Artist Sara Culpepper delves into loss and memory with new exhibition

January 22, 2018

In the exhibition, Uhtceare. An Exploration of Grief,” showing through February 25 in the Chace Upper Lobby of Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, visual artist Sara Culpepper wrestles with mourning, memory, and the visual interpretations of music.

Recent years have been marked by loss for Culpepper. On December 28, 2016, her mother passed away. In the months that followed, many of her and her mother’s favorite musicians died as well.

“Grief takes all forms,” says Culpepper, lecturer of theater studies at Emory and Resident Scenic Artist and Properties Coordinator with Theater Emory. “I thought I could just push through it and it would eventually go away, but it didn’t. It just took on a different form and weight.”

“My mother was a lover of music and dance,” she explains. “I have direct connections with her through the songs of these musicians who died since her passing.”

Culpepper used influential songs by recently deceased artists as catalysts for her paintings. “As a scenic designer and painter for the theater, I began to ask myself what does music look like? What are the interrelations between the sounds of popular music and the aesthetics and images they produce?”

“Uhtceare” is an Old English word that refers to anxiety experienced just before dawn. It describes the moment when one wakes up too early and can’t get back to sleep because of worry about the day to come. “The works are of memories and dreams I have had while laying between sleep and wakefulness,” explains Culpepper. “The title of each painting is the number of days between the anniversary of my mother’s passing and the artist’s day of passing.”

“Uhtceare. An Exploration of Grief” is on view in the Chace Upper Lobby of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts through February 25. Gallery hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. This exhibition runs in conjunction with Theater Emory’s Brave New Works 2018. An opening reception for the work will be held Friday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are requested. Visit for more information.