2019 October Exhibit

People have a unique philosophical capacity to conceive of death before it happens, and the knowledge of our mortality is both ever-present and hidden within our cultural existence. In an effort to salve the dread of our impermanence, we build up a number of notions and practices, from retaining momentos and photographs, to surrounding ourselves with objects that bring comfort and nostalgia, to keeping rituals for remembrance and protection, even to celebrating the fragility of life in the natural world. Hannah Reeves’s most recent work brings together symbols of these various human efforts, combining portraiture with references to Victorian lockets, memento mori, reliquaries, and natural predator-prey relationships. Hand-stitched drawing and domestic fabric patterns help demonstrate the artist’s awareness of time, relating to both pass-time and time-past, situating the work at the edge of the realm of framed cross-stitch, sentimental and familiar, yet housing reminders of the fragility and temporality of life.





Victorian-era popular culture was rife with elaborate symbolism, attempting to capture and express class distinctions, sentimentality, the expectation / acceptance of death, and a desperation to be remembered, or to have a means to remember.

The tangible representations of these symbols may read, to a contemporary audience, as bizarre, morbid, and even absurd, being unabashedly sentimental and decorated far beyond the call of function. However, with further consideration of their purpose and context, these carefully collected Memento Mori objects really express deeply human desires and concerns that are remarkably timely. They address questions that are less explicitly asked but nevertheless very present now: How do others see me? How will I be remembered? and How can I hold onto that which is lost?

Taking some liberty and combining funerary and memorial notions, I’ve made portraits of symbolic representations of the dual desires to be admired and to be remembered. While each piece in the body of work can stand alone in expression of vanity and/or memory, the objects can also be seen as accompaniment to the large figure, a post-mortem portrait of a young woman. Personal affects, as well as symbols of the fragility of life and fleeting nature of a lifespan, serve as reminders, both of the deceased and of a more general need to remember what is lost.