Poignant Portfolio no. 11: Dawn Surratt
Sweeping the Graves
by Dawn Surratt
After more than 20 years of working with hospice patients and families, I continue to hold their many stories of infinite grace, wisdom, and grief in my bones. Bearing witness to their end of life journeys has forever changed me and continues to influence me both personally and creatively. This body of work has been a way for me to metaphorically sweep off the graves of those many souls; to honor their presence on this earth and to thank them for allowing me the privilege of bearing witness to them during their most intimate and intense time of life.
Considering material items have long held importance in the grieving process as transitional mementos of memory and comfort, it was important to me that this project embodies objects to serve as tangible representations of familiarity that connect to memories. Photography based installations were created as spaces for quiet reflection and quotes and perceptions from patients and families were bound in a handmade book to offer as contemplations.
Dawn Surratt is originally from Providence, Rhode Island but has lived in North Carolina for most of her life where she currently resides. She received a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and later in life was led to grief work after her father died. After obtaining a Masters degree in Social Work, she worked as a hospice social worker in Charlotte, N.C. for 22 years. This sacred and intense work is the backbone of her photography echoing strong undercurrents of transition, grief, and healing. Her work has appeared on numerous book covers and in publications such as The Hand Magazine, SHOTS and Diffusion. She exhibits nationally and her work is held in private collections throughout the U.S.
From the Editor
We published some of Dawn Surratt’s images in our last issue of Diffusion (Diffusion IX). I love the mood she sets with her work, but I was especially inspired by her installation in the Murmurations Exhibition at VAE. Surratt’s use of object ephemera mixed with photographs creates a contemplative visual emersion. The work is fragile, thoughtful, and somehow both sad and joyful. Dawn Surratt is an artist you should be watching, I suspect this is just the beginning of her artistic arch. On a personal note, after meeting Dawn, I wholeheartedly appreciated her subtle sarcasm. If you meet her, you’re bound to smile.