Collage

Artful Grief is a decade long study of loss by an art therapist, in the aftermath of her daughter’s suicide. On October 11, 2001, Sharon received a phone call in the middle of the night from the New York City Police Department telling her that her seventeen year old daughter Kristin, had “fallen” from the roof of her college dormitory. So began her journey into the labyrinth of unspeakable grief. As the first year drew to a close she found no comfort in traditional therapy, and no solace in spoken or written words. In surrender to her inner art therapist’s guidance, she began to create collages. She cut and tore images out of magazines and glued them on various size paper. The paper was a safe and sacred container,  receptive to the fullness of emotion, story and paradox. Over time there was transformation and healing.

 

Artful Grief
A Diary of Healing
December 29, 2002: Into the Deep – Page 69

Caution

Collage #1: “Caution” 

(12 x 15 inches)

Copyright 2002 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“ I grabbed a handful of the million or more fragments of myself, and threw them onto an eleven by fourteen-inch piece of black construction paper.  Making the collage about your death brought me a measure of serenity.”

 

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January 8, 2003: Touching the Ashes – Page 74

Madness

Collage #2: “Madness”

(22 x 22 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“The primitive part of me wants to scream. It’s buried inside, waiting. There is “terror in touching the ashes” of what is left of me. I turn to glass. I run the other way. I am “swept away.”

 

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February 5, 2003: Branded – Page 77

Once Upon a Time

Collage #3: “Once Upon a Time”

(20 x 30 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I would like to brand the word suicide on my forehead, like a Scarlet Letter. This would separate me out and mark me as I truly am. I am a shame filled mother who lost her daughter. I am an outstanding “person of the year.” My head explodes and I place a crown of thorns on top, in hopes of keeping it together.”

 

 

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February 18, 2003: Fatal Plunge – Page 79

Suffering

Collage #4: “Suffering”

(20 x 30 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I glue you down in a way that allows the rupture to be seen. I like the torn edges and leave them. There is some kind of physical release in the experience of tearing. I tear and align myself with the truth of the exposed ragged and uncontrolled edges of your death.”

 

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March 3, 2003: Laid Out – Page 81

I’d rather die

Collage #5: “I’d rather die”

(20 x 30 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

 “I’d rather die, but it is you in the coffin, not me.  The flowers that we place in your hair will not bring you back.  Your suicide is not softened by yellow and pink rose petals.  I know that over time I will remember you in a different way, but for now I see you “gray, cold and broken.”

 

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March 18, 2003: Permanence – Page 83

Grand Illusions

Collage #6: “Grand Illusions”

(30 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“You are here and you are not here. You are form and formless.  You are physical and non-physical. You are body and soul.”

 

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April 10, 2003: Analyze This – Page 85

Field of Screams

Collage #7: “Field of Screams”

(25 x 38 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“There was an intensity about this “peace” that was beyond words.  Perhaps that’s the reason words were not necessary, for pure sound emanated off the page, it screamed. At one point I removed the face of a beautiful girl, leaving only her hair.  I placed a tall building within that emptiness.”

 

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May 13, 2003: Benediction – Page 96

Purple Tears

Collage #8: “Purple Tears”

(20 x 30 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“Your whole body should be one massive bruise but it is not. I enter the bruise. All that is broken is hidden beneath the skin.  The faint fragrance of lavender oil fills the space and I imagine you held in purple healing light.”

 

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September 4, 2003: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – Page 109

What the devil is this?

Collage #9: “What the devil is this?”

(36 x 22 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“What the devil is this,” what the hell is going on? I try to understand your suffering. I paste you down onto the surface of my collage, and can only imagine your agony.  I move this way and that way with you, in an attempt to understand. My head explodes.”

 

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November 30, 2003: Explosion – Page 120

Rage: Code Red

Collage #10: “Rage: Code Red”

(30 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I am in the fire and of the fire. I am totally consumed until there is nothing left but ash. I honor my rage and give it all its due. My right hand reaches for you, in your red dress. The energy of my rage pulsates out of the top of my head and engulfs all in its path. I am consumed in the fury.”

