Objects of Mourning opens in Kipp Annex Gallery

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The exhibit Objects of Mourning by Indiana University of Pennsylvania alumna Renée Zettle-Sterling (Class of 1993) opened in the Kipp Annex Gallery in Sprowls Hall Thursday.

The exhibit opened with an artist talk and reception Thursday that gave people the chance to meet Zettle-Sterling and hear her talk about her work.

Zettle-Sterling started off by explaining her overall artistic inspirations.

“I am fascinated by objects,” Zettle-Sterling said. “Objects are our teachers, and we are accumulating objects even before we’re born.”

She went on to talk about how objects are so much more than what or how use them on a daily basis. They are an extension of who we are.

For example, Zettle-Sterling sees bubbles as representing the “frugality of life.” They showcase the coming into being and passing away that every human experiences.

Zettle-Sterling uses or recreates all different types of objects in her work, such as bubbles, spoons, brooches, hand fans and skulls. Sometimes she is creating new objects out of old ones to represent something completely else.

Objects of Mourning has been an ongoing project for Zettle-Sterling since about 2006 or 2008. She started focusing on this theme with her work in remembrance of the important people in her life who have passed away, including her biological father, her brother and her grandfather.

Zettle-Sterling sees mourning as an outward sign of dealing with grief, and her artwork is her expression of mourning for those she cares about.

Her artwork certainly reflected this – whether it was a mask that appeared to be crying, objects created out of her brother’s clothing or pieces that featured the silhouettes of her deceased family members.

Deanna Ansaldo (junior, art and psychology) described what she thought of the exhibit and why she decided to check it out.

“I like the idea of life and death,” Ansaldo said. “It inspires me and my own artwork.

“The exhibit is very well done. [Zettle-Sterling] got the Victorian style well captured in modern-day obituaries and metal work techniques.”

Her artwork gave off a very somber aura. Even among the hype of the opening, the exhibit felt like a memorial or a silent place deserving of respect for not just Zettle-Sterling’s deceased relatives but all who have passed.

Zettle-Sterling explained how, through the process of creating art, she experienced mourning as a private space, which influenced her life outlook.

“It made me think more deeply about my mortality,” Zettle-Sterling said. “Thinking about my mortality in this way inspires gratitude.”

Ansaldo also encouraged others to come visit the exhibit themselves.

“Art is a fundamental characteristic of humanity,” Ansaldo said. “Even if they don’t do art, they should at least view it, because you will learn something from it, I guarantee.”