Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Michele Forinash, DA

Second Advisor

Michaela Kirby, PsyD

Third Advisor

Kevin Bott, PhD


This phenomenological survey explored how professional artists navigated personal loss experiences that were a result of the death of a loved one. Although artists have worked within themes of death throughout history, most studies on art and bereavement to date have focused on psychological or therapeutically-oriented investigations. Exploring how bereaved artists experience their own art-making through contemporary practices may serve to understand how fine art processes and grief could be interrelated. The guiding questions were explored through semi-structured interviews with eight exhibiting artists. The participants all self-identified regarding age and gender, and ranged in subject matter, media choices, and artistic practices. Each had experienced the loss of at least one significant relationship during their professional career. Kvale’s (1996) method of research interviewing and narrative structuring was applied and led to the emergence of six themes including 1) experiencing grief; 2) faith and beauty; 3) merging; 4) storying; 5) exhibiting work; and 6) curative aspects of art as well as 13 sub-themes. Art-work reflecting the imagery created during each participant’s bereavement experiences are also included.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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