Over a year into a global pandemic, Kristine Thompson, associate professor of photography, is examining death and mourning, at a time of collective universal grief. Her exhibition A Matter of Time is on display at the Baton Rouge Gallery for Contemporary Art through May 27, 2021.
Thompson’s work explores both emotional and social responses to death and mourning, including how we grieve and the memorial properties we attach to significant objects and spaces. Her work has also increasingly considered how photographs of violence and mourning circulate publicly and what power such images have to elicit empathy on the part of the viewer. While earlier work focused on the legacies and mythologies surrounding notable deceased artists, her work more recently has shifted towards more broad cultural responses to death.
“This exhibition is a selection of photographs that I’ve made over the past year. These still lifes are inspired by current events and utilize sculptural props, elements from daily newspapers, and art historical imagery, ” she said. “The resulting compositions are my attempts to reflect upon the contemporary political and cultural landscape—one overwhelmed by unfathomable loss, a heightened awareness of our physical bodies, and a hunger for civility and equality.”
Her work considers how contemporary photographic imagery circulates and addresses representations of death, memorial practices, and mourning. She often brings references from different time periods into a shared visual space in order to initiate a conversation between the past and the present, to imagine a tactile connection or relationship with people who are no longer around, and to question how photographs might elicit empathy. She is also working on a long-term project about individuals who die with no next of kin, the government workers who handle their remains, and the often-anonymous burials of the unclaimed.