Art of Grief

The Story of DUST

Launched in September 2020, DUST, is a small independent organisation, museum and shop hosting a series of curated collections, exhibitions, courses and events addressing culturally diverse memorial and grieving practices. 


DUST as a project is born out of a long standing desire to create a place where conversations can take place relating to death and mourning. With a background as an artist and senior lecturer in fine art at Falmouth University I have been developing multi media installations and artworks to create  spaces for audiences to reflect on their own stories relating to grief and bereavement. In 2013 I started working with a group of students on a project Cafe Morte which used the death cafe model to structure conversations around artworks, objects and literature. This led to curating exhibitions (Lost for Words 2015, Tears of Things, 2018) and public facing events bringing together artists, writers, museums and students to explore the role artworks have  post death and how they allow important bonds to   continue with the dead.  


For the past 20 years dust has been used throughout my practice as a metaphor for death addressing the way in which visual culture represents death and dying, mourning and grieving through imagery. It represents something intangible, forgotten or lost. These works started as a series of commissioned ornate carpets made from sieving hoover bag dust through a stencil onto the floor to create dust rugs that were swept up at the end of the exhibition period. They were inspired by a trip to India where I was fortunate enough to witness a group of Tibetan monks presenting a sand mandala to the Dalai Lama.  A beautiful intricate design once presented was swept away and discarded. This experience left a permanent impression and something I have repeatedly thought about whilst working with dust.  Recent artworks explore through dust an imagined underworld reflecting inner journeys that we undertake at certain times in life that require solitude. Examining dust up close I am often drawn into an inner landscape that creates a sense of isolation and solitude both physically and mentally. The dusty landscapes have become a psychic space that when explored provide me with an understanding of mourning.


Recent projects move away from individual bereavement stories to work with the idea of The Mourner  as an archetype to channel cultural grief.   I used the idea of her in a performance in Finland (ANTIfestival, 2019) The Mourner: Lamentation in Dust, where I dressed as a quintessential Victorian mourner and swept the floor of a disused industrial space for a five day period.   She collected dust, made piles, walked through the space, and swept before creating a series of intricate tomb stones in dust.  


Through a range of shop exhibitions, a growing collection of objects, lectures and talks DUST explores the multitude of ways in which bereaved people express loss, often drawing inspiration from global, multicultural traditions ranging from a belief in reincarnation to the soul of the dead present in objects and participation in the Day of the Dead.  Operating from an old shop in England’s westernmost county, Cornwall, DUST draws inspiration from global, multicultural exchange of knowledge about death, made possible by Cornwall’s cosmopolitan culture as well as by social media.  


DUST will explore through creative practice the on going relationship we have with the dead and how they continue to influence our lives. In 2006 my son died unexpectedly leaving behind a vast and unknown chasm of grief. Learning to live with grief, seeking to understand it through making objects and artworks has become a meaningful and joyful way to experience living. I am happy living alongside my dearest ghosts, as many who have experienced deep loss also are. We seek to cont  DUST  encourages active communication to take place between the dead and the living.

DUST is also developing a bespoke creative service in how we care for the dead in our lives through workshops, podcasts and online lectures.  


Lucy Willow

Founder of DUST