For this posthumous portrait of her former studio assistant and emerging photographer, Galen Kuellmer, Hurlbut worked directly with Kuellmer’s ashes, touching and sifting through his cremated remains then photographing them. The artist’s direct contact with his ashes depicts a striving for both physical and emotional connnection with an individual who has passed. Hurlbut’s portrait of Galen offers a sober reminder of our own corporeality, the life of matter, and of both spiritual and scientific interconnectedness.
Special thanks to Galen Kuellmer’s parents, Jim Kuellmer and Jan Mackie.
Born in Toronto in 1952, Hurlbut studied at OCADU and NSCAD in the 70’s. She is known for her large-scale installations, at times, using museum artifacts. Whether using bones as a sculptural material or photographing human ashes, Hurlbut highlights the objects and materials that at once separate and bind the living and the dead. Hoping to encourage an accepting view of death as our inevitable destiny, Hurlbut often achieves the daunting task of conjuring sublimity and beauty out of one of life’s most feared, if compulsory, experiences. In the 2000s, her photographic practice came to prominence with solemn, minimal images of human and animal ashes.
“In combining the personal with the profound, Hurlbut’s work creates a piece in which endings are re-staged as beginnings and the reductive finality of death is animated into a vibrant, and often very elegant, afterlife.” Russell Lord, photo curator, New Orleans Museum of Art.
Hurlbut was included in the Canadian Biennial: NGC 2010, Light My Fire: AGO 2013, Punctum: Salzburg Kunstverein 2014 and 10 Years Gone: New Orleans Museum of Art 2015. Her art has been recently collected by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the Albright Knox Gallery, among other institutions.