Esra Jackson: The Opacity of Grief


Artist Statement

The Opacity of Grief is a closed wooden coffin, where five transparent, acrylic panels slice through the structure at equal intervals. The familiar symbol of the coffin alludes to grief, while the plexiglass sheets act as both obstructions to and interruptions within that process. This plastic intrusion into grief can range from a lack of healthy coping mechanisms to engulfing life circumstances to rigid, prescriptive cultural norms surrounding death. On a personal level, this sculpture represents my experience grieving my mother, who died when I was fourteen. Left without any tools or people I trusted enough to help me through the depth of my grief, I found myself emotionally paralyzed, passing listlessly through the motions of living, or rather, surviving. As of recent, I’ve felt safe to begin embracing vulnerability and feeling, willing to actually bear her absence, and yet, my grief hides from me. Its ghostly inertia rests invisibly on my chest, heavy enough to register, but light enough not to impede. In this way, it’s opaque, unseeable in its transparency, there but not there, recognizable but intangible. Much of my work is an effort to reconnect to this lost grief and to my mother, to tangibly record their fleeting presences, to reconstruct a body that’s long passed on. I hope viewers will be moved to interrogate their own relationship(s) with grief, as both physical and spiritual, personal and collective, as well as with those for whom they grieve, the bodies whose presences they feel but can no longer touch.

About the project

  • Title of Work: The Opacity of Grief
  • Medium: a 29 in x 18 in x 14 in oak coffin segmented by 5 clear acrylic panels
  • Student's Name: Esra Jackson
  • Major: Art
  • Anticipated Graduation Date: 25-May
  • Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
  • Student's Mentor: Kenzie Wells
  • Mentor's Department: Art


Ying Hu

Beautiful piece, Esra! Your encouragement to people experiencing grief in life is meaningful.