Life cannot exist without death. Even stars—from the massive supergiant to the cool white dwarf—die. Despite this, in many Western cultures, death is what we don’t talk about, its inevitability the constant hum we try to ignore. Until we can’t.
But art imitates more than just life; it does not ignore mortality. Seventeenth-century painters practiced the memento mori (remember, you must die), frequently coupling their living human subjects with skulls, clocks, hourglasses, and burning candles. Though a common subject in past centuries, death is infrequently acknowledged or welcomed as a theme in exhibitions today. It is not uncommon, however, for contemporary artists to explore through their work emotions surrounding death. Art can celebrate and memorialize. It can serve as a site of social protest or a chance to discard human judgement and observe the biological realities beneath. Art can examine the comforts and constraints of ritual practices, and it can allow for humor—laughter—making space for a catharsis that is greater than tears. This exhibition intends to reveal the range of possibilities.
We, the living, cannot know death absolutely. Is this where the power lies? Is the fact that life is finite what makes it profound? Is this death’s gift?
Through September 1