One time I was lying on the couch Googling my name (you know, as you do) and I saw that I was mentioned in a footnote on this post on PetaPixel. My hackles kind of went up, since a 2012 post about my series At Rest on PetaPixel was wrapped up in the drama of having my work “go viral” and truly realizing I had no control over how the things I made were interpreted. This post was about the work of Finnish artist Viivi Häkkinen. Viivi creates memorials around roadkill animals and then photographs them in the manner of still life. Some of the scenes are peaceful and serene, and others are charged – a body hanging by a tied rope or missing its head.

Naturally, I find the photographs lovely and powerful. I skimmed the comments on the PetaPixel post about Viivi’s work and had to laugh – the sentiments were almost identical to those I read on the post about my work years before. It’s always funny to see how the audience of a forum changes or doesn’t change. I’m so entrenched in it now that I sometimes forget how taboo it is to make art about the realities of death, since, as Viivi writes, “the lids of our caskets are closed.” Making art like this is so, so important.

From the artist’s statement: In “Forget Me Not” I have been studying death in all [its] forms.

In today’s society death is always somewhere far away, in a sterile morgue or at a [chapel.] We no longer sit hand in hand at the moment of the death, or care for the body after they have passed on. The lids of our caskets are closed and the dead preserved in mortuaries.

Long gone are the days when death was truly present as a part of life. When we would decorate our departed with flowers, place them in the middle of the room to be surrounded by their loved ones holding vigil.

Through these photographs of “Forget Me Not” we take a step towards this past. We are brought to actually look at death and to pay homage to it. We also pay our respect to the animals in the photographs – the ones that might otherwise present themselves to us as merely trash along the highway they died on. Roadkill that we would probably not be too bothered about – at most something seen as [unpleasant] to the eye. They have been placed on their final resting place with the very rituals reserved in the past to the people most cherished to us. They have been groomed, combed and dressed up. A vacant obituary echoing our emotions and thoughts.

In this series of photographs we can see death eye to eye. We see the beauty of it – the [relief] of eternal sleep that gives peace to the restless and consolation to the longing. But we are also faced with the fact that death is not always pretty or painless. Death can hurt and death can tear us apart. It does not ask for permission or forgiveness and it is as inevitable as it is indiscriminatory. There isn’t always an open casket.

Sometimes death cuts off pieces of us and leaves scars that never heal.

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