Art | August 22, 2021 1:47 pm

How Do You Address Pandemic Loss in Art? One Artist Dug a Hole.

Turning grief into a collective act

For one artist, a collective act echoed collective grief.
Mari Potter/Unsplash

How do you grapple with unspeakable loss through a creative work? It’s a question that artists have had to navigate for almost as long as they’ve made art. And there’s no simple answer to that question — for some artists, it’s about literalizing a certain experience, while for others, the allegorical route is ideal.

The pandemic has killed over 4 million people around the world, and it is — alarmingly — far from over. For some, that loss can be experienced on a grand scale; for others, that loss might take the form of friends or family lost in the last year and a half. Transforming one’s grief into something else is no easy task, and for artist Cara Levine, an old tradition offered a means to process grief on both a personal and collective level.

Writing at Hyperallergic, Matt Stromberg discussed Levine’s current project, Dig a Hole to Put Your Grief In. Levine described a sense of being overwhelmed by recent events — not just the pandemic, but also climate change and recent protests over structural racism and police brutality. “I had a bodily desire to create a cavity that could contain the depth of the grief,” she said.

Levine drew inspiration from shiva, the traditional mourning period in Judaism. Over the course of the week, Levine has spent two hours each day digging a hole in Malibu, joined by whomever wishes to accompany her. She described the collective aspect of this as “a shared burden” to Hyperallergic. It’s a moving reminder of the ways that art can lead to healing — and to remind us of the bonds and communities that surround us.