Dealing with grief over the last few years has changed the way I see the world and live in it. Grief is a complex and challenging human emotion that is hard to define or categorize and even more challenging to work through when you’re in the midst of it.
This experience has been a driving force for me in trying to find beauty again and navigating these emotions into an acceptance. Looking at my inspirations from other cultures, I have found a way to incorporate aspects of them into my studio work. I will be discussing three portraits that each represent a complexity of emotions, abstracted to a symbolic meaning. These images show my own lexicon for talking about grief and are inspired by Native American beliefs.
Native Americans have a similar way of life and belief that runs through many tribes. Common aspects include a reverence for the environment in which they live, learning daily from mother earth, and respecting all within it, including animals, weather, and each other. Most tribes practice ceremonies and rituals. Ceremonies of celebrating the dead involve a deep emotional gift, felt as a tribe, to the Great Spirit: giving back the soul. I challenged myself to play with these roles within Native American spirituality as well as the symbols that were shown to me during a time I was going through different transformations in the grief process.
I hope that what I discovered will communicate a Native way of understanding the world that will be useful to those who see my project, especially other people who are going through the process of giving back a soul. But rather than defining it in European art terms, I see this project as part of a spiritual process of transformation coming from a culture that doesn’t separate art from life.