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'Taboo' subject of infant loss explored in exhibit at architecture school

Talk and reception for exhibit takes place Saturday evening
A self-portrait by Angelene Humphrey. (Supplied)

A new series of paintings by local artist Angelene Humphrey is exhibit at Laurentian’s McEwen School of Architecture until Jan. 24.

The exhibition, entitled “A Geography of Grief-Love,” is curated by Celeste Pedri-Spade, a visual anthropologist and practicing artist at Laurentian University. 

“A Geography of Grief-Love” presents 11 monochromatic acrylic paintings that are a result of the artist/mother/partner learning to embrace and work through/with/from pain and loss encountered in life.

They are about navigating the complex and strenuous trajectories of grief associated with perinatal loss towards acceptance, hope and love. 

After relocating with her partner to Sudbury, Humphrey, an OCAD trained visual artist from southern Ontario, turned to her art as a means to work through the trauma of losing her first born infant daughter immediately following an in-hospital labour. 

Over a period of 12 months, Humphrey began searching through candid photographs of herself and her close relatives and friends taken during her grieving period, painting selected images in an abstract, monochromatic style. 

Slowly she began to realize that this process was helping her to navigate and understand her own thoughts and feelings in relation to those also affected by grief and loss.

“With my artworks, I wish to create a place of common ground for those who have experienced any form of major trauma or grief, giving space to share our vulnerabilities and start a conversation,” said Humphrey. 

“Perinatal loss changes the colour and tone of daily living, seeping into the fabric of life like blue dye on linen and thus leaving it forever altered.”

“Humphrey’s paintings are often reminiscent of a topographic map, as the technique she uses to emphasize facial expressions and contours appear similar to detailed relief lines or water outlines,” said Pedri-Spade. 

“In this way the viewer is reminded of how their is a geography of grief because grief is very much about people and their communities, cultures and their relationships with the environments in which they live.”

With “A Geography of Grief-Love,” Humphrey bravely confronts what is often considered “taboo” to discuss — infant loss and the grief attached. 

Through her artwork she reminds us that loss begets grief but that grief does not replace love; rather, it compels us to learn a different way of loving/existing/relating.

All members of the public are invited to attend the artist talk and evening reception Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Laurentian McEwen School of Architecture at 85 Elm Street, Sudury, ON.

This project was made possible through a grant from the Laurentian University Research Fund.