Undying Traditions: Memento Mori at Muskegon Museum of Art

Community News |Aug 26, 2019|3 min read

Will Wilson
The Painter’s Wife
Oil on gold leaf panel
Courtesy of Gallery Henoch, NYC

The Muskegon Museum of Art presents Undying Traditions: Memento Mori this fall, bringing together work by artists from across the United States currently exploring themes of death and earthly pleasure. The exhibition includes paintings, photography, and sculpture and runs September 12, 2019 through January 5, 2020.


Opening Event: The exhibition opens with a public reception on Thursday, September 12 at 5:30 pm with a lecture by Art Martin at 7:00 pm. Event admission is free.


Featured Artists: Landis Blair, David Cahill, Robert Steven Connett, David Gluck, Kate MacDowell, Jeanette May, Chris Peters, Daniel Sprick, Katherine Stone, Paulette Tavormina, Maria Tomasula, and Will Wilson.


Memento mori (which translates to “remember death”) is a Medieval Latin Christian philosophy that encourages reflection on mortality, on the inevitability of death, and the transience of mortal pleasures and accomplishments. The memento mori is typically expressed through the still life, incorporating the human skull with various symbols of time and decay. This tradition includes the danse macabre, a skeletal Death dancing away with the rich and poor alike, and the vanitas, a memento mori that depicts objects associated with physical pleasures such as musical instruments and food. In the Christian tradition, memento mori artworks were intended to remind the viewer that their death was assured and their focus should thus be on the spiritual and not the earthly.


MMA Director of Collections and Exhibitions/Senior Curator Art Martin comments, “Contemporary artists continue to explore this rich tradition in images that strongly reference their precursors. Skulls and flowers continue to fascinate artist and viewer alike. From intricate painting, to photography, to sculpture, these artists offer us insights into our collective fascination with death.”


Undying Traditions: Memento Mori is organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art. Program support is provided, in part, through a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the arts.




Opening Event/Undying Traditions: Memento Mori
Thursday, September 12
5:30 pm Reception | 7:00 pm Lecture
Enjoy refreshments and a lecture by Art Martin, MMA Director of Collections and Exhibitions/Senior Curator. Event is free and open to the public.


Open Mic Night with Kumasi Mack
Thursday, October 10
6:00 – 8:00 pm, doors open at 5:30 pm
The MMA will present an open mic night hosted by local poet Kumasi Mack. Kumasi, alongside his DJ and two featured artists, will provide a night of spoken word pieces that relate to themes explored in the Undying Traditions exhibition. Crowd participation will be welcome. Free and open to the public.


Brown Bag Film
Food for the Ancestors: The Mexican Celebration of the Days of the Dead
Thursday, October 24, 12:15 pm, doors open at noon
This PBS film explores the fabulous Day of the Dead festival as it is celebrated in the culturally rich state of Puebla. Learn about special holiday foods, rituals, artwork, and more. Free admission, coffee, and cookies. Paid admission required to enter galleries.


Passion and Perversity: The Inner Chambers of Edgar Allen Poe
Conceived, Arranged, and Performed by Tom Harryman
Saturday, November 2
5:00 pm Cocktail Hour
6:00 pm Performance
This one act play examines the inner workings of this master of suspense through Poe’s letters, stories, & poems including The Imp of the Perverse, Lenore, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, and others.


$12 advance / $10 MMA Member / $15 at the door. Call 231.720.2580 to order advance tickets.