Grief Art Exhibit, a major part of next week’s Grief Week sponsored and organized by GrieveWell, is a platform for people to share their stories through art and many local artists are taking part in the event. GrieveWell created a juried art exhibit which will be up all week and walked as a community at the end of the week. The Grief Art Walk is scheduled for Friday, April 12 starting at 6 p.m. at the Literati Bookstore and ending at the Ann Arbor Distillery. Each location features several unique works of art accompanied by the artist’s stories of their grief journey.
Kayla Anderson wasn’t born with a paint brush in her hand but it didn’t take her long to reach for one – and once she did it was game on.
“Since I can remember, I’ve loved drawing and painting, and would do it as often as I could, wherever I could,” says Anderson, one of several local artists who will take part in this weekend’s Grief Art Exhibit.
“For me, it has always been an outlet for my imagination, and a means of keeping me engaged. As an only child, who didn’t have a particularly stable upbringing, my imagination is what kept me busy, and helped entertain me in my solitude.”
In fact, she loved the creative process so much, that her idea of a good time was passing a sheet of paper from friend to friend and encouraging them to draw something on it, playing off of whatever was done before them.
“I loved the ingenuity that this type of collaboration inspired,” she says. “By the time the piece was ‘finished,’ it was unlike anything in the world, because it was a multitude of original pieces, all nicely contained in one piece of paper.”
Anderson, 26, believes that this love of multiplicity has only gotten stronger as she’s gotten older. And it’s a big reason why she enjoys mixed media so much.
“In the last five years, art has become more of a self-care practice for me, being something stable I can always turn to in times of trouble,” she says. “It helps me heal from trauma, and continues to be a way for me to get to know myself, and my feelings. There’s something incredibly liberating and therapeutic about being able to take what you’re feeling and immortalize it on a canvas, separate from your body. Having this type of an outlet has been a sort of coping mechanism for me, and in many ways has saved me from turning to more adverse outlets.”
Anderson says her work carries a certain emotion that she feels during the process and after. She says the entire process itself is deeply therapeutic, and the end result is “a part of me, regardless of if I like it or not.”
“Creating one of my pieces is like identifying a part of myself, engaging it in raw conversation, then trying to make sense of it using materials,” she says.
The majority of Anderson’s canvases are made using mixed media, so there will often be multiple steps to the process. First, she draws something meaningful to her and then finds a color scheme that matches whatever emotion she has attached to it.
“I like the fluidity and abstraction that acrylic pouring gives me, so I’ll start pouring, and then fill in the empty spaces by finger painting, giving me human contact with the paint,” she says. “If the statement I’m trying to make is more visceral, I might use splatter paint, or spray paint. After the paint is dry, I’ll secure the ink/marker drawing to the canvas with mod podge. Then I’ll put a gloss or satin varnish over it.
“For me, the process of creating a piece is a meditative one, it becomes a trance I can get lost in, a brief respite from the outside world.”
Anderson only recently started volunteering with GrieveWell.
“As someone who has experienced a lot of grief in their life, I believe it’s essential that community members and institutions have a better, more nuanced understanding of grief and how differently it manifests itself in different people,” she says. “While grief is a unique and personal experience that can’t be skipped over, you don’t have to walk through it alone, that is so important to remember.
“GrieveWell does an incredible job supporting their community through resources, mentoring, and education. If my work can shine a light on a particular experience rooted in grief, then I’m doing my job to increase visibility.”
A native of Minnesota, Anderson now lives in Ann Arbor. Her work has been displayed at The Riverside Arts Gallery, in local coffee shops and in bookstores around town and beyond. “I’m always looking for more places to display my work,” she says.
Also, follow her on Instagram @MissAnthropeArt