Memento Mori

MARCH 4 – APRIL 16, 2022
Main Gallery
Curated by Heather Nameth Bren
Virtual 3D Tour on view March 10, 2022
Free public opening reception tentatively planned for Friday, March 4, 6 – 8 pm

The Latin phrase, memento mori, translates to, “Remember that you must die.” The purpose of this exhibition is to explore how artists have responded to themes of death in the wake of a modern global pandemic. Throughout the ages, contemplating death has been a major theme in the arts. Although the concept of death is unpleasant, facing the inevitability of death has numerous benefits: to remind of the temporal nature of our human existence, to inspire moral resistance to earthly pleasures, and to appreciate vitality of life and fleeting beauty, while acknowledging the permanence of death.

Clay and ceramic art have inherent metaphors of life cycles in the material stages of clay from its formation from the earth and once living organic matter.

Artists in this exhibition include: Marisa Finos, Jeanne Quinn, Arun Sharma, and Dirk Staschke.

About the Artists

Marisa Finos earned a BFA in ceramics from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. She currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is a ceramics instructor at The Steel Yard and The Artists’ Exchange (Cranston, RI). She was awarded the American Craft Council Emerging Voices Award (Shortlist Artist) in 2019, and the Capacity-Building Grant from Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in 2021. The work for Memento Mori will be created onsite in the gallery, and will culminate in a performative element on the evening of the exhibition opening. Of the work, Vessels, Finos states, “Clay is skin, flesh, and bone. It bruises, bends, and breaks. Like the body, it is constantly in flux, able to disintegrate into dust, or calcify into permanence. For me it is an extension of my body, and a means to explore both its fragility in life and what endures after death. Inspired by ancient and contemporary burial structures made to honor, protect, preserve, and guide the deceased to the afterlife, each vessel is hand-built coil by coil, following the parameters of my own body.”

Jeanne Quinn studied art history and baroque music performance at Oberlin College, Ohio, and earned her MFA in ceramics from the University of Washington, Seattle. Currently, she is a professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Quinn creates dynamic, evolving, and theatrical installations that “attempt to remind us that everything is ephemeral” and uses ceramics as a medium to explore life. Quinn states, “Ceramics is metamorphic. Its properties transform miraculously from soft and infinitely malleable to immutable and unchanging. After taking on this permanence, however, it also acquires one quality that we try to suppress: it breaks. Ceramics is contradictory, simultaneously ineradicable and fragile.” A Thousand Tiny Deaths, one photo-documented work to be featured in this exhibition, shares a precarious installation with the goal of helping the viewer see that “we, like these objects, occupy time that is both charged and limited”.

Arun Sharma earned his BFA in ceramics and  sculpture, with a minor in art history, from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University; his MFA from University of Washington, Seattle; and his Master of Ceramics from the National Centre for Ceramic Studies, Cardiff School of Art & Design, in Wales. He currently works as a studio artist in Summer Hill, New South Wales, Australia. His mostly autobiographical work combines mediums, including ceramics and photography, and “reveals the truth about (his) nature, feelings, and thoughts” through fragmented figures and explores the notions of love, loss, hope, time, and the beauty of imperfection.

Dirk Staschke earned a BFA from the University of Montevallo, Alabama and his MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He has taught at notable universities, including Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, BC; New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University; and New York University. He currently maintains a studio practice and ongoing exhibition record. Staschke’s work responds to Dutch Golden Age Vanitas paintings and their exploration of the “futility of pleasure and the certainty of death.” He combines the controllable and static medium of painting with the unpredictability of glazed ceramic, knowing the firing process will permanently alter the work. “Invoking the impermanent in the enduring medium of ceramics becomes a hopeful act, and in some small way, futility gives way to optimism.”

Beyond the exhibition of artworks, this theme allows for workshops that address art as therapy for individuals who have experienced loss and for those with terminal illness.

Related Event

Memento Mori Panel Discussion
Virtual, Thursday, March 3, 6 pm, FREE

Observe a remote panel featuring Memento Mori curator, Heather Nameth Bren, along with artists in the exhibition as they discuss their visual responses to the theme of memento mori, in the wake of a modern global pandemic.


Artist Talk: Marisa Finos
In person, Saturday, March 5, 5 pm, FREE

Join Memento Mori exhibiting artist Marisa Finos for an in-person artist talk as she shares about her work and process. This event will take place in the exhibition space.


Artist Talk: Dirk Staschke
Virtual, Thursday, March 10, 6 pm, FREE

Join Memento Mori exhibiting artist, Dirk Staschke, for a virtual presentation on his work and process.

Virtual Tour

Virtual Tour available late January, 2022.

Purchase Work

A selection of work from the exhibition will be available to purchase directly from our website. If you would like to enquire about work not online, please contact us at 612.339.8007, or salesgallery@northernclaycenter.org, we’ll be happy to help!