Deeply rooted in oral storytelling, particularly ghost stories passed down through the women in her family, Graves’ work is an exploration of our perennial fascination with the occult and supernatural beliefs, and their complex relationship to grief and trauma.
The show’s title - a requiem mass celebrated a month after someone’s passing, often accompanied by a meal or feast - captures Graves’ interest in mourning rituals and the inevitably of death, as well as commemorating the loss of her grandmother. Combining her family’s stories with funerary symbols like flowers, hands and votive offerings, Graves’ delicate sculptures and drawings skillfully examine our shared anxieties surrounding death and the afterlife.
Graves is particularly drawn to the beliefs and rituals of 19th century Spiritualists, who through a new religious blend of science and mysticism used methods of mediumship to attempt spirit communication. She also looks to the popularity of quasi-scientific tests and devices such as divining rods and safety coffins, once used as a precaution against premature burial. Graves’ work is animated by the importance of women in developing Spiritualism’s widespread movement; many early practitioners found their voices through those they channeled, and wished not only to contact ghosts beyond this world but to reshape their own world by establishing women’s rights, a dual identity Graves explores throughout the exhibit.
Some of the figures and scenes in the work on view arise from Graves’ own family tales, which she first heard as a child—but have been combined with common folklore, religious traditions, and historical research. Her playful, soft color palette and domestic imagery are a peculiar contrast to the works’ darker symbolism, further blurring the line between the unnatural and the ordinary. Borrowing elements of vanitas and memento mori painting, the familiar elements of art history and everyday life move in and out of logical arrangements like the shifting nature of the mind in its attempts to reconstruct the past, or comprehend the supernatural.
This exhibition is Graves’ continued exploration of where our tangible world and the occult merge, while examining the processes and intersections of memory, mourning and loss. Through these intricate works, Graves softens our perception of the divide between life and death.