For artist and florist Mary Sweeney, the idea of natural burial after death is an important issue. This was her inspiration for her art exhibition, “Suffering Organic Impairments,” which opened Feb. 7, 2020 at Side Street Studio Arts.
Side Street Studio Arts is a non-profit art gallery and studio in downtown Elgin. It was founded in 2013 by Erin Rehberg and Tanner Melvin. The gallery is located at 15 Ziegler Court.
Under the artistic alias “Horror Floral,” Sweeney worked hard to bring the exhibit to life.
This show combines floral arrangements with darker, more creepy images, such as bones, skulls and insects.
“My vision was to portray the beauty of nature and have people experience my artistic vision of death positivity,” Sweeney said. “I truly believe that finding the beauty in death and understanding that our time here is not forever; we are able to love, appreciate, and experience all the moments in our lives more fully.”
Sweeney has been creating art under this alias since 2016, and it has become something of an artistic identity for her.
Many of the pieces in the show were the result of collaborations between Sweeney and four other artists associated with the gallery: Jess Rocha, Doug Hanson, Kathryn Eli and Fredderick Wimms.
“These collaborations were some of the best parts of being able to work on this show,” Sweeney said. “I had ideas that were outside my experience and they made it possible.”
Sweeney had been planning this show for six months before officially opening it to the public. She has described time and money being the biggest challenges in putting the show together, as well as that she works full time as a preschool teacher as well as being the administrative assistant at Side Street.
When asked to pick favorite piece in the show, Sweeney described her piece “Ethereal Balance,” an antique dress form decorated with beads and flowers.
“My main hope for this exhibition is that no matter how comfortable, or uncomfortable, you are with death that you would be able to find one piece in the gallery that sparked a connection or a moment for you to feel allure of naturally returning to this earth,” Sweeney said.
As well as walls filled with Photos, drawings, and flowers, the opening reception featured an “ambient soundscape” performance by musician and friend of the gallery Rachel E. Maley.
The show will stay up at the gallery until Feb. 29.