The Softer Side of Death
In the 19th century it was customary to take clippings from the hair of the deceased and have them woven into commemorative jewelry. Locks were braided into pendants, bracelets and earrings or shaped into miniature scenes of cemeteries and cypress trees and embedded in broaches. The practice fell out of vogue in the 1870s, but if you stop by Lundgren Monuments right now, you'll find an urn made entirely of hair. Rachael Jensen, an artist from Portland, made the urn for Lundgren's latest show,The Softer Side of Death: an exploration of the soft form urn. It's woven from synthetic hair mixed with her own. Inside is a pouch to hold ashes. This piece is a concept urn: In practice it will be made entirely from the hair of the deceased.
Greg Lundgren is known for Vital 5 Productions, which churns out publications, exhibits and occasional arbitrary art grants. He's also the man behind Vito's, The Hideout and Lundgren Monuments. He stumbled into the funerary art business eight years ago when, dissatisfied with the stigma surrounding the funeral industry and the depressingly bland range of memorial options, he launched Lundgren Monuments, which designs and manufactures very non-bland memorials out of luminous cast glass, steel and other unconventional materials.
The Softer Side of Death tackles the concept of memorial objects with urns made by artists using materials like paper, lingerie, plastic and faux fur. Like the human body they’re designed to contain, the urns are fragile, capable of decomposing, wrinkling, breathing and changing. Some are tender, others (darkly) laughable, like Susan Robb's plastic Forever 21 bag filled with "the remains of a woman who after drinking 7 appletinis texted a friend 'OMG! I'm toates returning this!' and died on the spot."
Of the more tender type are Caroline Rankin’s two envelopes made of cotton dipped in beeswax. A hot knife has been used to melt the flap, sealing the envelopes shut. The lone phrase “RETURN TO SENDER” is stitched on the face of each.
Nicola Vruwink's urn is enveloped in a patchwork of old knit fabric, faded but colorful. Anna Rose Telcs' soft urn—a Victorian reticule with honeycombed smocking—looks like a burst organza flower pod. The inside is lined with coral-colored fragments from a kimono.
An unforgettable piece is Mark Mitchell’s urn, for which he hand-dyed 275 strips of silk fabric to build an extravagant drawstring sack of ombre ruffles. It’s meant to be released into water where the fabric will disintegrate and the ashes disperse. One imagines the urn dissolving, like a wilting jellyfish, in the sea.
The Softer Side of Death is on view at Lundgren Monuments through June 3.
1011 Boren Avenue
Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.