The “Not Just a Number” portrait series is a response to grief. Having experienced gut-wrenching losses personally and using art as a means of coping with grief, I became inspired to reach out to others experiencing the loss of a loved one through an unnecessary circumstance. After months of watching the covid death toll climb, and thinking of all the families who were unable to hold funerals or even grieve with their families, I decided to reach out to 50 families (in 2021) through online grief support networks and offer them the opportunity to collaborate in this series. Each participating family provides photos, handwritten text, and completes a questionnaire about their loved one, and are encouraged to include their family and friends to contribute. Once materials are received, I create a portrait using their text and photos, drawing entirely with text, and using their handwritten text as background. Families receive a digital copy of the artwork to print and share. The goal is to illustrate the humanity behind the number of covid deaths, while also offering grieving families kindness, support, and a unique opportunity to come together at a distance with their families to honor the memory of their loved one through a collaborative art project. I plan to reach out to 100 more families through 2022, and 2023 to create memorial portraits of those lost in my own community. I plan for the “Not Just a Number” series to culminate in an exhibition of the portraits, and gifting framed original artwork to participating families.
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