Samantha Stengel-Goetz

Mourning Lightness: Ring
mixed (silver, wax, insect)
1 x 1 x 1 in.

Victorian mourning jewelry was forged to express deep grief for the loss of a loved one. Often rings and lockets would involve hair or photographs of the deceased. My jewelry, which contains the corpses of dead insects, takes my fallen marriage as its muse. While through it I mourn the loss of my husband, these pieces also embody the experiences of loss that are common to all of us.

While camping in the woods during a retreat after the dissolution of my marriage, I bore witness to insects sacrificing their lives to become one with the light of my candles. Rich in tragedy and duality, I could not help but to identify metaphors surrounding union, disintegration, permanence, impermanence, lightness, arid weight, in this sublime event. Milan Kundera in the “Unbearable Lightness of Being” defines lightness as “the absence of burden, when one feels lighter than air.” Such a description one can certainly apply to the day of one’s wedding, when the promise of a blissful future becomes seemingly concrete. As with the wedding day where we experience lightness and union with another, the wax-subsumed corpses of my tea-light jewels, when alive, united with the candle’s flame. And like my marriage, their union with the candle was fleeting before death occurred.

I do not consider the work in this series only an ode to my lost marriage. Embodying all instances of lightness lost, they are the archetypal memento mori, a container for residue of all blissful moments.

© Samantha Stengel-Goetz