The death business is a tricky thing. It is a very difficult time for families, but also a time when the things need to get done- and this involves business transactions, which of course means money. Funeral homes, funeral directors, and cemeteries need to make money, so the industry needs to be sensitive to a balance of profit and human ministry. Like most things, often there are large companies in countries like Australian (and the US) that have monopoly over these services. Once there is a profitable model for doing things set up, there is not a lot of opportunity for creativity and death can become a conservative and routine ritual. Public education about death is a necessary measure to help families become aware that they can make real choices in the way they want to mourn. And also the introduction of art into funeral arrangement can revolutionize our society’s views of death as well.
Here are a few artists in Australia that are making works of art that help break the trends perpetuated by the corporate funeral money generating business. Art at the End is based in Brisbane, where artist Pete Macfarlane creates custom memorial monuments. Shroud Memento was founded by Helen Dunne to help families create personal funeral shrouds as a means of mourning and commemorating a loved ones life. The Porcelain Urn company was founded by Deb Taylor, who is a ceramics artist making unique cremation urns that can be kept by families after the ashes are scattered. All of these options for burial are made to help families see beauty in the memory of their loved one, and help the mourning process through creation. They are not the only options for how art can change the industry, but good examples.