project image
Brittany Brooke Crow

first performed on March 30, 2020
Ames Municipal Cemetery, Ames, IA
performed 38 times in 2020


Ames, IA


“The Mother Rubbings,” a durational performance, took place March through July of 2020. I performed the piece twice weekly at the Ames Municipal Cemetery, which is beside my home. I walked the rows of graves, taking rubbings of every headstone marked “mother.”

The objective of the performance was to record my grief during a time of social isolation: as I performed, I meditated on the surmounting loss of life due to COVID-19. The meditative actions of walking, kneeling, and tracing were akin to prayer, or a ritual action, in memoriam.

The performance resulted in an object: a graph paper scroll with rubbings of all the mothers in my local cemetery. By omitting their names and death dates from the scroll, I created an ambiguity in which the viewer can locate their own experience of loss.

Before and after each performance, I read each mother on the scroll, documenting each reading in an audio recording. Further documentation includes photographs of my hands, covered in charcoal from the act of rubbing.

This performance served as a personal and collective means of expressing grief over the deaths of millions of women and mothers due to COVID-19. “The Mother Rubbings” suggests a role for art and artists within the mourning experience.

The piece asks: How can art objects facilitate the communal grieving process? What means of mourning remain for families when a pandemic separates them from their passing kin?