On April 8, 2014, artist Seth Remsnyder had to say goodbye to his son, Robert Langdon Remsnyder. His child was stillborn. And although he and his wife Janet knew ahead of time that their son had died in the womb, the pain was still shocking.
To handle his grief, Remsnyder started to paint. The result is a series of colorful, chaotic and stunning scenes that change the way we think about coping with grief.
When you think about coping with grief through art, you likely picture a grey scene devoid of any saturated color or burning passion. Many of these scenes are dull and muted, mimicking the depression that can overcome those who have experienced loss.
However, there’s an energy to grief that few artists manage to capture. Remsnyder succeeds beautifully in this subtle expression of passion. His art showcases the frustration, anger and intense love that comes from losing a loved one, especially losing a child at such a young age. He isn’t afraid to make bright colors part of his story.
Some of the pieces in his series break away from the canvas as a symbol of the messiness of grief. Remsnyder is literally thinking outside of the box with his work. Going through the trauma of loss often feels like you’re having to forge a new path of your own. Where it will take you is uncertain, but you know that by the end of the process, you’ll never be the same person you once were. Remsnyder’s work captures this feeling in the winding paths and interlocking tubes that weave around the canvas.
Texture plays a massive role in this series as well. In one of his pieces, Remsnyder fills the top of his canvas with round tubes that look as though they’d be right at home in a Dr. Seuss book. As your eye moves down the canvas, however, the tubes become jagged and sharp. There’s a feeling of chaos in the lower half of the painting. This piece in particular sparks an emotional reaction in the viewer. It takes the audience from a state of serenity and throws them into a disorienting frustration.
At first, the bright colors don’t seem as though they fit into Remsnyder’s narrative about coping with grief. Yet as you take in these paintings one-by-one, you see that the vibrant colors are absolutely essential to the work. There are moments of darkness in these paintings. But the brighter colors cut through this dark chaos just as hope and love cut through the pain of grief. His paintings show that even in the darkest moments, there are still brighter moments to be found.
Seth Remsnyder explains that he wanted to create art that captured people’s attention. The bright colors and bold shapes hook the audience into the work, allowing them to absorb it fully. Remsnyder says, “As far as viewers are concerned, my desire is that they get lost in the canvas, that they find each piece to be a place to set down their baggage, if you will.”
Sometimes, as you’re coping with grief, you need permission to feel those overwhelming emotions that many people suppress in daily life. Seth Remsnyder’s work gives you the space you need to feel fiery anger, gushing love and turbulent mania. His art is pure catharsis on canvas.