Our society often struggles with mourningour own and others'. We send cards and flowers. Maybe we drop off a casserole or offer some booze. And we say, "If there's anything I can do, just let me know."
When Lindsey Weber's father passed away unexpectedly this spring, her family received hundreds of cards saying just that. "The 600 cards we got were exactly the same," she says. "We don't have a language for how to deal with our grief, or the grief of others. ... People were very scared of approaching me and my family for about a month because they didn't want to stir up any feelings."
A 26-year-old University of Montana art school graduate, Weber specializes in printmaking and teaches printmaking classes at the Zootown Arts Community Center. In relief prints, the artist carves out the negative parts of the image onto a block, dips it in ink and then presses it to a medium like paper or canvas. Weber fell in love with the style during an art class when she was 19 or 20. She says she loves relief painting because it's one of the oldest art forms around besides drawing and paintingand she loves the graphic starkness the prints produce.
Before her father died, Weber had already booked the second Friday of November for her ZACC art show, not knowing yet what the show would be. A few weeks after he passed away, she decided that creating prints addressing death and people's reaction to it could be cathartic for her and her family. She calls her multimedia Reflections. One of the pieces will be a collage of all the repetitive sympathy cards.
It's fitting Weber's show comes on the heels of Dia de los Muertos, when many bold relief prints of skeletons are on parade. Weber's own work is similar, in an unconscious echo. Her exhibit reliefs might be reminiscient of Muertos art, with bare-bones blacks and crisp whites, she says, but perhaps even more grim. Her father's death is undiagnosed, but likely related to a blood clot. "The prints are basically like skeletal and organ drawings, tracings of paths the blood clots went through to reach his brain," she says.
Besides Weber's relief prints, several of the upcoming exhibit's pieces are pencil portraits of family members based on photos taken at her father's funeral. Some of her subjects are in palpable states of misery, like "Youngest Daughter," which depicts a woman hunched with a tissue clutched to her face, brow scrunched, eyes wide and watery. Weber's portraits are rendered softly, without many strong lines. For the show, she's scanning her notebook pages and stitching them together in Photoshop to create larger digital prints that will retain the textural, wrinkled-paper look of the originals.
Weber worries her exhibit will come off as cynical. She's not looking at it as a slam against people who don't know what else to say. "Maybe there's a vacuum here in our society," she says. "Maybe we should have a framework [for how to address grief.]"
Weber doesn't provide outright answers as to what we can do differently in the face of loss, but her pieces seem to suggest some ideas: through festivals celebrating our loved ones and through creative works acknowledging our loss, we can accept that death is a part of life and not something to be feared. Then, maybe we can move on and keep creating and living.
"I'm just going to try not to overthink things," Weber says, "try to live in the moment, try not to get bogged down with issues that are bigger than me."
Lindsey Weber's Reflections opens at the ZACC Fri., Nov. 9, with an opening reception from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. Free.