INTRODUCTION

In Memoriam: 1918/2020 is a memorial to the victims of the 1918 flu pandemic in Denver, exploring a universal experience through a regionalist perspective.

Each piece of bark originates from trees at Fairmount Cemetery, collected in the weeks before the world first shut down. Painting them all white with gesso and photographing them individually as floating forms against a black background transforms these scraps of nature into surreal and otherworldly objects of veneration. With an additional layer of text inspired by local cemetery epitaphs, each piece represents the collective toll of disease on humanity, as well as the transformation people undergo after death. Gesso as a material also carries an association with historical conventions of painting, referencing back to the wood panels and polychrome sculptures of the medieval era while expanding into other dimensions.

Installing each fragment back in their original location creates a fitting cycle of its own, and laying them out in a pattern to fill the standard size of a burial plot also symbolically assigns the weight of a dead body. Employing a typographic style that reflects the Modernist art of the early 20th century, as well as the legacy of book arts from the medieval era, this project explores the contemporary parallels to our past by layering elements of art, nature, and literature.

Above and below, from the roots of the tree to the bark, the dead endure through the living, and history turns back on itself like a looping glitch in time. Modern medicine increased life expectancy for many, but not all. A generation of younger folks never lived to see the rest of the 20th century, and I take on the responsibility of acknowledging these forgotten souls and reconciling the tragedy of their loss with the present crisis. As the coronavirus haunts the world, so too do the lingering dead. We owe it to our ancestors and our descendants to make life worth living. Disease might take that away from any one of us, but humanity is a collective heap that transcends its own existence.

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In Memoriam (at Fairmount Cemetery).jpeg