Ghost Tike is an ongoing, collaborative art installation project consisting of two parts:
How it all started…
The project began in early 2019, twenty years after the death of my younger brother, Andrew John Stewart (1990-1999).
His cremated ashes had been scattered under the Japanese Maple Tree in our front yard, and when it came time to sell our childhood home, it felt like we were leaving him behind. I regretted that the tree was on private land, and would now be owned by someone else, meaning I could no longer visit his “grave.”
I decided to make my own tree, and began hand making the Japanese maple leaves individually out of paper and paint as an alternative memorial to him. I found the process very calming and cathartic.
One day, I rescued a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe toddler car (pictured below) from a trash heap, because it reminded me of the one we used to have as children. Inspired by a ghost bike I often walked by during my commute, I decided to paint it white. Whenever it is exhibited, the car is filled with the handmade Japanese maple leaves.
Like an untended ruin or cemetery plot, the amount of leaves will grow indefinitely as I continue making them over days, weeks, months, even years. They have already begun to overflow and fill the space around the car.
Like grief, the piece will be ever-changing and possibly never-ending.
“Like an untended ruin or cemetery plot, the amount of leaves will grow indefinitely over days, weeks, months, even years, filling up the interior of the car and overflowing to fill the space around it.”
As I was making these leaves by hand, many of my fellow grieving friends expressed interest in helping me make them. I began to invite others to join me in my mourning ritual, and share their stories with me. I enjoyed connecting with them and offering others a safe space to express and connect with their grief.
I now offer workshops and hold public interactive performances where participants can join in the meditative, healing process of making these leaves. Participants can choose to either keep their leaves, or release them to be kept safely in my care as part of Ghost Tike Part 2: A Collective Memorial. I am in the process of designing a structure that I will build to hold and display these leaves in public spaces, with the goal of bringing awareness to the fact that we are not alone in our grief, and normalizing open discussion and expressions of grief.
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