Lindsey Shaw-Miller: Grievous Gifts

The High Window

1. Opening image



Consolation and creativity in Gwenllian’s Jugs, a collection of 77 images by Stuart Evans

There is a long history of art produced in response to grief. Setting aside, in this essay, the tumuli, pyramids, stelae, ship burials that have served as monuments to the dead, I’m interested in artists dealing with grief by making something. This essay isn’t about grief itself, nor about art as a kind of outpouring. What interests me here is art as an exercise, a process of working through containment, a form of closure.

The archetypal poetic example, Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850), certainly long enough to be an outpouring, is actually 131 complete, small, classical poems, the larger grief broken down into many episodes, tightly controlled by the quatrain form and a strict rhyming scheme. The actual subject, Tennyson’s dead friend Arthur Hallam, is quite absent, concealed within the struggle between the tightness…

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