GATHERING GRIEF: A SOCIALLY DISTANCED MOURNING GOWN

This Socially Distanced Mourning Gown is adorned with my hair, my children's hair, and the hair of my loved ones, and is twelve feet in diameter to accommodate the six-foot social distancing recommendations surrounding the grieving wearer. The dress takes inspiration from the (more reasonably sized) mourning gowns of the Victorian era, which were customarily worn by women for 1-2 years after the death of a spouse to indicate a long period of obvious and intentional grieving. This work is my attempt to speak to the layered griefs that humans carry, to all that women and mothers carry, to the enormous and silent weight of grief, and to the vast network of compounded griefs this Pandemic has revealed and amplified for us as individuals, as a human family, and as a country.

 

The train of the dress is sewn from twelve years’ worth of windblown, lawnmower-shredded, and cast-away graveside flowers, which I have collected one-by-one on walks, as they've rested against fences, riverbanks, and open grass within and surrounding our local cemeteries. I see each of these tattered flowers, flags, and ribbons as witnesses to unimaginable and personal grief, and as being steeped in the memory of intention, care, prayer, duty, and tenderness. As the wind and lawn mowers scattered the flowers away from their intended gravesites, I gathered them up into my pockets and brought them home to my studio, eventually sewing each one individually back into the ever-growing train of this mourning gown, as a way of honoring the act of tending to grief, of remembrance, and of honoring the immense individual and collective griefs endured in the wake of 2020 and beyond.

 

This dress is wearable and has a functional 12' diameter hoop skirt beneath it.
 

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