A poignant exhibition shows the art of mourning
One of the most poignant and moving exhibitions I have ever visited is currently on view at a gallery just north of London. This illustrates for me the importance of the role of the Church in funerals and the ministry that surrounds them.
It’s well worth visiting – or checking out the exhibit’s website – for anyone involved in bereavement support or any minister planning and arranging a funeral.
‘The Art of Grieving’, currently running at St Albans Museum and Gallery, features works by artists with shared experience. They use their art to examine loss and mourning, and to remember the lives of those they have lost.
Using paint, textiles, sculpture, photography and music, the artists forge powerful bonds with their audiences, as together we explore the often complex pain of separation.
For example, on display is a painting of a ballet dress worn by a girl who died at just 11 years old, a beanbag cushion decorated with ties once worn by a father, and the portrait of another father, with words of his daughter – as recorded in his diary – written on his face.
She recalls “Painting helped me remember her face and all the things I miss, good and bad.”
These are just a few of the many works of art that make this exhibition – which runs through September 4, free admission – such an important contribution to how we mourn today. This is particularly relevant as so many people emerge, injured and scarred, from the impact of Covid.
Kate Ray, Founder of the Art of Grieving, explained: “The exhibition allows artists working in any medium to share work related to this issue. This bringing together of the artist and the public generates new and important human connections around a shared desire to explore the subject. of grief and loss.
“Death is a part of life that is too often ignored or hidden away. At The Art of Grieving, we believe it is essential to provide forums for people to come together to connect with their feelings on this issue. .”
As a Christian pastor, I believe that each person is unique and special. This is why planning and organizing a funeral is such a privilege, and why every funeral should be a unique celebration and mourning of the life that has passed.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stressed the importance of the Church’s funeral ministry. He said, “It is the grace of God and the gift of God that enables us to speak of these things, which spring from our deep sense of hope that comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead , which gives us confidence in handling death and funeral issues.
“Funeral ministry is so important because we are the Church of England and the Church for England. It is such a privilege, an amazing privilege to be with people towards the end of their lives, when they die, to be with loved ones who have been bereaved.”
For Christians, funerals are a matter of hope. About the belief in a life beyond this one. The resurrection of Jesus and his promise of eternal life can bring comfort and hope in the darkness of sorrow.
In a time when people have a wide range of spiritualities, they mourn in all kinds of ways. This exhibition, with a local hospice as its main support, shows how art helps many people.
By sharing their craft, their experiences and their pain, the artists have courageously traced their journey with sorrow in front of each of us. The vulnerability, the crudeness of many works creates a strong bond with whoever visits the exhibition.
Many who visit take time to reflect, pause, and gently connect with the grief each of us has experienced…and remember the lives of those we have lost. It is a deeply moving experience.
The Reverend Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK.