We have had the pleasure of studying death with the following artists. Click on images to see more of their work.

Once upon a time in 2018 Mortem was a weeklong intensive death themed residency outside of Ottawa, Canada hosted by the Ayatana Artists' Research Program and became a two-week online death school for artists with the Biophilium. It has always been an opportunity for artists to pursue our curiosity of death and to explore and develop our identities as death-curious artists. The residency involved lectures and field trips with experts who regularly work within the context of death, dying and mourning and learned about a range of death related topics. We met death doulas, embalmers, taxidermists, forensic anthropologists, green burial advocates, death care and funeral industry workers, historians, biologists and artists who shared their unique relationships with and perspectives of death.

Mortem facilitates talk about death. It's a supportive environment intended to help artists identify as mortals who work with themes of death and share tools to talk about our work and to get involved with non-art professionals who also work with death.

Mortem continues as a Death Club, a monthly Death Cafe for artists that features the creative mourning rituals of Biophilium alumni.



Ashley Czajkowski,

Mortem Expedition Leader and TA
Professor of Death and Photograpyh at Arizona State University

The human relationship with nature is a tenuous one. We are at once a part of the natural world, yet intentionally set apart from it. I am interested in this disconnect; our refusal as a species to admit that we, too, are animals. There is a sense of savagery that comes with being an animal, being wild. We have been taught to become something other, to become domesticated. There is loss in this becoming. Though all experience this (false) dichotomy between humans and nature, the accepted social construction of femininity is much further removed from the nature of the human animal.

Historically, women who exhibited wild, uncontrollable, or generally undesirable behavior were considered dangerous and mentally unstable. Witch hunts and medical disorders like hysteria illustrate the collective psychoanalytical fear of the “female monster,” and this chastising of unbecoming female behavior lingers to this day. Because femininity is the gender I learned to perform first-hand, the relationship of women and nature is highlighted in my work, drawing connections to sensuality, fertility and the maternal instinct.

Exploring these intrinsic, wild tendencies deep-seated in us all challenges societal expectations of women and men, our relationship to the natural world, our own corporeal existence, and ultimately, our mortality. I'm interested in how harnessing these innate primal desires presents the possibility of reclamation; of re-wilding the human, of unbecoming.



Jay Davani, Providence, Rhode Island

I am a death-curious artist exploring how to use my creative
talents to help people who help people. I started taking film photos in 2003 and still maintain an intentional approach to shooting. A huge part of my photography practice is bringing attention to what others can't see or don’t want to face. I am drawn to capture moments that are painfully beautiful and where symmetrical order exists inside disorder. My work is of many, but unlike most.

More importantly, I'm a storyteller.

I invite my audience to consider life's most profound questions through my captions derived from personal experience. A few years ago, I returned my practice to black and white format to focus on composition. My photography is an expression of who I am, what I'm feeling, how I think, and what I see. Whether it's a shadow or fleeting moment, I prefer shooting in natural light.


Claudia Chagoya, Calgary, Alberta

My artistic practice engages with topics such as the diverse, ingrained, misogynistic understanding of women prevalent in Mexican society, and the violence waged against them stemming from these assumptions. The most extreme outcome of this violence is Feminicide. The attitude of neglect from authorities and society in general, deeply affects the way victims are mourned and how families try to overcome the tragedy. This disruption of grieving processes is what my current work focuses on.
My practice involves the use of textiles, preserving rose petals, drawing, and printmaking, among others, with an emphasis on repetition and delicate procedures. Repetition in my work references the systematic violence of feminicide and a ritualized cleansing of such violence. Therefore, my method of creation is a ritualized action, which uses repetitive transformation to give meaning to the actions present in my process.

The intention of my work is to invite the community to mourn together and enable social engagement through the contemplation of mourning rituals within an artistic practice. I consider grief as a unique but shared experience, especially when feminicide is present worldwide. Engaging people in this matter is important to finding new forms of creating supportive communities and cross-cultural understanding.



Elisha Enfield, Wooburn Green, UK

Elisha Enfield’s work is concerned with the liminal, the betwixt and between. Her subjects linger at the edges of perception, as some people experience the souls of the departed. We feel rather than know them to be present.

The idea of the photographic image haunts Enfield and her work. It is by its very nature an absence, a record of things passed. Yet the moving image is a site for the spectacular, our modern equivalent for the powers of telepathy, seances, levitation, all those assurances that there is more. That hunt itself may be the premise of Enfield’s work. The hope that if we wait long enough, and look closely enough, we will see something. These phenomena, at the edges of understanding, are never fixed or solid. There is only ever the possibility of appearance.
Using footage of the German celebration of Walpurgisnacht, her current body of work explores Hexenbrennan – witch burning. It is a continuation of Enfield’s exploration of fire, which she uses as an elemental anchor point for the otherworldly. Reliant on oxygen, it is considered sentient by firefighters; running across ceilings, deciding who it consumes, who survives. Behind its beauty lies a promise of destruction and absolute power. The divided history of burnings mirrors this narrative, from ancient funeral pyres, through Christian Saint canonization, to witch hysteria. Though modern Walpurgisnacht has returned to light-hearted community celebration, the witch burning remains. Simple, joyful, yet macabre.

Now we are living through our own cataclysm, and many of the fire's that burn do so without onlookers. As our rituals have evolved, one thing is certain. Our future will be shared with the ghosts of the choices we make now.

Come The SLumberless


Traci Brimhall, Manhattan, Kansas

In grief, the cure is the sickness. Like many people in mourning, I was advised to create rituals to process loss. Alexandre Malraux said “you don’t return from hell with empty hands,” so I began to travel to sites of ghost and ruins to give myself the physical space and distance to process emotion into language. The act of grief pilgrimage allowed for healing because pilgrimages take time, and time is one of mourning’s most reliable medicines. I’ve taken my grief to haunted doll museums, the Mütter Museum of Medical Oddities, a psychiatric hospital-turned-museum, to a former zookeeper’s bone collection, and even overnight in a haunted house. Each journey conducts itself in a circle, like traversing the labyrinth on a cathedral floor, drawing me closer to a center of something I still want to say. My work uses this lens of pilgrimage to craft grief as an episodic plot, one that weaves between personal emotional intensity and historical context to help give a sense of connection and meaning to the journeying, to the hope it can arrive at a terminus and be whole again, or at least return from hell with full hands.



Chloe Lees, Spalding, UK

The condition of mortal existence manifests in the actuality that we are not contained within the bounds of flesh. Irrefutably inevitable in our mortality is the leaking, shedding and oozing of the mental and physical body. Blood, sweat, urine, semen, skin, hair, teeth and faeces will forever leak and fall and crumble. Concurrently, the mind writhes and oozes, leaching itself into all things. We do not wholly exist within our body but also within the objects of our being, both tangibly and perceptually saturated in grotesque humanity.

Within her artistic practice, Lees aims to expose this subliminal reality, invoking discomfort and existential anxiety. Working across mediums of sculpture, digital configuration, installation and collage, she is a research driven artist employing practice to illuminate theory and vice versa. She utilises both physical and psychological aspects of daily life, focusing that of the visceral and the domestic in works using food, shed bodily remnants and table ware. Contemplating how her sculptural and digital outcomes draw interesting relationships with the synthetic and the bodily, she questions the ways in which we both physically and mentally relate to structural and technological form. She explores implications of mortality through deformation and ephemeral material, bringing into question the disembodied and the post-human. Melding and manipulating the essence and substance of mortal reality, Lees creates abject materialisations of the mind



Janna Ahrndt
, Bloomington IN

I position myself in a wave of new media artists rejecting the notion that craft and technology are directly opposed. In my work, I endeavor to dismantle the borders between traditional crafted textiles and new media technologies even further by exploring their parallel histories and exploring how the tactile medium of textiles enhances my technological work and vice versa. An asset of this combination is bringing interventions outside of the purely digital space back to the physical, making it beneficial to my activist/social art practice. More importantly, I believe this transition of the digital to physical can be used to provoke action as a part of a participatory/community art practice. Technology is so undeniably embedded in our daily lives in the form of house appliances, media platforms, electronic gadgets, we can become almost blind to it. By hijacking everyday technologies or even making our own, we can jolt ourselves into questioning the ways in which they are created, marketed, and used. Using these pervasive technological systems in ways they were not intended produces an opportunity for guerilla art tactics. DIY (Do it yourself) technologists and crafters share roots in rebellion and resistance. New media like craft stretches the bounds of aesthetics, often creating intuitively with shared knowledge to produce objects with similar rough and ready styling.

Emma Victoria Ginader, Bloomsburg, PA

The absence of certainty and closure haunts my poetry. How can we mourn someone when we still have questions about their life or never had a final in-person goodbye with them? Is misremembering something about them another form of death? I never got to record my ailing father talking about his memories because of my schedule. I can recall jotting down as many memories of him as accurately and quickly as possible immediately after his death. Since there
might not be an afterlife, I needed to remember him correctly. This impulse has led me to investigate evolving concepts of the afterlife and immortality. These ideas form the crux of my first manuscript. I aim to examine different forms of afterlife, how to best love another person, and how language shapes our understanding of memory and
death. I use historical, scientific, and religious documents as a jumping-off point to inspire new ways to write poems about these topics impact on my life. I hope to confront my anxieties about my death and relationships and give myself a chance to heal.

My poetry has appeared in periodicals such as Lavender Review: Lesbian Poetry & Art, The Moth Magazine, december magazine, and most recently, Love Me, Love My Belly. My honors include selection by the Mount Holyoke English Department to represent the school at the 2015 Kathryn Irene Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Contest and the 2012 Five College Poetry Fest. I graduated with an MFA in Writing from Columbia University, where I edited the Online Poetry
section for the Columbia Journal literary magazine. I currently work as a freelance writer, editor, and graphic designer.



Squared Circle


Andrea Charise, Toronto, Canada

My ceramic forms are generous and substantial, deliberately working with curves, size, and texture to fully realize clay’s intrinsic abundance. My functional work often involves wheelthrown, iron-rich, cone 6 stoneware decorated with rustic, expressive lines and non-toxic, food safe glazes. My one-of-a-kind sculptural works explore more abstract, larger-scale, often coil-built forms, ornamented with innovative, experimental glaze formulas developed in conversation with each unique ceramic object. Both functional and sculptural works reflect my interest in emphatically textured, even weathered, surfaces: an aesthetic translation of my professional background in geriatrics, and a personal meditation on the inevitability of aging’s marks on bodies--flesh and clay alike.

The Squared Circle Clay is a medium that traverses seemingly opposite elements, states, and forms: be they liquid|solid, novel|ancient, fragility|endurance, constancy|volatility, or art|science. Long used as an alchemical symbol, the “squared circle” offers a fitting motif for my own understanding of ceramics practice, denoting the interplay of elemental materials in hightemperature conditions to produce extraordinary effects on clay and glaze. Its more personal resonances speak to my integration of creative practices with health research methods—often thought of as diametrically opposed or even incompatible worldviews—as well as my lifelong appreciation for professional wrestling. The wrestling ring (aka "the squared circle") provides contemporary inspiration for my functional and sculptural work. From my signature “Hardcore Pots” functional ware, which utilizes for surface decoration the iconic props of hardcore deathmatches like barbed wire, thumbtacks, and pizzacutters; to more conceptual engagements with the art of wrestling, as in the collectible “Busted Open” sculptural vessel series. Channelling the ancient classical association of Greco-Roman ceramics with wrestling’s aesthetic richness, my pottery debuts a fresh vision of clay’s infinite potential as a twenty-first century art and craft medium.



Paula Johnson, Sudbury, Ontario

Painter, poet, keener and ceremonial magician Paula Johnson plays the squeeze box in funeral marches and the type writer in cafes.



Jennifer Arave, Minneapolis, MN

I am discovering that the primary emphasis of my dance/movement career over the past 10-15 years has been grounded in the ability/disability to interface and build connections with others.  I have zeroed in on systems and sometimes entities that connect/disconnect and even mislead to create disconnections through confusion -- be it political, or philosophical or interpersonal in nature. Many man-made systems that are meant to connect have ultimately confused, obfuscated and blown-up rather than the well-intended connection as purported. This translate ironically, into a perception of isolation, from others and within the individual. Among the systems, technology has often been the object of disdain and the brunt of the critical humor in my work.

I work in dance because of its ability to be a substantial connector including dancers, somatic practitioners, and other living beings; wordless movement that bridges gaps, brings clarity and a sense of completion as verbal language is removed. A somatic practice can detangle snags and confusions and a dependency on a verbal language system. This is also true for the movement education modalities I have chosen to invest my time in. Open Source Forms and Body-Mind Centering have opened deep channels into inter-body communication; wordless pathways that become a bridge not only in human to human interaction, but also perhaps connections in shared consciousnesses, human or other-wise.

Nayla Dabaji
, Montreal, Canada

I have lived in Cameroun, France, Lebanon and Quebec. Travel and migration have been a large part of my life and this has had a strong impact on my artistic practice. Like documented journeys, my visual art installations and videos pieces tend to be very explorative, meditative and my approach to context and research is deeply influenced by the people and places around me. I am fascinated by traces, those that I discover by chance and collect in my daily life (images and sounds recorded while I am walking) as well as those that I reconstruct/re-enact in my studio (objects, paintings, writings) or come back to (personal archive and found footage). My collections of traces are fragments of experiences that I de-contextualize and re-use differently, allowing geographies and narratives to be juxtaposed and multi-layered. This dense combination makes concepts of time and space travel within my work, like the spontaneous, yet organized trajectories of migratory birds, like the strange sight of a never-ending road, or the liberating sound of waves repeatedly crashing on the shore.



Sonia Halpern-Bazar, Montreal

Through sculpture, photography and poetry, my practice examines the notion of alien landscapes and how the body belongs to space. Historically, I have used copper in my sculptural work as a representation of the body and oxidation as the way the world affects the body. Recently my work has focused on rituals and performative gestures. PATHWAYS (the project I plan to use this residency as research for) uses the ecology of the cemetery and the act of bearing witness to mourning rituals in order to create cartographies that represent the convergence of these interests.



Jean Jamieson-Hanes, Kingston, Ontario

My mind is consumed by being surrounded by death, particularly the deaths of those deemed less important.

We often forget that we are animals, and that all animals are individuals. Almost everyone encounters unrecognized sites of grief throughout their daily lives; forgotten and faded bodies transitioning from life to death on asphalt. Countless lives are extinguished at the hands of humans every day, roadkilled animals being perhaps some of the most visually obvious yet the most often erased. We live, intrinsically intertwined in our shared emotional geographies, with non-human animals. Yet we often wish to omit them mentally from our field of impact, unwilling to emotionally invest in their lives and deaths.

I explore human-animal relationships, animal ethics, emotional geographies, feminist ethics of care, and mourning practices. My pieces look at the moral obligations we may have towards animals through the lens of journaled encounters with roadkilled animals. Using juiced fruits and vegetables, I create a stain across raw canvas that echoes the blood stain left on asphalt long after a roadkilled animal has been forgotten. I am looking to deepen my practice by using menstrual blood as a staining material, more closely linking the sameness between myself and the deceased individuals seen by the side of the road


Bea Haines, Wiltshire, UK

Inspired by encounters between forensic science and the domestic environment, my work explores the human trace and the insight this gives into human desire, fear and mortality.  During a residency at Colart’s Lab, I collaborated with Chemists to develop art materials made of human ashes. The ash was transformed into paint to create ‘Jack’s Black’; an artwork that breaks down taboos surrounding death and encourages discourse on uses for the body post mortem.

