.A Mortal Moment

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New exhibit embraces death & life

Here in the North Bay, winter’s torrential storms are already giving way to the warm wake-up call of a coastal Californian spring. And with all the rain and shine, a plentiful spread of flowers is blossoming across the county in a sublime array of delicate pinks, daring reds, bright yellows, dashing purples, pristine whites and just about every other color imaginable.

This seasonal transition reflects a time-honored and universal tradition—the cycle of life and death to which all of the beings on this earth must ascribe. Living, after all, has only one natural consequence…death.

The Marin Art & Garden Center’s upcoming exhibition, Memento Mori | Memento Vivere, speaks to this cycle of life to death through the lens of photography, sculpture, installation, video and more. As a refresher for those whose Latin, an ironically dead but still alive language, is a touch rusty from disuse, Memento Mori | Memento Vivere translates to mean, “remember you must die | remember you must live.”

In other words, this exhibition is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

And for Marin County locals and visitors alike, attending the Memento Mori | Memento Vivere show is one such new and precious experiential memory to weave into one’s own life tapestry. Plus, a springtime show is a perfect time to practice appreciation for the present. Especially since the exhibition is ever-so-appropriately located within the gorgeous, sprawling grounds of the Marin Art & Garden Center.

The entire Memento Mori | Memento Vivere show is a joint effort between not only the stunning venue and local Bay Area artists but also includes a wide swathe of work from talented Japanese artists as well in a much-anticipated collaboration that’s been in the works since before the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, these artistic works will be arranged to evoke feelings about the transition from life’s beginning, fragile and new, through the middle years full of equal parts hardship and happiness, all the way through to the end: death.

NEXT Artist Mariko Masumoto contemplates what might follow death in her work, ‘Reincarnation.’ Image courtesy of Mariko Masumoto

One local artist with work in the upcoming Memento Mori | Memento Vivere exhibition is Ari Salomon. He is an accredited photographer whose passion for photography began in high school under the guidance of “a great mentor.”

“I’m a left-brain, right-brain kind of guy, and I found that photography combines these technical skills with a creative side as well,” Salomon explained. “I like the challenge, doing something different within that process and not just taking a picture and printing it, but also taking on a technical challenge to reach some other creative goal.”

After discovering his love for the artistic process, he majored in art history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and played around with the intersection of sculpture, texture and installations in line with his photography.

“An example of this is, in the case of the project I’m doing now, taking photos of the marks on the sidewalk that kept us six feet apart and documenting how life changed after the pandemic, but through that one little detail,” Salomon continued. “I try to pretend I’m a scientist from another planet seeing these marks and asking what they mean, why are they there and so on.”

His work, along with many others, will come together to paint a comprehensive theme of life and death, as told through the lens of many varying artistic perspectives.

“Also, we have an ikebana artist doing a flower display as part of the reception,” explained Salomon. “It’s perfect because the show is at the Marin Art & Garden Center, so it’s great to have garden-themed photographs alongside this ikebana artist who will be using flowers and sticks from the surrounding area for the installation.”

Ikebana, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is the ancient Japanese art form of flower arranging with a centuries-old tradition that carries as much symbolic meaning, intent and impact as any other form of visual art. In line with the theme of the Memento Mori | Memento Vivere exhibition, the ikebana display will reflect the same concept of remembering death so that one may remember to live. As the exhibition goes on, the arrangement of local plants will play out its own life-to-death cycle in line with the duration of the show.

“We have a few photographers whose work relates to nature and gardens,” said Salomon. “The curator came up with the theme [Memento Mori] remember you will die, which is a European idea from the Renaissance, I believe. It’s often shown with flowers and animals and skulls to illustrate the living and the dead in a way that’s meant to have us appreciate life and build a self-understanding of what our own life cycle might be like and understanding that it had a beginning and will have an end. Flowers are such a great metaphor for that, often transitory and not alive for long.”

In the same way that one doesn’t look up at a cherry tree in its full, sweet-scented bloom only to lament the brevity, one should not stop appreciating life and the moment simply because it is impermanent. The same principle applies to oneself, loved ones and even the passage of time and the small moments that inevitably, almost imperceptibly add up to become memories of an entire lifespan. After all, it is life’s short nature that serves as a sort of built-in memo to stop and smell the roses…perhaps this spring at the Marin Art & Garden Center to see the upcoming Memento Mori | Memento Vivere exhibition?

Artists participating in the Memento Mori | Memento Vivere exhibition at the Marin Art & Garden Center are Eric Blum, Rose Borden, Ingo Bork, Maria Budner, Arthur Cohen, Anthony Delgado, Gene Dominique, Steve Goldband, Chuck Harlins, Ellen Konar, John Martin, Mitch Nelles, Steven Raskin, Ari Salomon, Angelika Schilli, Neo Serafimidis, Chris Stevens-Yu, Cindy Stokes, Alison Taggart-Barone, Rusty Weston and Nick Winkworth from the Bay Area Photographers Collective.

Also in the Memento Mori | Memento Vivere exhibition are members of Samurai Foto from Yokohama, Japan: Hiroaki Hasumi, Miki Kojima, Mariko Masumoto, Koji Murata, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Kouji Sasaki, Hiroyasu Sato, Motoko Sato, Shigeru Yoshida, Koushi Ishizuka and Setsuko Kanie. This joint exhibition on life and death and everything in between was curated by Trisha Lagaso Goldberg.

The upcoming Memento Mori | Memento Vivere exhibition is located in the Marin Art & Garden Center’s studio, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. The exhibition runs from March 9 to April 21, with an opening reception set for March 10. For more information or to RSVP to the opening reception, visit the website at maringarden.org.

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