Claire Strauss on her new work, and dealing with death differently

Claire Strauss on her new work, and dealing with death differently

Sarah Frey | May 2, 2018


As I sit down with Claire Strauss to talk about her upcoming show Masking Death and Life, I realize that our public setting may have not been the best option to discuss the recent passing of her husband, part of the inspiration for the work, and the overall subject of death. But after our conversation, I realize that part of Claire’s work is to encourage society to acknowledge life’s finiteness, and the coffee shop eavesdroppers may have been impacted by our conversation around the work’s central message.

Masking Death and Life is a collection of masks that Claire created in response to the passing of her father while she was in University, and more recently, the death of her partner, James Kirby. “I found that using language to express how I was feeling was just so limiting” says Claire. “The masks are a medium that are so much better at unfolding abstract ideas.”


“I found that using language to express how I was feeling was just so limiting”

We took the conversation a step back, and talked about traditional western death culture. “After someone dies, there’s this checklist” explains Claire. “Call the funeral home, call the obituary [section], book the plot. The mask making for me was going beyond the checklist.” In the months leading to her partner James’ passing, ‘going beyond the checklist’ was a significant process in how the two came to terms with the mortality that they were about to face. With creating art being a large part of their lives, James’ diagnosis sparked them to get more involved with how they were going to dictate their own death culture. Together they made James a casket, and took photographs of his sugar-skull painted face, an exploration into the Mexican death culture practice.

Claire continues, “We don’t use a lot of masks in our culture. So when I first started making them, I was surprised at the support for people being interested in the medium, as well as the idea.” While our society tends to think of the use of masks in grief in order to hide or abstract what you’re feeling, Claire’s work aims to call attention to your emotion, and own it. 


Winter Kiss, by Claire Strauss

In making the masks, Claire took a great deal of inspiration from her own feelings and from the images of death and decay in the natural world. “We have seasons inside us” explains Claire. “I believe that if we find a healthier way to face death, we’ll have [lives with] less regret.”

When asked what she hopes people will take away from her show, Claire shares: “I hope that they think and ask about their own death, and realize it’s not so scary. Life is not about having a bucket list, it’s just about recognition.”

Masking Death and Life is dedicated to James Kirby’s life, and opens in the Yukon Arts Centre’s Community Gallery, May 4th at 7pm. Special thanks from Claire Strauss to the ongoing support of Arts Underground, Patrick Royle for use of his studio, and to Telek Rogan, Hannah Zimmering, and Kelly Kirby.

Claire Strauss ‘Masking Death and Life

Claire Strauss ‘Masking Death and Life

Claire Strauss's exhibition Masking Death and Life honours the life of the late James Kirby through ceramic sculptural masks. The opening is on May 4th at 7pm, there will be great edible treats and the bar will be open with booze to purchase. Come check out the art, and stay for some instrumental entertainment.

"When I was finishing my degree in psychology at the University of Victoria, I took an art education class with Vicki Anderson. The final project was making a mask. During this time, I was seeing my Father struggle with cancer and the mask was made to put all my thoughts about losing him. He passed away and I celebrated his life with an art show. When my partner and soul mate James Kirby died last year, I continued the mask making.

I am inspired by Nature, psychology and philosophy in exploring my images and narrating the pieces.

My work is made from M-340 clay using a slab technique and glazed at cone 6. I use applications such as gold or copper foil and metallic acrylics for accents". - Claire Strauss

Winter’s Kiss, 2017
Showcased at the Northern Front Studio at the Mask Within Show

New Exhibit in the ATCO Youth Gallery

New Exhibit in the ATCO Youth Gallery

There's a new exhibit in the ATCO Electric Yukon Youth Gallery!

The kindergarten-grade 6 students from Ecole Emilie Tremblay have mixed multi-media works on display for the whole month of April. Don’t miss this awesome installation!

Stop by the Yukon Arts Centre to see this exhibit.

Kids Kreate - April 15th!

Kids Kreate - April 15th!

Kids (ages 4-12) are invited to join us this Sunday for Kids Kreate with artist Helen O'Connor! We will be making comics inspired by the "Ready Player Two" exhibit (currently on display!) from 1-4pm on April 15th, at the Yukon Arts Centre.

This is a FREE event, no registration required! Dress for a mess! All children must be accompanied by an adult.

See you there!

Kids Kreate is generously sponsored by ATCO Electric Yukon.

“Retrospect” by artist Heather Von Steinhagen on NOW in the Community Gallery!

“Retrospect” by artist Heather Von Steinhagen on NOW in the Community Gallery!

This exciting multi-media exhibition will be on display from April 4-29th, at the Yukon Arts Centre Community Gallery. 

Homegrown from Whitehorse, Yukon, Heather Steinhagen’s Northern small town upbringing taught her the value of synchronicity with the planet and her elements. With German and Cree (from Cowessess Nation) parents, at a young age, Heather realised her passion for the arts which eventually prompted her first journey to Vancouver Island University, obtaining her Visual Arts Diploma. In Whitehorse, Heather immerses herself in the art community and is continuously exhibiting her artwork nationally and internationally. Combining her 8 years of experience in early childhood education and community arts, Heather completed a BFA with Distinction in Community Art Education at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec.

Check out Heather's website to see more of her work! 

The gallery is open Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm, and during performances.