I have been a working artist for over ten years. Through my artwork, I record emotional responses to the process of bereavement by creating collages and book structures. Over a five-year period starting in 2005, my father, youngest brother, and mother died. These consecutive deaths gave me a deeper awareness of a dominant norm of grief avoidance. Bereavement made me focus on creating more artwork and showing it in a public sphere. Over the years presenting this artwork, grieving people continually come up to me during my art shows, confused by trying to intellectualize their incomplete relationships and experiences with loss and not finding relief.
To become a better advocate for grievers and the mourning process, I decided two years ago to pursue a Master's degree in conflict and dispute resolution at the University of Oregon Law School. Accustomed to the natural way many artists reflect emotional responses through artwork, I was confused and sadden working within my cohort and mediation clients at the lack of expressed and unacknowledged loss during conflict and how this element often entrenches these situations into deeper stalemates. During my studies, I took the Grief Recovery Method Specialist course. Looking for tools to support grievers in conflicts, I began to ask what can we learn from artist about grief and mourning? My thesis research focused on how some artists express grief, mourning, trauma, conflict, and loss through their artwork. Then I created a body of artwork using the methods I found.
Because of the way grief is internally processed in the brain, it is difficult to put into spoken words. For centuries, mourning rituals and artist's expression have made this dialectic more manageable. Through the selective re-creation of reality seen within artwork, art brings intangible concepts to the perceptual level of consciousness. Therefore, allowing them to be grasped directly, as if they were precepts.
This process is also often referred to as mimesis - a representation or imitation of the real world in art and literature as a factor in social change or record. By using mimesis with an art practice, artists create work that encourages dialogue among viewers - to empathize, grow compassion, provide understanding, remember, forget, or reconcile grief and mourning. In my presentation, I will discuss different artists and art movements where this is a factor. Strong examples can be seen right after WW1 and into WW2. From this research and study, I will show how this effected portions of my own body of artwork. Then I compare, suggest tools and share realizations I found in the process. Many of these images and artist's processes can be used to support grievers, especially if they are more instrumental in their process.
Thank you for the opportunity to present this to you!