Hoffman Gallery exhibit explores grieving process after loss of parents

Photograph by Jo Tabecek

By Celeste Kurnik

This fall, the Hoffman Gallery is showing “Loss of Material Evidence,” a collection created by partners in life and in artistry, Maria T. D. Inocencio and Mark R. Smith. In the wake of their parents’ passing this collection captures perfectly the paradoxical journey of losing a loved one. Caught between the affliction of death and the commemoration of a life well lived, the couple decides to honor both the feelings and the people that come in and out of our lives.

Upon entering the gallery, one is met with a kaleidoscope of large textiles and an eclectic collection of household items. Such items ranged from strips of fabric, to pictures from family vacations, ceramic dishes, a La-Z-Boy chair — even human hair. Their use of such items embodies the process of sifting through joyful memories under the blanket of profound loss.

Pieces such as “Father: Late Arrival” use found framed photos set into the canvas, which interrupt a spiral of colorful fabrics, and bring to mind the way objects containing memories can cause our mood to change directions so quickly and dramatically.  

Other pieces were created as the artists actively coped with death. Inocencio’s “Waiting to Cry” depicts a monitor flatlining from a distance. The long paper strip used to create this imagery was sewn on while her mother was in hospice to, as Inocencio says, “mark time as I waited for an event that I did not welcome.”

Towards the back of the exhibit are two rooms you must enter to fully experience. The first, “After Image: The Night Sky,” contains a La-Z-Boy chair softened and dulled by apparent years of use.  Illuminated above is a cosmic scene created through an array of smaller textile pieces.

As I looked at this, I imagined someone laying back in that chair, thinking of their loved ones as they look up at the stars.  Just as we do with the people we lose, we look up at the stars even when they have long burned out, effectively staring into the past.

The second of these rooms takes you walking through a paper forest. “Comforter – Beloved Embrace” wraps you in a blanket of paper leaves decorated with cutouts of “photos from family albums.” The experience is one of great peace and comfort which one can only assume is a tribute to the energy projected by the person the piece commemorating.

This exhibit honors the inescapable, universal human triumph of coping with loss. It brings to mind the way creativity can assist in one’s coping process. Along with its wonderful  symbolism, the exhibit is aesthetically beautiful and enticing.

If you have not visited Lewis & Clark’s Hoffman Gallery this fall, I would highly suggest you do not miss out on experiencing these works of art.  

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