As a multidisciplinary artist, subject matter often becomes art material. Past artworks are made of lime scale, fingerprint powder and blood. After the death of my grandmother, I inherited nine gall stones surgically removed from her body. Grotesque and mundane to the outsider, these became precious personal relics and the subject of a string of artworks. ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is a series of backlit scans created using an electron microscope. Through a process of appropriation, the tiny stones are transformed into large, beautiful meteorites glowing in a dark space.


Madyson Ysasaga, Katy, TX

As a child, I was diagnosed with a life threatening respiratory illness. Eventually, a double lung transplant was going to be inevitable. Making the idea of death and dying never far from my mind. There was another side of transplantation that I did not consider when a transplant was still
an abstract course of action (organ donation). For me to get what I needed, someone was going to have to die.

While waiting for my transplant, I began seeing little relics tucked on the side of the road: crucifixes, flowers, and occasionally assorted personal objects. These remnants serve as a reminder and a memory of someone who had surely passed in the mundane passing of their
every day lives. A modern manifestation of a truth that has been violently suppressed, memento mori, which means “remember you must die.”

Registering to be an organ donor is an act of memento mori. It’s not about wanting to die, but a willingness, acknowledgement, and acceptance of death. No one has a say on whether or not they die. Yet, even in something as involuntary as death there is still a choice that can be made in our 21st century world: do you want register to be an organ donor?



Rocio Graham, Calgary

I have always been connected to the land and I find comfort working with nature in my art practice; this connects me to home and defines my identity. Inspired by artists like Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jan De Heem, and other Dutch still life masters; the garden is my muse.

Most of my work starts the moment I plant a seed and continues as I nurture it through the stages of maturity, flowering, and decay when it becomes soil for future plants. Mine is a labour intensive process that allows me to explore the landscape as a physical and mystical space where time and nature become my creative allies. I use organic materials that are methodically planned, nursed, and harvested according their aesthetic qualities for later use in my compositions; similar to how a painter uses pigments to create. From seed to harvest, to the creation of a still life, a year can pass. Allowing time to pass keeps me attuned to nature’s cycles. I have found many parallels between the landscape and my inner garden; an inner landscape that shifts and ebbs with the seasons.

Rocio Graham is a photographer currently based in Calgary. Born in Mexico, she emigrated to Canada in 2002, studying art at Emily Carr University and the Alberta University of the Arts (ACAD), where she recently obtained a Bachelor of Design in Photography. Her still lives are influenced by her cultural heritage, experiences as a woman and mother, trauma survivor and reflections on life cycles. She explores the landscape from a body engagement perspective where labour, mysticism, and temporality merge. Rocio was selected as a finalist in the Womankind photographers award in Australia. After graduation, she was nominated for the BMO 1st Art invitational competition and has received various scholarships and grants. She is currently a mentor for the ACADSA Hear/d Art Residency. She is represented by Christine Klassen Gallery.


Pei Xin Liu, Montreal

Multiculturalism has become a trendy word, like a hashtag on Instagram. Multicultural is a word used to describe things that are not singular. It is used in the context of inauthenticity. Juxtaposing Chinese elements such as floral fabrics, knotting techniques or even spices with universally familiar furniture objects such as tables, chairs, and cabinet, I want to express that, in the age of multiculturalism, identities are a combination
of singularities. They are pieces of past experiences that form a façade that only somewhat makes sense.

I am a female Chinese-born, Canadian artist. I use furniture as my medium to challenge, even, remind the viewer to question the authenticity of one’s identity. Furniture is familiar
to everyone. It exists unassumingly within our lives. I don’t need to physically sit in a chair in order to understand how a chair works. For that reason, as art objects, furniture is extremely inviting and believable. I want to challenge that. We are getting too comfortable with terms like multiculturalism, racism, and sexism. It is no longer enough to make people aware of the issue; it is time to make sure people know that no one is exemplified by issues such as racism and sexism. Through reinterpretation of classic furniture objects from the perspective of a Chinese Canadian woman, I want the audience to question the authenticity of these objects and reflect on their own cultural identities, are they singular? Can one word really identify them?

My work deals with being a Chinese-Canadian woman living in the western society. I am consistently inspired by my interactions with people and my nostalgia for a China that does not exist anymore. Through meticulous reflection on objects that I remember seeing while living in China, a combination of details can inspire an entirely new body of work, with each detail holding its own set of connotations. The creative process feels very much like a collage, which I see as analogous to how my identities are formed. Even though the process might be conflicting and confusing, the final piece is believable.



Miriam Sagan, Santa Fe

     I am a poet, not a naturalist, but my poetry often creates a “map” of a place, incorporating geography, geology, archeology, ecology, natural history, memory, and perception. I am interested in borders, what earthworks artist Robert Smithson calls “The Slurb,” the collision between the human made and the wild.

       I recently completed a book entitled “Seven Places in America: A Poetic Sojourn.” It was published by Sherman Asher Press in fall, 2012. The seven places were the start of a journey to create a land-based or site-specific. poetry. It began in 2006,  as a writer-in-residence at Everglades National Park. The next place was THE LAND/An Art Site in Mountainair, New Mexico. I started with a long poem which then  result in a low-impact sculpture, a poetry pamphlet and postcard, and several lectures in galleries and academic settings. In 2009 I had a residency in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. This Petrified Forest residency led directly to the production of a poetry postcard series of Three Views of the Painted Desert, which I donated to the park.   



