© Rachel Cox

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Rachel Cox

Iowa City

Artist Statement

At multiple times in my life I have assisted with the arrangement of a family members funeral. Alongside this experience comes an imminent flood of never-ending decisions concerned with how objects, people, and spaces should look for a final moment of reflection. My family and I held common assumptions concerning how selections of furniture, drapery, music, and even lighting would assist our grieving process.

I was struck by the significance of these shared aesthetic expectations, and through further research have located a portion of their origins within the history of western cultures as they developed throughout the 19th century. During this time Americans saw a rise of the middle class and with this came an increased importance on status symbols in life and in death. Many of our modern-day funerary practices are last vestiges of these Victorian traditions which championed lavish expenditures on funerary décor which would garnish a typically public celebratory display of death.

Drawing from the experiences with the funeral arrangements of my family, alongside the research culled from the histories of modern-day funerary practices, I build photographs that explore cultural attitudes surrounding death.

Specifically, I focus on the viewing areas, lounges, and social spaces that comprise the majority of traditional small-town funeral homes. The photographs showcase a kind of theatre; a perceived elegance and oscillating decoration with deep connections to community and spirituality. I see inadequacies in these performances as a means to effectively cope with loss, and yet I am inexplicably drawn to these environments; absence is portrayed alongside a surreal cast of colors, textures, and other oddities.

The suggested documentary nature of these photographs is subverted with the use of my own staging and construction in order to arrive at a scene that hovers between perceived fact and orchestrated fiction. The photographs are designed to be questioned, and to therefore begin a conversation regarding how contemporary society talks about death.

© Rachel Cox

Rachel Cox's Portfolio

© Rachel Cox

Artist Biography

Rachel Cox holds an MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico. Cox’s work has been featured widely in the U.S. and abroad including the Des Moines Art Center; Southeast Museum of Photography; The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center; The Houston Center for Photography; The Belfast International Photography Festival, The Musee del'Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland; Baijia Art Museum in Nanjing, China; Museo Amparo, Pueblo, Mexico, and Photo London.

Her work has recently been published in GUP International Photography Magazine, TIME, Vice Magazine, The Huffington Post, Feature Shoot Magazine, Dodho Magazine, the British Journal of Photography, and The Guardian.

Cox’s work is included in the collections of The Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Musee de l'Elysee, The University of North Texas Special Collections Library, and in the libraries of the Amon Carter Museum of Art, Maryland Institute of Art, Pier24, and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Rachel Cox currently lives in Iowa City, IA where she is an Assistant Professor of Photography atThe University of Iowa.



© Rachel Cox

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