I'm passionate about art, poetry, the English language and all things maritime, and I also love drawing: https://touchpaperdrawingtips.wordpress.com/ Join the Fight for the Reef! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Postcards-for-the-Reef/997018917032291
a courageous, beautiful exhibition about a taboo subject
'Waiting for you,' pen and wash, available as a gold embellished giclee print
Sarah K Reece is many things besides an artist. She is a face painter, poet, writer and freelance mental health peer worker. She has founded three community networks that link in with her mental health work: The Dissociative Initiative, The Hearing Voices Network of SA and Orange Bottles, that links resources about managing medications. Above all, she is a devoted blogger, and her blog sarahkreece.com has documented everything that has happened to her in the past five years. She writes from the heart, and as a consequence she has hundreds of devoted followers.
Right now Sarah is expecting a baby. But just over a year ago her blog was documenting a previous pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage at around 12 weeks. She described to us at the exhibition opening night how amazed she was at the number of responses she received to her blog posts, from people who had experienced a similar loss. She came to realise that the loss of an unborn baby, although experienced by so many people, is something that is rarely talked about in our society, which means it is very difficult to grieve openly and thus share the burden with others.
'Even the Cats have Graves,' etching
Sarah has transformed the sadness of her own loss into a positive message to all those who have suffered in the same way. In her introduction to the exhibition she describes how "Art has always helped to keep me alive during dark times…..Grief need not be silenced: it's a human emotion we can all relate to in some way. Public rituals of grief are often an important part of how we recognise and honour such experiences. I hope this exhibition can be part of that (process of) gently making the private public, which is an essential aspect of all my art making."
'Tangled in dreams', pen and wash, available as a giclée print
Some of Sarah's pictures are indeed very sad, but many of them are quietly joyful. Like the process of grieving itself, there is no easy progression from dark to light in this exhibition, but the overall impression that you take away is a feeling that the mourning of all unborn children has been permitted in this space, in a way that is rarely possible in the unsympathetic glare and glitter of the outside world.
'You are my world,' pen and wash, available as a giclée print
One special corner is devoted to the seven miscarriages that were endured by Sarah's partner, Bria, before the loss of their baby, Tamlorn. It is heart rending to see the seven baby jumpsuits that represent these seven unborn children. Visitors are invited to write their own messages and drop them into the little crib that contains only a pair of shoes and an ultrasound image.
Sarah's pictures are giclée prints, which are high quality reproductions of the original drawings and paintings. They can be bought unframed (some are already available in Sarah's Etsy shop, but the framed images in this exhibition are extra special because they are embellished with gold leaf.
'We float,' pen and wash, available as a gold embellished giclee print
One image in particular is not only unique but also beautifully represents Sarah's own reconciliation with her loss: there is a hidden picture within this picture, which can only be seen clearly if you shine the supplied ultraviolet torch on the image.
'The Memory of You,' brush drawing, available as a giclée print with invisible ink embellishment
The centrepiece of this exhibition is Sarah's handmade book, 'Mourning the Unborn'. She began making it partly as an art project for her visual arts degree, after explaining to her understanding tutors that she really had no heart for producing anything on any other topic. The book is lovingly stitched together with text, velvet and other precious fabrics, silk embroidered flowers and watercolour paintings, and it tells the story of Tamlorn's funeral. Sarah describes how a tiny baby has to be cremated with extra paper, as it won't create much in the way of ashes on its own. So she and Bria filled the tiny coffin with poems that had been sent to them from all the other grieving parents who had read about their loss. They planted a peach tree in Tamlorn's memory.
A beautiful little reproduction of the book is available at Sarah's Etsy shop.
Sarah's book, 'Mourning the Unborn,' can be bought fromhttps://www.etsy.com/au/listing/277012390/artbook-mourning-the-unborn-grieving?ref=pr_shop
At the opening I met Wendy Bushby, who represents SANDS, a national not-for-profit organisation that offers support when a baby dies before, during or soon after birth. I had no idea that this organisation exists, and Wendy told me that before it was founded in the 1980s there was no provision of any kind for bereaved parents of unborn children. SANDS provides memorial services, literature on all aspects of loss and grieving to help parents and their immediate family, monthly support meetings and professional counselling. For more information go to their website. Their Lifeline is 13 1 1 14.
I had a still born at 8 months. I find this theme of art work sickening in the sense it regurgitates deep emotions which are very upsetting. A disturbing exhibition. I understand art is to arouse emotion - good or bad... Sadly this triggers opportunistic behaviours. Plus - in the scheme of a lifetime, I see such a loss as a mere blip (though sad) of an event and something that doesn't necessarily warrant an exhibition. Perhaps a reason for the cold stares and lack of dialogue...it's a very personal experience...