Mia S. van Leeuwen
, Winnipeg, MB

In an increasingly secularized society, many of us no longer know how to perform rituals surrounding death and loss. As artists, we can understand how rituals and ceremony are created and how they function. Ritual provides a structure for, and formalizes emotional experience. Like a performance, rituals have a set sequence of actions involving words, objects and gestures that are performed in a significant order of revelation. Furthermore, artists are known to subvert the norms, imagine possible worlds, give voice to marginalized perspectives, offer alternative ways of seeing, and reframe contemporary discourse. Therefore, what can the artist contribute to the conversation and practices surrounding death, dying and memorial rites?

My current project How to Raise a Ghost? attends to this inquiry through a research-creation process. I am seeking multi-perspectivism on the subject by engaging in death studies research, philosophical reflection, and artistic expression. Research will be explored through performance, installation and photography as well as engaging with artists across the nation through a death survey that I am developing. The work ultimately seeks to connect with the greater community, using art to confront the inevitability of our death in a meaningful way.

Photo credit: Mia van Leeuwen / Karen Asher

Genna Howard


Genna Howard, Brooklyn, NY

Genna Howard is a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and tattooer born and raised in Manhattan, New York. She pursues painting as a way to process emotions surrounding anxiety and mortality, and as a way to draw herself closer to understanding what it means to inhabit the world we live in.

Her influences come from natural history, death practices in different historical cultures, and a deep curiosity with how humans connect and interact with one another. Whether it’s an obsession with John James Audubon, a self-gathered library of symbology catalogues and cemetery imagery, or an expansive knowledge of American folk art and its intersections with tattoo history, Genna strives to link these various interests within her work, making art that speaks to her own experiences in an emotional and thought provoking way. 


Eve Chartrand, Bainbridge Island, WA

My research creation investigates the nature of negative body representations associated with ageing, including narratives of inclusiveness and visibility outside normative constructs. Specifically, what are the implications to self-identity and agency of current negative body constructs in middle-aged women’s lives? How can we challenge the idea that ageing is intrinsically defined by disability, ontological decay, and death? How can materiality suggest a more compassionate and vibrant humanism prone to generating re-interpretations and re-considerations of aging negative bodies?

The “Saprotrophic Bodies and Holobionts” project was born from the need to communicate how older bodies are still sources of renewal, wonder, and agency; it promotes a “conjuncture of survival […] a state of renewal that combines with
the present” (Déry 2006) by putting lingering, blooming, corporeal, and embodied things in relationship to the living as a way of re-inscribing deviant body in social discourse.
Challenging discriminating stereotypes negating the fertile ground of ageing, its rich individuality, kinship and the uniqueness of its personal landscape, my work celebrates the unique role of embodied transformation and the encompassing generosity and ingenious, regenerative creativity of nature. Yet, I wish to draw attention to how life reveals itself in unexpected ways if we dare to look beyond what is superficially exposed and expected.

Generated by contemporary considerations of the human body and its kinship to the natural/material world, my work attempts to steer clear of considerations foreseeing the body as a mere product of cultural factors and claims its affiliation to an earthy embodiment. By recounting bodily experiences and phenomenological impressions of significant objects, I aim at redefining knowledge of fleshy bodies, transgressing amid known boundaries of representation thus suggesting a more encompassing view of the corporeal. I want to pursue studying how artistic transformative encounters, wherein underlying, unifying motifs evoke horror and frailty, also speak to common humaneness, solidarities, and shared vulnerabilities. While seeking expressions of materiality rather than representation, I want to explore further how a hybrid approach can serve as a tool for cultural and institutional critique and a conduit for creative commenting on the self in visual culture and propose to put forward all-encompassing views of rapidly shifting social perspectives affecting bodies and the environment. I wish to explore visual strategies that defied limited anthropomorphic views, assessments that might falsify or alter phenomenological experiences of nature and steer viewers away from a place of origin situated in the body.



Tiffany Deater, Fulton, NY

We live in a culture that thrives on drama and conflict; a barrier between the imagined and the real. This desire for social tension extends beyond the human, and we impose our ideologies onto the animals and environment around us.

We overlook quiet spaces and moments of stillness, forgetting what it means to simply exists as living beings.

My work is about reimagining our relationship with animals, the environment, and each other. Though my video works I seek to connect the viewer with other forms of life, sometimes journeying though their perspective seeking to answer the questions: how do we connect and empathize with other animals? What insight can we gain from their world?


Ava P Christl, Harrison Hot Springs, BC

My work, spanning over 30 years, lies at the intersection of art and ecology, nature and spirit. I make paintings about nature and place; nature as healer; and about our human relationships to the living land. My work deals with landscape and memory; grief, loss and recovery; longing and belonging; and the concept of entropy as it relates to land and water.

I now want to shift and deepen this work to include the human landscape; to work with people in all conditions; to address grief and loss on a human scale. I have recently studied to become a death doula, and have witnessed and mourned many deaths among family and friends in recent years including death by suicide. Now, I am interested in finding ways to bring my artwork into the realm of the dying and the dead. I want to shift ideas of grief, loss, and mourning from the ecological context to the human. I want more than prayer and ritual. I want a palpable, visible expression of death and dying - an art of mourning and honouring.

