The Grand Valley State University Art Gallery hosted a brand new exhibition Thursday with “Sorrow/Fullness: A Reflection on Mourning.” This is a metalsmithing showcase that takes a look at grief and loss through the lens of reflection and celebration. The exhibition was a collaboration between three metalsmith artists, including Sue Amendolara, Adrienne M. Grafton and GVSU professor Renee Zettle-Sterling.
Amendolara and Grafton were unable to attend but it was ultimately a success, with an extremely positive reception from those who attended.
“I just wish that Sue and Adrienne could have been there with me,” Zettle-Sterling said. “I felt that people were receptive to the work and the ideas surrounding the show. I received a lot of questions and interest seemed to be positive.”
The showing was a big deal for the artists, as it saw them return to a world where their work could be viewed by spectators in person. Zettle-Sterling said that the energy that surrounds a live show just does not compare to online showings.
“I am feeling very lucky that the show is able to be seen in a live setting,” Zettle-Sterling said. “I have been in several shows that have been forced to be online exhibitions and it’s just not the same. It reminds me of teaching online versus teaching in person; it’s just not the same and lacks soul.”
Grafton was happy to return to showing in person as well, as the coming together of artists to show and discuss efforts was her favorite aspect of pre-COVID exhibitions. She was also grateful for the precautions and actions taken by GVSU in order to best showcase the project.
“It was truly wonderful to be with friends and family again at our opening back in October at the Erie Art Museum,” Grafton said. “When the pandemic hit, one of the things I missed the most was art openings and museums. I absolutely love gathering with artists and looking at and discussing work. With the latest rise in COVID-19, it again feels intimidating to get together, but, I’m very pleased with the online presence GVSU has created to showcase this exhibition.”
“Sorrow/Fullness” explores the realm of grief and loss, with a special focus on celebrating the lives of lost loved ones and the experiences shared with them. The art pieces have a very personal connection to the artists, as they were inspired by the lost loved ones in their own lives.
Grafton’s work was inspired by her mother, who passed away in 2014. The event was something that touched her deeply, ultimately inspiring the pieces shown in “Sorrow/Fullness.”
“A few years after her passing I began using the grief as a source of inspiration for the body of work in the show,” Grafton said. “The work for me is about the passing of time and memories. I use recognizable imagery to tell stories about my emotions and experiences. In my piece titled “Residue,” I’ve taken my mom’s old used makeup and dipped it in plaster. The fragile shell encases the things she touched every day that were an important part of her daily routine.”
Amendolara’s work for the project was also inspired by the loss of her parents. She said that her focus was to celebrate the experiences she had with them and to continue them with surviving family members.
“As a child, I spent a lot of time in my parent’s interior design studio looking at fabrics, wallpapers, antiques, etc.,” Amendolara said. “I loved talking with my father about projects he was working on, and it was these experiences that led me to become a craftsperson.”
Working with different materials led Amendolara to create the piece she made for this exhibit. She took pieces that were personal to her and her loved ones to turn it into something else.
“I made a pair of upholstery scissors using cast flowers from my mother’s funeral bouquet,” Amendolara said. “The scissors are deconstructed, suggesting lingering grief or the inability to heal. The scissors rest on a small quilt made from silk from my wedding dress; a reference to family.”
Coming together to work through grief collectively is a powerful and healing concept that really flourished with “Sorrow/Fullness.” It brought people from all over to experience the grief of the artists as a way to get through their own. Each of the artists hopes all who come to view their work are helping to use it to cope with their personal situations and hopefully broaden the conversation surrounding grief and loss.
The exhibition will be on display at the Haas Center for Performing Arts Gallery until April 1, 2022. For more information on the project and each of the artists, visit the GVSU Art Gallery website here.