During the process of converting a church into a home and studio, everything familiar in Brenda Stumpf’s life began to fall apart. She had moved across the country and couldn’t find a sense of place, her grandmother passed away, and she felt the inevitable disintegration of a long-term relationship. Creating this body of work allowed her to commune with and transmute the pain, loss, and uncertainty into individual monuments to solitude and deep reflection.

For Stumpf, there was a monastic quality to hand-tearing a variety of papers into small bits and tiling the surfaces of some of the works in a mosaic-like fashion. She felt that it was extremely important to incorporate specific salvaged items and found documents from the church building into the paintings and sculptures. “As in much of my work,” explains Stumpf, “the humble materials I used in these pieces were handled, and ultimately imbued, with an elevated sense of meaning.” Stumpf has brought together and transformed these items into artifacts—memorials that now serve as a material record of the weight of the time and emotional context in which each was made.  

This body of work has taken on new depth and dimension amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This shared human experience bears some of the hallmarks of mystical transformation. “It is a time of being deconstructed, rearranged, and learning what is of greatest value,” says Stumpf, “and it offers a profound inner opportunity to experience the process of sacred alchemy.

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