Alyssa ellis

Alyssa Ellis, Calgary, Alberta
Expedition Leader

Ellis is an Albertan born artist who has an ongoing love affair with botanical poison. She studies, documents and seeks out poisonous plants that can be found growing naturally within the province of Alberta. Through the process of her work, she studies the relationships between plants and people, and the dependence one has on the other.

“I’m in a constant ongoing, revolving and dissolving love affair with botanical life. We work together, play together and by all means narrate together in order to further develop our complicated relationship. While multidisciplinary in nature, the experimental research of our stories fluctuates between textiles, drawing, performance and installation. Despite always connecting back to the idea of plant storytelling, I strive to do nothing more than to unearth stories that delve into nature’s darker side.”


Sharon Stevens, Calgary, Alberta

I am a media artist, curator, and community celebrationist. My art practice is externalized as community-based and collaborative projects evidenced by Id Collective, Council of Community Conveyors, Finding the P Spot, and OX A Crash Course on Loving Calgary. These projects along with all the artists mobilized to participate in the Equinox Vigil point to my belief that by working together we can create experiential beauty.

In 2012 I initiated and now annually produce Equinox Vigil in Union Cemetery. I bring together artists and Calgarians of every stripe and persuasion in a free, non-denominational event to honour the dead and reflect on the universal experience of death. The result is beautiful, multi-disciplinary, participatory, enchanted and unforgettable.

I personally contribute a media art installation called Digital Shrine "Our notes, having been turned simply into light, roll up the screen like credits, a kind of contemporary paper-burning ceremony.  Lindsay Sorell writer Equinox Vigil Commemorative book 2017

As a socially-engaged artist I am as likely to be giving a talk at an artist-run centre as leading the charge in a performance/protest piece dressed up as oil-drenched duck. This kind of work is invigorating and exhausting. I find a sense of humour along with embodying creativity is essential for well beings. Finding a balance for restorative solitude is also a life goal.


Regan Henley
, Syracuse, NY

Death is the only sure, universal thing in this world. Still, it is something most of us only approach with meekness when it is at our own doorstep. We have grieved and cared for our dead for all of history, yet when the time comes for us, we find ourselves paralyzed.

We are unsure how to feel, what we’re allowed to feel, and how it looks to others. Despite the myriad of healthy ways and methods grief manifests culturally, spiritually and individually, it is all too easy to rob ourselves of the experience of grief in some form or another for fear to embracing our grief in its entirety. In doing this, we lose out on the valuable realizations of of our own mortality as well.

As an artist, I am interested in using digital technology and art therapeutic elements to explore and promote healthy grieving, provide an alternative to end of life anxiety, and find new ways of expressing ritual, and continuing bonds with our deceased.

My work investigates intersections of emotional intimacy in conjunction with new digital technologies and internet culture. I am interested in cultural perceptions of death and dying in the digital era, as well as using art to interrogate evolving forms of grieving and mourning rituals perpetuated online and through new forms of media.

Though disparate in medium and method, my works aim to use language and symbolism as a vehicle to move through trauma, and grief. In these personal, cathartic and at times, darkly humorous works I explore concepts of loss, ritual, and the healing power of tenderness and honesty.



Sandrine Schaefer, Waltham, MA

Using a site-sensitive approach, my work asks how bodies measure time while enduring
institutional mediation, shared space and other external forces. My work often presents as performance art installations that propose ways to share time not accessible elsewhere in life. Through the use of surreal imagery and subtle auditory and olfactory components, I create situations for audiences to gather around that break traditional viewing behaviors. I do this by deprivileging sight as the primary sense to engage the work; rewarding curious viewers; and using extended duration and repetition to cultivate spaces for return. My work tends towards material sparseness to draw attention to what is readily available in a site and has a low-impact on the physical environment. I have made work in hundreds of art and non-art designated spaces across the globe since 2004.


Ashley Wasilewski
, Newton, MA

In my work I investigate ways to create physical representations of human mentality and
internal struggle. Through a rigorous research practice that translates into performance I bring to life manifestations of mental illness, intimacy, death and the relationship between the limits of the body and the power of the mind. The conceptual aspects of my work is driven by the human experience: the universal and the persona; By creating a visual manifestation of the human experience through performance, I am able to create physical translations of my experiences and simulate control of what I often do not have conscious control over, which in turn teaches me to cope and heal. We all die, but not all humans experience mental illness, or being queer. Everyone has a different experience in life. My performances represent both my personal experiences as well as human nature as a whole. My aim is to research, discover and communicate what it means to be a human being through performance.


Brad Modlin, Nebraska

I live on the lookout for what makes humans human. People experience self-consciousness. Giraffes don’t get embarrassed. Therefore, the feeling of being the isolated, odd-one-out actually connects us to our species. My last book of poems, Everyone at This Party Has Two Names, considers self-consciousness in humorous and serious ways. It explores feeling like the oddball, the only unhip party guest who has just one first name and cannot keep track of everyone else’s two—names they keep switching between as the night progresses.

