Grief, Loss, & Recovery at Kolaj Fest New Orleans 2024

Fly Away (detail) by Céline Browning
9’x9’x9’; steel; 2022. Courtesy of the artist.


Grief, Loss, & Recovery

Saturday, 15 June 2024, 1:45-2:45PM
Cafe Istanbul
Céline Browning, Jennifer Davis, Amara Hartman


Kolaj Fest New Orleans is a multi-day festival and symposium about contemporary collage and its role in art, culture, and society, 12-16 June 2024. Visit the website to learn more, see an overview of the program, and register to attend.

What is the role of art in grief, loss, and recovery? In this panel, we will hear from three artists with unique insights on the subject. 

Dividing her time between Louisville, Kentucky and Albany, New York, Céline Browning deconstructs and combines “images and objects in an unexpected way, creating work that seems frozen in transition, caught between contradictory states of being.” She writes, “By destroying, investigating, and ultimately rebuilding common symbols, I aim to question the relationship between signifier and signified, image and object, sacred and profane.” After her mother, video artist Annette Barbier, died, Browning used words and visual motifs from her mother’s artwork to create the artist book, The Moon/The Moon. “The shifting circles at the heart of each page chart the cycle of the moon, while the cover contains two poems in the form of journal entries.” The first poem is a transcript from a section of her mother’s 1988 video, Women’s Movements, and the second is a response piece Browning wrote four years after her death. Browning will speak about collage’s capacity to help people metabolize grief, particularly the loss of a loved one. She will introduce the topic by reflecting on the ways in which artists in mourning have used the work of other artists to create unlikely works of collage. 

collage in progress by Amara Hartman. Image courtesy of the artist.

From New York, New York, Amara Hartman‘s collage work “deals with humanity through magical realism, using shapes, nature, and the human body to highlight the constant push/pull of our delicate and turbulent internal worlds.” She writes, “In August 2023, my apartment caught fire and, among most everything else, I lost all of the collage projects I was working on as well as files on my laptop as it was submerged underwater after the firefighters came in. These were projects I was so excited about and was eager to pursue a new direction in my art making. Since that disaster, I’ve grappled with reorienting myself in the face of loss and relocating the drive to create. I’ve even thought about quitting completely, but I know that’s not what I should do. What I need to do is find a new language because my vocabulary has changed. The way my perspective manifests in previous themes doesn’t fit so well anymore.” Hartman will speak about the act of creating through grief: motivation, mental and physical process and practice, resources to stay present, and states of acceptance. She writes, “I want to create space for others who have found themselves in this murk and haze of loss.”

Justin #2 (made for a beautiful guy i knew that overdosed because of fentayl) by Jennifer Davis
9″x12″; recycled magazines, acrylic, and glue stick; 2023

From Bloomington, Indiana, Mexican American collage artist Jennifer Davis creates collages for people she loves, and, since 2020, has made hundreds of collages. Her practice came after she was admitted to a drug rehabilitation facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. She writes, “This facility offered an amazing art program that not only helped me get sober, but changed my entire life. I started making collages and everyone was shocked and impressed when they were seeing them. I came home to a whole new world not only because of COVID, but because I finally felt like I could call myself a real artist. I started viewing art in a whole new way. I decided to make a goal to share my art wherever I can. I will be clean and sober for four years in March of 2024. I am proud of my story and thrilled to share it with anyone willing to listen.” Davis will speak about the role collage played in her recovery and sobriety. 


Céline Browning holds an MFA in Metal from SUNY New Paltz and a dual BFA in Craft and Art History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Browning began her career in metalsmithing and fibers. Her work has been exhibited extensively, including a four-year travelling group exhibition organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, a solo show at Northwestern University, as well as group shows at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago and the Pinakothek Der Moderne in Munich. She is the recipient of numerous awards, grants and commissions. Browning has also been an artist-in-residence with Columbus State University, Good Hart Artist Residency, Arts Letters + Numbers, and the Warwick Foundation. Browning is currently an Assistant Professor of Studio Art at the Kentucky College of Art + Design.

Jennifer Davis was born and raised in New Castle, Indiana. She is currently completing a BA in Communication Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, where she lives with her family and works full-time. In March 2020, Davis began creating collages for people she loves and, since then, has made hundreds of collages on many subjects.

Amara Hartman holds a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and has been making collage since 2014. With a background in poetry, Hartman’s use of visual art has become an extension of that metaphorical landscape. Her work has been shown at shows in The Point CDC and The Greenhouse Gallery in New York City. Her work has also been featured in Fragment Collage’s book, Future. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, the artist lives and works in New York City. Kolaj Magazine Artist Directory and

Kolaj Fest New Orleans is a multi-day festival and symposium about contemporary collage and its role in art, culture, and society, 12-16 June 2024. Visit the website to learn more, see an overview of the program, and register to attend.