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Processing loss is the subject of a new art exhibition in Louisville

Outside a window sits a bird on a branch. A person on the inside is reaching out towards it. Everything is hues of blue.
Alexandra Rumsey
"The Visit," by Alexandra Rumsey. Acrylic and acrylic ink on canvas

“Grief is love with no place to go.” An art exhibition opening this month hopes to capture the unique and unifying experience of grieving.

The “Echoes of Endings” exhibition, which opens at the Aurora Gallery and Boutique May 11, explores grief in various forms. The idea started when artist Bearykah Shaw was processing their own grief over the death of their dad and another lost relationship.

“I feel like people don't have the tools or the verbiage, or they don't really have the urge to reach out to other people and want to experience their grief or let their grief out and how it manifests,” Shaw said.

Aurora Gallery co-owner and artist Alexandra Rumsey was immediately sold on the idea.

“I gave up my solo show to do this group show because when they came to me, it felt like it needed to happen, that it was such an important subject matter and such an important thing for artists to come together over that that needed to take precedence,” Rumsey said.

Aurora Gallery put out an open call for submissions for the exhibition. Both Rumsey and Shaw wanted to capture as many perspectives on grief as possible.

“I've gotten submissions from people that have come in and said, ‘I've never been in an art show before, but my grief led me to make this art,’” Rumsey said. “I think that the power of an open submission show is that it removes the class system that happens in fine art. And it becomes more accessible to everybody on a subject matter that everyone experiences.”

Shaw’s piece focuses on the stages of grief using different photographs to depict what those feelings might look like.

A black and white image of a person laying partially on a bed. One arm reached out across the bed while the other is tucked under their head. They have distant and longing expression on their face.
Bearykah Shaw
Bearykah Shaw
Bearykah Shaw
Untitled Photograph
Digital Photography

Rumsey will have three pieces in the show.

“One of them's a traditional kind of acrylic painting that's in dedication to my grandmother who raised me,” she said. “It's called ‘The Visit,’ and there's essentially a bird, and my hands reaching out to touch through the window, but obviously, you can't.”

Rumsey's other pieces include a mixed media work centering a miscarriage experience and a book of poetry.

On a black background, a person stands with their back facing out in a pink leotard.
Jess Allen
"Ode to a Narcissist Mother: The Scapegoat" by Jess Allen. Acrylic and ink on canvas.

Other pieces look at manifestations of grief that might not be as obvious.

Jesse Kerrison created a piece that visualizes the loss of childhood.

“It involves taking toys from my childhood that my father used to throw at us,” Kerrison explained. “I have arranged these toys as if they were pinned insects in this piece.”

Kerrison likes to add whimsy to their work, especially when dealing with heavy topics.

“It's a little easier to digest, I guess. And I mean, at the same time, when it comes to life, like if you don't have any whimsy, what's the point,” Kerrison said.

Their other piece reflects on what it feels like to lose a relationship when someone ghosts you, and how that grief manifests in the body.

Creating work for the show has helped them process their grief.

A whitish background with shapes and paint splatters in hues of red, blue, pink and yellow.
Margaret Archambault
"Good Ole' Days" by Margaret Archambault. Oil on canvas.

“When it comes to the piece about my father, it's definitely helped me process some of that a little bit more,” Kerrison said. “It's something that I've kind of come to terms to for the most part, but …it's always kind of there.”

Brittney McCormick was diagnosed with rare spinal cancer and is currently in remission. Her diagnosis and treatment changed her life.

“I was a screen printer, and I can no longer screen print because the repetition of printing is too painful on my spine,” McCormick said. “So I'm grieving the loss of a career.”

She also grieves relationships that faded when people didn’t know how to support her through cancer, and the changes the disease has made in her body.

Cancer impacted every part of McCormick's life, including her relationship with her husband, Justin Kamerer.

“My husband and I created our own insect, it's called Luna Bee,” McCormick said of a work they collaborated on for the exhibition. “A Luna Bee was our symbol for hope, love and perseverance.”

A LunaBee, mix between a luna moth and honey bee, in teal on a black background. Words in cream read "Explore Life Accept Death."
Brittney McCormick & Justin Kamerer
La Luna Hive
The LunaBee represents hope, perseverance and love.

The design for the Luna Bee was inspired by luna moths and is the symbol for their project La Luna Hive.

“They gravitate towards the light, which I think is really important because it's so easy to sink down into the dark of depression and fear, and sometimes it's harder to find that light and gravitate towards it,” McCormick said.

They combined the symbolism of the luna moth with that of honey bees. Their pet names for each other are Bee and Bug.

“Bees spend their days pollinating flowers and producing honey and protecting the queen, and they represent community, while the honey is the sweetness of life,” McCormick said.

Grief can be an isolating experience, but the exhibition organizers and participants how they can create a space where people realize they are alone.

“There are some aspects of grief that are personal to just you as an individual to just you, but as a whole, someone, somewhere is experiencing something parallel to you,” McCormick said.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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