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Detritus: life after death

  • Elephant Room Gallery 704 South Wabash Avenue Chicago, IL, 60605 United States (map)

If life offers no guarantees but death, then our struggles of mourning are universal: in ‘Detritus: Life After Death’, artist Keelan McMorrow depicts poignant symbols of the trauma, grief, and ultimate triumphs experienced through living life after the death of a loved one. In 2016, McMorrow’s brother passed away unexpectedly due to a congenital heart defect.

‘Detritus: Life After Death’ presents the work created after his brother’s passing, processing the guilt, anger, confusion and despair he faced in turn. For McMorrow, his own life – indeed his very birth – would be forever cemented in stark contrast with his family’s devastating loss: ‘My brother died on my birthday,’ Keelan explains. ‘Mere hours before I was looking forward to celebrating with him, with our family. It was like an asteroid hit. None of us could understand what was happening. Figuring out and accepting what occurred would of course come later, through fits and tears and horrible, sleepless nights.’

Art provided rungs to hold on to, like a ladder. And in climbing up, life continued and the artist’s vistas changed. So, too, did his work. Pieces of human bodies, of flesh, limbs, tools and artifices now tumble across his paintings piecemeal, scattered, where composed figures once resided – as if the world, shattered, exists as a puzzle to be joined back together. But there’s far more to it than that: ‘I think I’ve found a sort of peace in my new reality. A sort of wisdom, maybe. As much as we’re destined to lose what we love, the very fact that we can fall apart proves that we’re connected. It’s all just one big story, and even now my brother is continuing to be a part of it.’