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New York City
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ICONS IN ASH, Cremation Portraits. A New Way of Memorializing the Dead, by Heide Hatry

Icons in Ash, Cremation Portraits, an exhibition taking place at one of the oldest and best preserved houses of the 19th century in New York City

The purpose of ICONS IN ASH is very emphatically to celebrate the dead, to keep them in our lives in a palpable way that at once honors them and touches us to our very core. ICONS IN ASH memorial art works are made using a proprietary technique by means of which the cremated ashes of our beloved become a poignant, dignified, and enduring portrait. The art-work, in a way that hearkens to our most primordial human practices, IS our beloved.

The portrayal of the human image arose many millennia ago precisely for the purpose of keeping the dead among us. Not just in memory, but in charged ceremonial objects that were intended to embody and preserve their spirits for their survivors and for the community as a whole. It was a way of integrating the inexplicable fact of death into life, of insuring that the dead and what they meant stayed present and abided in us.

The project is accompanied by the book publication, Heide Hatry: Icons in Ash, in which twenty-seven contributing authors, including Siri Hustvedt, Lydia Millet, Rick Moody, Mark Dery, Peter Weibel, Eleanor Heartney, Steven Pinker, Hans Belting, Wolf Singer, and Luisa Valenzuela have offered a multiplicity of perspectives on the human relationship to death. These cover a wide range of topics, from art history through anthropology, psychology, philosophy, semiotics, ecology, and beyond, as well as discussing death taboos, post-mortem practices, personal experience, the impact of the relic and more. A social, deeply humanistic, and an aesthetic project, Icons in Ash, proposes an alternative to the way we see and interact with death, in particular a radically different approach to mourning and consolation, as well as to how we understand the purpose of art at its most fundamental level.

The book is available in the Museum and ICONS IN ASH memorial portraits can be commissioned at Ubu Gallery, selected funeral homes, crematories, veterinarians, animal hospitals, or online at

NOTE: Exhibit is free with museum admission ($15 general; $10 students/seniors).

Visual Art Writing & Literature