Iowa Artists Show To Explore Grief

This work from Rachel Cox, “Untitled #22,” is a part of her “Mors Scena” collection depicting the decor of funeral homes. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Des Moines Art Center will feature Iowa City-based photographer Rachel Cox and her “Mors Scena” series in the museum’s annual Iowa Artists exhibit opening Oct. 16.

Cox, an assistant professor of photography at the University of Iowa, found inspiration for this collection after participating in funeral arrangements for family members. She became interested in the decor of funeral homes, and how the colors, lighting and formal elements of these staged environments manifested within the grieving process.

Cox conducted research at small, independently owned funeral homes to not only chronicle their spaces, but also delve into how notions of class, culture and social expectation all play a role in how such places look and feel. The resulting photos capture the uncertainty and sense of loss often present after a death.

“Working on this project during a time of unrivaled global and national tragedies has given me more confidence to trust that this kind of representation can reveal the beautiful, yet complex, ways we process grief,” Cox said.

The Art Center’s official exhibition website will offer links to a downloadable gallery guide and schedule for related programming, including a virtual gallery talk with Cox and curator Laura Burkhalter yet to be scheduled.

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