 

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December 22, 2003: Castle – Page 122

The Wisdom

Collage #11: “The Wisdom”

(30 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2003 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I relax into the center of it all.  My new self is born of breath. My breath is no longer shallow.  My breath is no longer caught inside my aching lungs. I breathe freely, in light of the fact that my new self is held by death’s screaming darkness and Botticelli’s angels.”

 

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January 17, 2004: Everything I Need – Page 125

The Goldfish

Collage #12: “The Goldfish”

(20 x 16 inches)

Copyright 2004 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“This collage was different. I had not used any words. I was drawn more deeply into the spaces between the images. I felt myself resting there. I felt spacious and uncluttered by thought and emotion.”

 

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March 4, 2004: Imperfection – Page 129

Sudden Impact

Collage #13: “Sudden Impact”

(20 x 16 inches)

Copyright 2004 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“In finishing, I paste white doves across your broken body.  They arise and I imagine your spirit arising at the moment of your death. Hands reach for you.”

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April 23, 2004: Falling in Love – Page 131

Seen

Collage #14: “Seen”

(16 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2004 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“An ermine-cloaked woman makes her way up.  I feel that I am the one climbing the stairs.  I imagine you near me.  You gaze over what your death has created.  A large crack runs diagonally across your face and draws my eye down toward the depths, where the stone-faced have only partially come back to life.”

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September  16, 2004: There is a Field – Page 135

Forgiveness

Collage #16: “Forgiveness”

(30 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2004 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I gaze across the forest at you. Your eyes do not meet mine. They are downcast. I sense the sorrow in what you have done. I am filled with compassion for both of us. We meet in the middle ground, mother and daughter, black and white.”

 

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December 28, 2004: Oh what fun it is… – Page 139

Holiday Spirit

Collage #17: “Holiday Spirit”

(16 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2004 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I hide the word fragile under the glitter of Holiday ornaments. I hide my fragility so others will feel comfortable, after all it’s been three years.”

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March 24, 2005: The Ravaged One – Page 144

Letting Go

Collage #18:”Letting Go”

(16 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2005 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I don’t like her. I don’t like what I see. I cut her out anyway. I wear  a yellow dress. The ravaged part of me is poignantly evident, like an open wound.”

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September 14, 2005: Butterfly Wings – Page 157

Transformation

Collage #19: “Transformation”

(16 x 20 inches)

Copyright 2005 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“My left hand is covered in butterflies and partly covers my throat. I am held by my own questioning gaze. Butterflies form the edges, some are torn and broken but mostly they are whole. I rise out of the ashes of your death.”

 

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January 5, 2006: New Territory – Page 163

The Goddess

Collage #21: “The Goddess”

(8 x 5 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I settled on a nude woman with a snake. I tore her out and positioned her so she was held within the trunk and branches of a tree. I created a sacred space for her.”

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January 19, 2006: Where am I with your death? – Page 165

Silver Death

Collage #22: “Silver Death”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“After so many years of dealing with the torments of your shattered body, all broken and bleeding, it was a relief to see you angelic. In that moment, the images of your death appeared spiritual and peaceful.”

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January 20, 2006: Who am I? – Page 166

Golden Creatrix

Collage #23: “Golden Creatrix”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I feel regal, powerful and in command of my creative energies. They are at my disposal. I feel the solid foundation of rocks underneath my feet. A snake slithers from my artist’s pallet, leaving behind the skin it shed. I bask in the light and it feels good.”

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 February 11, 2006: Taking my Pulse – Page 168

Blue Wisdom

Collage #24: “Blue Wisdom” 

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“In “Blue Wisdom” water falls through a field of green trees.  I think of a column of pure light and the experiences of healing that have come to me. I am lifted up.”

Two Elephants

Collage #25: “Two Elephants”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“In “Two Elephants” you stand on the roof of my house and release black and red butterflies from their cage.  You are not in my house, in my space, but outside of what is mine.”  

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  February 15, 2006: Grief Gifts – Page 170

Held

Collage #26: “Held”

( 5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

  ”I cover my face in mesh and sparkling sequins. I am “Held.” You see me and you don’t see me. I feel protected as layers are peeled away, revealing a final, delicate inner core.”

