Samsara: The Artwork of Brooke Shaden

MAY 14 – AUGUST 7, 2022

A show about the cycle of death and rebirth. It will examine the way different cultures honor their dead and in turn process grief. Consists of figure photography with some digital manipulations.

This exhibit is generously sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Thrive

When someone close to me contemplated ending their life, I began to assess my own relationship with death. Through those explorations, both personal and in research of other cultures, I recognized my lifelong fascination with the beauty of mortality.

How can we create a culture around grief that is vulnerable and brave? Sculptural, grotesque, figurative, and conceptual, this body of work looks at death from all angles. Do you see any beauty in mortality? Is the imagery in this show disturbing, upsetting, beautiful, or a combination?

Samsara creates a rich, uncomfortable, and open space to dissect how we internalize grief, and how other cultures practice rituals surrounding death. As you look at the art, assess your own relationship to your ephemeral existence and eventual death. Many images came from inspirations around the world of how grief manifests based on culture, location, and spiritual beliefs, from a glass hearse in India to sky burials in Tibet.

Along with the 29 framed original mixed media works (photograph, acrylic, sand, dirt, hair), Samsara features sculptural elements. A life-size sculpture of a woman lying in dirt and covered in moss rests in a corner. Redacted eulogies serves as short poems about grief. Finally, I commissioned four music artists to create an audio experience of Samsara to enhance the experience.

This exhibition is not intended to be merely looked at; it is created with the viewer as a participant. Death and grief, especially in western culture, are lonely and isolating experiences. Samsara aims to destigmatize grief to create a community experience around the topic.

By Brooke Shaden