Catherine Armbrust, an adjunct assistant professor in the MU Art Department, held an exhibit in fall 2016 called “Visible Mending” as a way to move forward after the death of her husband Eric Sweet, who also taught art at the university. Sweet died in 2015 after suffering a heart attack at age 44.
Armbrust’s healing artwork includes jars stuffed with her husband’s old plaid shirts and cyanotypes of his shoes. She has exhibited her pieces at the University of Missouri and Western Illinois University, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Armbrust fell into a creative slump following his death, unable to work on any of her projects for about a year.
“It took me a while to start caring about anything again,” she said.
But she eventually began cutting Sweet’s old shirts into strips for yarn, which she embroidered into grids. The embroidery resembled electrocardiogram patterns, a reference to Sweet’s heart attack.
She then stuffed Sweet’s old plaid shirts into glass jars to distort their designs and represent the loss of structure she felt after his death. The exhibit also included art using cyanotype, which is when an image or object is reflected with a blue light onto a cyan-blue background, similar to a blueprint.
She said cyanotypes’ contrast of positive and negative space represented “something being there and not being there at the same time.”
“I wanted to find a way to connect with other people because everyone has experienced grief and loss in their life,” Armbrust said.
She said that the exhibit has touched many visitors and also helped create a community, since loss is universal.
Since “Visible Mending,” Armbrust has been moving forward with new artwork, which will be displayed in February. Armbrust said the art won’t feature any of Sweet’s old clothing, but still relates to him in some ways.
“I think it’s impossible for me to make artwork that doesn’t somehow relate to him at this point,” she said.