My work explores Trace Objects, the mementos people leave at graves. These objects come to represent a person who has died and to express the grief and love mourners have for the deceased. My works are an enquiry into a topic that is often avoided or ignored even though it is ever-present in our lives. Through the mediums of early photographic processes, darkroom photography, embroidery and installation, traditional and contemporary practices of Trace Objects are explored revealing their sublime nature. My work is a conversation in the process of demystifying death.
My work Death Shroud is a labour of love which I will add to throughout my life. A death shroud is a large piece of material used to wrap a body in preparation for burial. This life-size digital print depicts me wrapped in my shroud. The work not only demonstrates how the shroud will be used but also acts as a way of communicating the reality of this object; one day I will die, and this is the shroud I will be buried in. In the process of taking this photo, I had to confront my own mortality. I taught my husband how to wrap me, shared in his laughter and moments of silent pause. In experiencing the practical use of this object, I considered my death and what I desire it to look and feel like for myself and my loved ones. This is an aspect of making a death shroud which is all part of the process and reveals what is often hidden or an experience that is not shared.
Shrouds demonstrate the progression of events in a person’s life, their loves, desires and fears. During 2020 my shroud brought warmth and comfort as I embroidered across its surface. I added test materials like photographic test strips from some of my other artworks and drew with thread creating for sometimes organic and abstract results. This work is a reflection of quiet solace and reflection during a time of stress and worry. Creating Death Shroud has been a death positive experience that I encourage others to explore and try.
Genevieve Graham is a Maitland-based artist. She is currently working in the arts industry and undertaking a Ph.D. at Newcastle University. Her practice incorporates darkroom photography and embroidery to create installations. She is researching Trace Objects, the personal items left at graves, and is fascinated by the taboo topic of death. Through her work, she hopes to demystify funerary rituals and use artistic discourse to reconceptualize death.
Death Shroud - Genevieve GRAHAM