Jen Urso, an artist based in Phoenix, presents Remarkable Presence, an installation that explores the concept of grief and the aftermath of COVID-19 deaths in Arizona.
Jen Urso is a multidisciplinary artist creating works that utilize public interventions, performance, drawing, mapping, and technology to honor a sensitive approach to our environment and community that respects the unseen and unspoken. Her work typically takes place in the public via occupation, immersion, and discovery.
“In my work, I am often making something visible that is invisible—bringing greater appreciation to moments we often ignore. This has included unearthing deep feelings of grief, delineating the boundaries of our public movement, and magnifying the microscopic in the most mundane locations.
“Remarkable Presence began with the death of my sister from ovarian cancer in December 2020 and evolved into a piece that honors those who have died from COVID-19 in Arizona. As I went through my sister’s belongings, I realized how many people were simultaneously coping with this difficult task. As Arizona was impacted by COVID cases and deaths, I wanted to know more about the people we were losing and connect with others who were grieving. I created a paper suitcase for every COVID death in Arizona and turned some of these into pop-up suitcases utilizing their obituaries. People could, and can still, request to have a suitcase made for their loved one at no charge. Many of them were created for people I did not know.
“Throughout this project and exhibition, many people coping with grief expressed how this project gave them a space for their emotions. While it was not a direct collaboration, Remarkable Presence is a statement of and outreach for our collective grief during this pandemic. This project and unfortunately, the pandemic, continues on, with future exhibitions planned to give a voice and space to our grief.” Urso has exhibited and performed across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. She received her BFA in art from Carnegie Mellon University and completed coursework toward an MFA in art practice at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona.