Can art empower people to express their feelings about loss?
Have we lost the art of grieving?
Why is talking about death so taboo and can art help break the taboo?
Gary Andrews (A.K.A. GaryScribbler) is a professional artist, cartoonist and animator who was unexpectedly widowed when his wife, Joy, suddenly died in late 2017. He has documented the grief journey online with a series of daily cartoons which have gained a large following on social media. In September 2020 his book Finding Joy, which charts the journey he and his children have taken since Joy's death, was published to great acclaim.
The artwork on display at this exhibition included paintings, photographs, poetry, collages, sculptures and textiles created by more than 50 professional and amateur artists, as well as art groups. Many of the pieces had been created as a response to emotionally harrowing times. The images seen here are a small selection of work that was on display in the 2017 exhibition.
Some of the artwork was self-explanatory, but in most cases artists had written a short explanation or description to accompany their creations.
One artist wrote 'Five years ago we suddenly lost our 22-year-old daughter to a form of sepsis and my art and creativity has helped me enormously in my grieving process.'
Another artist said: ' I was 7 years old when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and 14 when she died, but the aftermath was more than we had mentally prepared for. The day after the funeral my father had a heart attack and spent a month in hospital. Disorientated, with no one at the helm, our family disintegrated as we all tried to cope individually with our grief. I am not sure I have ever got over the deaths that I have known, just incorporated them into my life. My artwork is like a diary of my trying to make sense of the world'.
Artwork created by both professional and amateur artists was exhibited. The images included here are a small selection of the work from the 2019 exhibition.
At this exhibition we introduced a Visitor's book so that people could leave comments. One visitor said: 'Very moving exhibition, inspiring me to paint after the loss of my darling husband'. Another wrote: 'Fantastic exhibition! So much honesty and creative expression' and another commented: 'Superb exhibition, allowing the feelings of grief (loss, anger, fear etc.) to be expressed in a non-verbal way and allowing the 'listener' to understand, a little, of what it feels like.'
We also introduced a 'memory tree' and provided white paper doves strung with ribbon so that visitors who wished to could write a message to a loved one and hang it on the tree.
A further addition to the 2019 exhibition was a seated area with tea/coffee and cake (for a small donation) so that visitors could sit and chat to each other or to one of the bereavement specialist 'listeners' we had in attendance.