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HOPE SMITH (CANADIAN)

Release

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Hope Smith has lived in Calgary since 1982. With a B.F.A. from the University of Manitoba she continued her studies in photography at the Alberta College of Art and Design and under artists such as Diana Thorneycroft, Stan Phelps, David Garneau and George Webber. Her works have been exhibited in galleries throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
"In the western hemisphere we normally observe the passing of a life through a memorial service and a burial or cremation. Our loss is shared only briefly, intensely and condensed into a few short days between the death and the service with others who have a connection to the person whose life we celebrate. After that, all we have left is memories, and perhaps a grave marker. But when someone dies in an accident, we often mark the place of their passing: frequently with a cross, but also with flowers, photos and mementos.
I began photographing roadside memorials because they caught my attention as I was riding my bicycle; I wondered what drove people to create them. On the surface, they are an outward expression of grief and loss, and a way to keep a memory alive. A way to say to the wider world "this was my beloved." But the memorials are more than that: they are also an identification of the final spark of life, the last place where the body and spirit were alive and whole. It is as if there still remains some small tiny homeopathic part of their essence in that place, out in the open, unconstrained.
When first we lose someone, the pain is acute. As time goes by, our grief softens, the weeks are less painful, the months go by more easily. So, too, the roadside memorial fades gently away: mementos disintegrate, colours fade. Flowers gradually wilt and die. There is no abrupt end to the event.
In art, a still life - 'nature morte' in French – is often an image of flowers, but it can be other things: fruits, vegetables, bottles of wine, pitchers, dishes, goblets. Frequently, in times gone by, there would be a real expression of 'nature morte' – a dead animal, or a skull: a reminder of the fleeting nature of existence. The still lifes that are part of this exhibition are an interpretation of the memorials and what they mean. I have taken the flowers and mementos from the photographs of these temporary memorials and created permanent images that speak to some of the emotional responses passersby feel on seeing them. Look carefully and you will discover that flowers don't have stems, leaves don't match, dark empty spaces abound. Taken together, they reflect the pain and the beauty of life and death. Think of this next time you see a roadside memorial, the place where, in the minds of loved ones, there is still life."

For more information email Hope Smith at fortitudine@shaw.ca