Zettle-Sterling, other metalsmith artists collaborate for exhibition on grief and loss

January 25, 2022 (Volume 45, Number 10)
Article by Peg West

An exhibition on the Allendale Campus by three metalsmith artists, including a Grand Valley faculty member, explores mourning and shows how the artists processed their grief through their work.

"Sorrow/Fullness: A Reflection on Mourning" is on display now through April 1 at the Haas Center for Performing Arts Gallery. 

The exhibition features the work of Renée Zettle-Sterling, professor of jewelry, metalsmithing and foundations, as well as artists Sue Amendolara and Adrienne Grafton.

In their statement about the exhibition, the artists said it felt natural for them to turn to artmaking to deal with their personal experiences of significant loss.

"What you see in this exhibition are the tangible results from transformative experiences and profound explorations," the statement said. "It is our hope that by sharing our loss and shedding light on our perspectives, the viewer will step into a transformative space with us. Ultimately, this exhibition is an expression of love for those who have passed and those who walk alongside us. While we feel great sorrow for our loss, we are fulfilled by our experiences."

Joel Zwart, GVSU curator of exhibitions and collections, said Zettle-Sterling, on behalf of the artists, approached Art Gallery leaders with a proposal for the exhibition, which is part of a joint effort shown previously at the Erie Art Museum in Pennsylvania. He said the theme of this work is timely given current circumstances.

"Viewers will encounter a wide variety of three-dimensional works of art — from small and intricate objects, to wearable works and larger installations," Zwart said. "Each artist speaks openly about grief and loss through their work, and it is our desire that this exhibition and related programming will help start more conversations around this important topic in our community."

The pieces offer a way to deal with a subject that is both profound and constant, said Nathan Kemler, Grand Valley director of galleries and collections.

“Western culture is not afraid of change but we are afraid of loss," Kemler said. "All change is ultimately loss and, as a result, we are mourning loss continuously in some manner or another. 'Sorrow/Fullness' offers our community an opportunity to lean into this natural process of grieving so that we can heal and move forward in new ways.”

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This article was last edited on January 25, 2022 at 10:48 a.m.

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