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February 19, 2006: Dripping – Page 171

Blood Rabbit

Collage #27: “Blood Rabbit”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“Paint drips like blood into the form of a cross that releases a single rose into a field of red.  You look out at me over your shoulder.  Is that you or is that me?  Am I the one being born out of all that blood?”

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 March 12, 2006: Signs of Spring – Page 175

Ascension

Collage #33: “Ascension”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I appear naked, exposed and vulnerable. I cover part of my face in my ascent. My eyes are barely visible. My neck is exposed.”

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April 13, 2006: At my Waist – Page 176

Corseted

Collage #34: “Corseted”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I appear delicate, perhaps fragile.  A black cinched corset draws my attention.  It forms the left side of my throat clenching self.”

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April 15, 2006: In the Mail – Page 178

Yellow Bird Cage

Collage #35: “Yellow Bird Cage”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“The bird cage and chair work well together. They invoke associations and I sense  you flying away, released from the cage of your mental illness and me released from the suffering of your death.” 

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April 21, 2006: Lungs – Page 179

Green Crocodile

Collage #36: “Green Crocodile”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“A crocodile weaves its way through a fern. Its imposing foot forms an umbrella canopy over my head. I cannot decide if the crocodile is there as protection or if it is going to crush me. I stand on top of a coffin.”

 

May 3, 2006: Silhouette – Page 180 – 181

Clenched Heart

Collage #40: “Clenched Heart”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

 

“Sometimes I still feel as if my heart is outside my body, raw and exposed for everyone to see, especially on days like these. I am glad these days are intermittent rather than pervasive.”

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June 24, 2006: Recovery – Page 189

Gift Boxes

Collage #42: “Gift Boxes”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

    ” I find my heart, broken into a million pieces and glue it down.  A diamond cross marks the center point and offers its blessing to the breaking open.  I close my eyes in this place of reverie.”

Buddha

Collage #43: “Buddha”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I step back and absorb this collage, as an indicator of where I am now.  I am particularly drawn to the page of light that enters the woman’s head.  I am seriously considering the possibility of writing, taking it just one page at a time.”

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October  23, 2006: Tattoos – Page 197

Reborn

Collage #47: “Reborn”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“Instead of tattooing the word suicide on my forehead, I tattoo my art on my body. I am my art.  I am my own creation.”

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November 15, 2006: A Perfect Fall – Page 198

Paradox

Collage #49: “Paradox”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2006 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

” I do not set out to capture life’s paradox, it manifests in the image. The hands that pull and the hands that hold form the focal point of this collage.  I place red roses and a cross to mark the space where both exist side by side.”  

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July 24, 2007: Rest – Page 210

Lavender Elephant

Collage #56: “Lavender Elephant”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2007 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“Strangely, I watch Kristin from above, one eye encircled by the body of a swan. The swan’s beautiful curving neck seems to form a bridge between two worlds, the one above and the one below.”

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September 12, 2007: Wings – Page 214

The Book

Collage #60: “The Book”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2007 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“You are upside down, I am right side up. I have fallen with you endless times and I am tired of falling. I have fallen with you in order to stop falling. I long for some closure and sense the suffering in that longing. There is no end point to this healing process for death cannot be undone.”

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November 3, 2007: Charcoaled Eyes – Page 220

Wild-eyed Writer

 Collage #63: “Wild-eyed Writer”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2007 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“The pens’ tip touches the middle of an open book with wings.  You join me in your yellow dress, gracefully floating in front of me. In my mind, you release a completed bound book from your fingertips and sign it with a kiss.”

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March 14, 2008: Rebirth – Page 229

Awakening

Collage #73: “Awakening”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2008 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“You rest with your hands over your heart.  The most beautiful buds in various stages of opening emerge from your body.  It is so simple and so beautiful.”

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  May 11, 2008: Mother’s Day Celebration – Page 236

The Dance

Collage #71: “The Dance”

(5 x 8 inches)

Copyright 2008 by Sharon Strouse, all rights reserved

“I float above pink hydrangeas, in a soft green woodland.  I dance a dance of joy in this space with you. Multicolored jewels fall from the sky and surround my moving body.”