Death and dying: shrines, urns, requiems highlight Wellington exhibit

Shelley Carter has co-ordinated an exhibit at the Wellington County Museum called Death Perceptions. She hopes it will get people talking about death and dying.

'Nothing terrible happens if we talk about death directly,' co-ordinator Shelley Carter says

Death Perceptions will run at the Wellington County Museum from Sept. 17 to Nov. 6. (Death Perceptions)

Shelley Carter says an experience she had with a dying friend really made her think about how society views death.

In 2013, Carter was heading up the Elora Tarot Project, where local artists designed tarot cards.

"During that process, one of the members of that group died — spectacularly," Carter said.

"She was amazing about how she confronted her own death. She's a very forthright person in life and she was very forthright once she got the diagnosis of having brain cancer and just was totally clear with people."

Carter said the woman even called up someone she knew to tell them she was dying and so if they have any loose ends they want to tie up, "you should probably see me soon."

The woman's final days and death "was incredibly painful for everyone, but I think her being so forthright made it a lot easier for us," Carter said.

Death as a muse

Carter is now coordinating an exhibit at the Wellington County Museum called Death Perceptions, made up of three parts. One section will feature 78 shadow boxes and shrines about death or those who have died.

Nothing terrible happens if we talk about death directly.- Exhibit co-ordinator Shelley Carter

A second section will show off the work of potters, glass workers, metal workers and other artists who have created urns, "some that people made for themselves to use in the future," Carter said.

The third space will house a visual requiems, including installations, paintings and sculptures.

In total 98 artists from Elora and also from outside the community created 130 pieces.

'Let's confront it'

Carter, who works as a therapist, says people are more open to discussing death. Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, is a great example, she said, because he is being completely open with an entire country about his terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

"I just want us to talk about death. Let's confront it. Nothing terrible happens if we talk about death directly," she said.

"Death is a part of life and that it's not to be afraid of," she added. "By looking at death, we'll also look at life and how we live it and I think it can be uplifting."

Death Perceptions opens Sept. 16 and runs until Nov. 6.


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