Brian Tom

Oberlin College

Death is inherently funny. It is not humorous like a joke, but the ways in which we express our feelings of death and process grieving are ironic. When we experience an irreversible loss, we grieve by constructing a “permanent” monument to represent and honor the dead. This comfort in the permanence, some form of legacy, is what drives the appeal of a tombstone or a donation in the name of the deceased. Thus, there is simultaneously a fear and a desire derived from this idea of the irreversible. In thinking about the passing of those close to me, I have been reflecting about the reality and consequences of this irony. The creation of my sculptures gives me an outlet to question and critique this attempt at creating artificial permanence. It is true that a tombstone may last hundreds of years, but what is its value when those who knew the person no longer exist? This same tension is hidden within the opposite event; our understanding of birth and childhood. The development of children within the first few years of life is outstanding, yet in our minds we imagine our youth as a fixed moment in time. We often keep these memories as if they were frozen in a glass case and forget about our rapid period of change. Once again, even in birth we find comfort in the illusion of a permanence. As I have aged, my own personal views and conversations around these subjects has changed and as a result, my artwork has acted as my diary for each stage of my life. In a way, these sculptures, a physical reminder of my past thoughts and actions, are my attempt to create permanence to document the ephemeral.
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