artnet News. “This is very new and it’s happening very quickly. People have no idea how to prepare for this and they are in denial.” Delcan created Safety Match with his wife, Valentina Izaguirre.

The short animated video by the husband-and-wife team shows a row of matchsticks lined up like dominos. A first match is ignited, and the flame begins to spread rapidly from one match to the next, spelling certain doom for the entire group—that is until one of the matches comes to life, stepping out of the line and out of range of the fire.

Breaking the chain stopps the blaze, much the way that social distancing will keep more people from catching COVID-19.

“Do your part and stay home,” wrote Delcan on Twitter, sharing the piece in a post that has since been liked over 4,000 times and shared over 2,000 times—including by actress Olivia Wilde, who has herself amassed nearly 50,000 likes and over 18,000 Retweets for her post of Safety Match. On Instagram, the 12-second clip has been viewed more than half a million times with upwards of 84,000 likes.

“We knew people were going to watch it, but I don’t think we expected this global response,” said Izaguirre. “We’ve been up since 3 a.m. giving interviews!”

What’s been the most rewarding is the response from young people, she added. “We get messages that say ‘hey, this really helped me understand the situation.’”

The couple, who have been together ten years, met on the set of a commercial. Delcan was the director; Izaguirre, the wardrobe stylist. “We started making art and collaborating basically on day one,” she recalled.

The artists have been making matchstick artworks for about a year, with Izaguirre designing the sets while Declan does the animation in Cinema 4-D. The couple typically shoots video and records the audio on an iPhone, creating the final composite in Adobe Premiere. They complete each work in a single day. (In addition to animations, they also make paintings and sculptures.)

Artist couple Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre. Photo courtesy of Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre.

Artist couple Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre. Photo courtesy of Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre.

“We wanted to do something that is very simple and speaks to everybody,” said Delcan. “We all have matches handy, and by making them look like stick figures, it just brings you back to the very first drawing you did as a kid.”

But Safety Match marks a departure from the rest of the series, which consist of lighthearted scenes including matches in the gym prepping for a “boxing match” and a match skiing down a mountain of sugar on the kitchen counter.

The artists were inspired by their concerns about family members in Madrid and other parts of Europe, which has become a center of the outbreak. “I wanted to do my part,” added Delcan, who comes from a family of doctors and nurses. “We thought maybe one thing we could do is help people realize they need to stay inside.”

New York City museums began shutting down on Thursday, but bars and restaurants remained open over the weekend even as health officials recommended social distancing. Today, New York City schools shuttered, and restaurants and bars will close as of Tuesday. New government guidelines announced this afternoon advise against gatherings over 10 people.

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