Unlike animals, humans know we will pass away and mark our days by avoiding signs of its approach (aging). But Federico García Lorca said that the poet seized by duende—the impulsive, creative force—always remembers that death approaches. My current projects include fiction about fasting—ascetics bringing the body to its livable limit. My poems are laced with death and resurrection.

y   Chantal Lafond, Calgary, AB

I am an emerging artist based in Calgary, Alberta, primarily working with traditional fibre techniques such as weaving, knitting and embroidery. My work often includes objects and materials that are conducive to preservation, or protective, nurturing acts.
In addition to working within the realm of fibre, I also work with installation and sculptural assemblage. Through these aspects of my practice I have sought to reactivate the materials used by the artist Joseph Beuys. I am particularly interested in his recurring use of felt and fat in both his sculptural and performative works due to their potential for insulation, as well as the conductive properties they share. When creating installations I like to cultivate the suggestion of a performative act about to take place, or the subsequent residue of something that has already occurred.

Currently, my practice is focused on creating hand-woven objects to be used to prepare a body for burial or cremation. I seek to share an understanding of the importance of these objects as they have appeared in many cultures throughout history, as well as examine their use in our present time and place, and their potentials for increased recognition as accessible and meaningful handmade funerary vessels.

Through my work I strive to reconnect to the physical and emotional labour of death and mourning typically carried out collectively by the women of a community. Upon witnessing my work, I hope to allow viewers to consider that there can be care, beauty, and intimacy in death.



Judy Duggan-McCormack, Hamilton ON

As a textile artist, the work I generate I would articulate as both subjective and observant. I create with a desire to explore and satisfy my artistic needs while incorporating historical and genealogical facts or nuances. I feel a longing to explore, collect, source and sample from events that have taken place through generations of my own family as well as obscurely chronicled narratives of the past. My design plan can either be a 'spark' of inspiration or an observation from another influence, Therefore I remain open until I have researched my thoughts, findings and ideas and my initial project plan may morph between the idea stage and the execution of the art piece.

My current work, is an amalgamation of contemporary and historical design, executed in a variety of textile forms ranging from knitting, crochet, dyeing, beadwork and embroidery or a blend of all of the above. I am often drawn to cemeteries for inspiration for my work as the rich history offers a plethora of ideas and stories.  Much can be read from a grave marker no matter how simple the inscription.  The idea that a person whom I did not know has been buried with so many more stories to tell instills the need for me to give the life a narrative through my art.


Toni Ardizzone
, Tallahassee, FL

Combining a vibrant color palette, dense composition, and bold approach with an unapologetic study of mortality, my work exposes the ferocity of nature and the trauma associated with survival. Having been exploring death in my work for several years, I experienced the misfortune of facing my own memento mori in 2018. Recovering from bodily trauma, I returned to my studio with wilting “get well” flower arrangements I received while hospitalized. Not typically interested in painting flowers, I chose the subject in a utilitarian fashion to recharge my practice. Painting these arrangements in decay generated connections between survival, loss, death, memory, and transformation.

Incorporating cardboard, window curtains, pillow cases, bed sheets, and vintage printed paper into my paintings, much of my work is best described as 2D assemblages. These discarded materials allow me to build, deconstruct, rip, tear, cut, mold and manipulate forms reflecting the deaths we meet within life. The nuanced surfaces help to define the ravage nature of survival and the forced patterns created from emotional and psychological loss.

Living near the Gulf coast of Florida, I have witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Michael. By documenting the ruins of its path I am holding a mirror to life’s fragility and disaster, but also uncovering the portrait of survival. My most recent work Remains layers the imagery of the wilting flowers and the hurricane debris while drawing parallels between crumbling skeletons of houses and an encounter with ravaging illness. Defined by vivaciousness, my work embraces the natural processes of life with honesty and fervor.


Katie Barron, Canmore, Alberta

Life is short and made for enjoying. So many of the things that we interact with on a regular basis spark some small form of joy; whether it be a happy memory, a love of a particular colour, or a delicious flavour. By taking the time to fully render these simple objects I get the pleasure of exploring all of the small things that add up to something so simply joyful. Painting realism for me is an act of mindfulness meditation, spending extended hours focusing on the smallest portion of something that creates happiness and teasing apart what exactly it is that I enjoy so deeply.

In my work I draw inspiration from both everyday modern objects but also from the old masters in the form of capturing dramatic lighting to build an emotional connection with the viewer. By contrasting colourful, joyful objects with deep shadows I invite the viewer to create an emotional connection as well as see these objects on their own, outside of the influence of anything

Kristine Thompson, Baton Rouge, LA

My creative work examines social and emotional responses to death, how we mourn, and the memorial properties attached to particular objects and spaces as we grieve. My work also increasingly considers how photographs circulate—particularly photographs of death or mourning—and how a photographic image might elicit empathy.

My most recent work, Images Seen to Images Felt, is an on-going series of photograms that I make by pressing light-sensitive gelatin silver print paper up to my laptop screen in the darkroom. They are direct impressions of digital images that I have collected from a range of online newspapers. I turn these virtual images into tangible prints to facilitate a slowed-down way of considering difficult contemporary events that have become too easy to scroll past. Collectively, these photograms become an archive of loss and the grieving that follows.


Jane Ross, London UK

I am a London-based photographer, interested in discovering and documenting the overlooked, discarded and forgotten, and exploring how photography can help us capture memory, retrieve the past, commemorate the dead and deal with loss. An interest in how we respond and relate to death informs my photographic practice.

