Art survives death with the UConn Grief Project

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Inspired directly by the grief arising from the pandemics of both COVID-19 and systemic racism, the UConn Grief Project is having students submit works of art that embody themes of mourning. Photo courtesy of the University of Connecticut’s William Benton Museum of Art webpage.

This new decade has ripped the fabric of our nation into tatters, with its populace torn apart by the lives stolen by the profound ugliness of illness and injustice. The loss of a loved one can make a person feel as if a once vividly colorful world has lost its color with them. In response to these phenomena, the UConn Grief Project shows that there is still beauty to be found, created and shared in the wake of death’s monochrome. 

Inspired directly by the grief arising from the pandemics of both COVID-19 and systemic racism, the UConn Grief Project is having students submit works of art that embody themes of mourning. This project is a synergetic collaboration between the William Benton Museum of Art and Counterproof Press and Design Center. 

“Certainly, lives are enormous losses,” Emily Larned, UConn Grief Project organizer and assistant professor of art in graphic design, explained in an email. “This project is also about grieving the smaller losses of all that has changed in the past year: the many sacrifices, difficult challenges, changes and hardships students, their friends and their families have had to navigate. The hope for the project is that acknowledging and processing loss (instead of trying to just ignore it / push through anyway) might help us all move forward, ideally into joy.” 

““This project is also about grieving the smaller losses of all that has changed in the past year: the many sacrifices, difficult challenges, changes and hardships students, their friends and their families have had to navigate. The hope for the project is that acknowledging and processing loss (instead of trying to just ignore it / push through anyway) might help us all move forward, ideally into joy.” 

Emily Larned, UConn Greif Project Organizer and Assistant Professor of Art in Graphic Design
Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), Die Witwe I [The Widow I], from Krieg [War] (1922-23). The work of Kollwitz was inspired by the loss of her son in World War I. The extensive use of black and white in Kollwitz work, signifying the war cycle, has prompted the Benton Museum to solicit submissions in black and white, in honor of her work. Photo courtesy of University of Connecticut’s William Benton Museum of Art webpage.

The UConn Grief Project coincides with the Benton’s exhibition of artist Käthe Kollwitz’s work. Käthe Kollwitz was a German artist and activist whose son was a casualty of World War I, thus driving a body of artistry focusing on the deleterious conflict— especially on the home front – through her evocative “War” print cycle. The print cycle’s wartime emotional devastation parallels that of pandemic emotional devastation today. 

“Kollwitz labored on War for several years, reworking images in the series to make her personal experience universal,” Amanda Douberly, UConn Grief Project organizer, said. She serves as assistant curator and academic liaison for the Benton. “The prints are a powerful expression of collective loss. The War cycle is in black and white, and we [are soliciting] submissions in black and white in honor of Kollwitz’s work.” 

Art submissions for the UConn Grief Project should be in black-and-white or grayscale with 8.5 by 11 inch ruling. Students are free to submit more than one piece, with handwritten or hand-drawn original pieces being ideal. However, all text, images or other combinations are encouraged. Anonymous submissions are also allowed. Works submitted to the UConn Grief Project will be reviewed by a jury committee of students in the Poetic Release, UCCOx, and Art & Art History clubs, who will organize the selected works into a risograph zine published by the Counterproof Press. Selected works will also be displayed for live exhibition in the Benton.  

“The prints are a powerful expression of collective loss. The War cycle is in black and white, and we [are soliciting] submissions in black and white in honor of Kollwitz’s work.” 

Amanda Douberly, UConn Grief Project Organizer

“The more honest, personal, and specific, the more powerful…” said Larned. “Making art on a focused topic helps you work through your feelings and ideas on the topic, and this is especially true of grief.” 

To participate in the UConn Grief Project, submit works of art in the accepted format to benton@uconn.edu or in physical paper copy to the Benton facility by Feb. 26.  

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