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A photo of the artwork Rising Cairn by Celeste Roberge. The artwork is a metal outline of a human body, crouched down and hunched over, that is filled with stones.

Daily Helping for December 8th, 2022 – Celeste Roberge – Rising Cairn

I’ve written before about my feelings towards artists who try and invalidate people’s interpretations of their art. In short, I hate it. Which is why I found the discussion around Rising Cairn by Celeste Roberge so refreshing. I just discovered this artwork, but images of Rising Cairn have been resonating with people on social media for years. In particular, people have been connecting with this piece of art through the lens of grief. Many people view it as representative of how grief can weigh us down. And for many people, this image has brought them a lot of comfort. It makes them feel like others know and understand the weight they are carrying in their grief. That they are not alone.

Which is fascinating, because that is not at all the message that Roberge had in mind for Rising Cairn. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Her original intention was to depict someone in the process of rising to their feet. Not someone being weighted down. Roberge did not set out to create a work of art that symbolized grief, and yet that is how many people have interpreted it. And here’s where it gets refreshing. Roberge is completely okay with that. She says, “I am not disturbed by individual interpretations of the sculpture because I think it is really wonderful for people to connect with works of art in whatever way is meaningful to them.” Amen.

Personally, I don’t know if I would have specifically thought of grief when first seeing the image above if I hadn’t already been aware of the discourse around it. But I can absolutely understand why people would see it that way. And if it brings them comfort, all the better.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!