London is running out of space to bury its dead. Some cemeteries intend re-using specific graves unless they receive notification from relatives not to do so.  In my recent, ongoing project in Brompton Cemetery – one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian garden cemeteries – I imagine the past lives and lost souls resting in the graves that will soon be disturbed. Many of the graves are unmarked, decaying and their inscriptions worn away. The lives of those buried there are unknown but they are somehow marked here forever.  I make my images in the cemetery with found photos, then layer and multiexpose in the camera -- letting the play of light and shadow evoke the souls and spirits of the deceased.

I graduated with a Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the London College of Communications (University of the Arts) in 2015 and although my day job in communications does involve travel and documentary photography, I spend most of my free time on personal photography projects in London and Italy, where I lived for nearly 20 years.




Katrina Vera Wong, Vancouver

When people ask what I do, I tell them I make flowers. And I call them Frankenflora .
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “What If You Slept”, a “strange and beautiful flower” is plucked from a dream in heaven and brought back to our waken world. Years after I first read this poem, after I volunteered at an herbarium, after I became fascinated with the mutability of orchids, after I lost my father, did I begin to understand just how strange and beautiful that flower was. In my grief, I was plunged into a frenzy of piecing together parts of dead flora to create—or replicate—Coleridge’s poetic flower.

I consult the study of botany and experiment with the concept of hybridization, using sections of pressed or dried plants to construct a flower, like Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. That hybrid speciation is more commonly found in plants than animals makes them the ideal media for this practice, so Frankenflora (with its variations given binomial names) may represent a species that is perhaps not altogether impossible.

We are born into this world the product of two genetic codes, but along the way we pick up bits of the people we love and bits of the things we marvel at, and in the end we leave as a whole greater than the sum of these parts. It is my hope that Frankenflora might be a balm for those who have also lost loved ones, that they might be a part of the departed to occupy the void left behind.


Yannick De Serre, Montreal

Yannick De Serre’s work is today strongly influenced by his stay in northern Quebec. Always refined, his different series testifies of the emptiness, death, calmness and the northern landscapes; through a minimalist aestheticism.

In his landscapes, above the horizon, the sky comes to life with some occasional aurora borealis, for which the artist blur the limits between the background and the form, using embossing to suggest the fluidity of the movement of this natural phenomenon. The rare appearances of color are always soft and discreet, and add a touch of life in the serenity of the work. This apparent tranquility is however fragile, as a storm on the horizon threats to topple this quiet landscape into turmoil.

Lately, Yannick work on a corpus of art talking about suicidal and death. It involved people around him. They had to think about what they would leave behind them, if they would kill themself. He started to receive fake suicidal letters. Then, for each of them, he drawed a funeral bouquet.


Ashley J. Ortiz-Diaz, Florida

My concern is to confront the viewer with a scene that is serene, yet unsettled, in order to incite a reevaluation of a proposed reality. Removing spatial planes from perspectival references (reality) allows the mind to create its own reference points. When that plane does not logically align with the edge of the picture and is furthermore made dimensional or dynamic according to unknown laws, the simple and familiar is made uncanny and other-worldly. Evoking a hole, a thin veil or perhaps a bed, the plane(s) subtly transforms within the soft grey atmospheric surroundings. The work is a representation of what it is to confront and contemplate mortality.

The underlying denial of mortality in the Western middle-class is, in part, the reason for a fear of death and a refusal to prepare for it. Death discourse should be normalized and part of our daily lives so that when we are confronted with death, we have the vocabulary and resources to die well. Through my practice, I hope to create an inviting space to discuss conception of death.



Erin Williamson, Toronto, Ontario

I like to work with found objects and exploit the colors and textures that are inherent to the materials. All of the materials I work with are chosen carefully to depict a sense of safety and struggle relating to the human body and the comfort it provides us and limits us to. I want to create a sense of nostalgia for a safe space provided by the physical womb as well as the struggle that comes with coping with our inevitable expulsion from this ephemeral place. Along with that I also portray a sense of self-repulsion that comes with my own personal constant need for comfort and validation provided by others.

My favorite material to work with is nylon and I incorporate in all of my work. I appreciate its translucent nature and the neutral tone of the material as well as how it can stretch and tear to create a sense of struggle. I like the color pink because it allows me to abstractly reference the human body and its internal organs, specifically the uterus, through man-made materials. This is why I manipulate rigid found objects into more organic shapes to create a juxtaposition between what is natural and what is not. I see all the different objects as individual pieces with unique identities working together to create a larger entity and give the viewer a sense of security. I also appreciate the idea of pink being considered a “feminine” color because I want to exploit this binary idea and express a sort of delicacy in my work through that. For me this delicacy represents something that is inherent to our being as humans who experience emotion in unique ways. My sculptures are very fragile and easy to take down. In this way they are very ephemeral and once taken apart can never be reassembled in the same way. The moment we are born we are vulnerable, pushed out of a space that kept us safe and in which I constantly long to seek the same sort of comfort and safety found within that space.


Alivia Magana, Albuquerque

Through the medium of photography, Alivia Magana explores topics related to the
medical field, the human body, specimen-hood, mortality and identity. Her interest originates from her experience working as an Morphology Technician that assists with autopsies. Through picturing objects related to autopsy, personal protective equipment and bodily fluids, she uses the camera as a mediator between this confidential realm and reflects on her experiences in autopsy.