Artist Spotlight: Art from tragedy, grief

Starr Morgan holds a photo of her son Jayce next to her exhibit, "A Mother's Grief" at the Courtyard by Marriott.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Starr Morgan’s son was named Jayce.

He died when he was only 18 months old.

“He had the cutest personality,” Morgan remembered.

Morgan last saw her son alive on Aug. 19, 2013.

“When I got home from work, he was fine — laughing, playing. We had a dance party in our living room. It was a perfect day,” Morgan said.

While Jayce slept, an undiagnosed heart condition made itself known. When her husband went to wake their son in the morning, the family’s life changed forever.

“John picked him up and said, ‘Oh my God,’ and that’s when I instantly knew something was wrong,” Morgan said.

Facing an almost unimaginable grief, Morgan found comfort in her art.

“As I was painting, just the brush strokes, they were so soothing to me,” she said.

And she found she had a talent.

“What is interesting is I can’t paint anything worth sharing unless I’m in a Jayce mood. I have to be grieving and thinking about him,” she said.

At first, the images she painted were dark and set at night.

“He died at night. So I think that’s part of the symbolism with night,” Morgan said.

"A Mother's Grief" By Starr Morgan.
(“A Mother’s Grief” By Starr Morgan.)

Later, the paintings had more color. The most recent shows balloons being released into the sky outside the church on the day of Jayce’s funeral.

“As the year has moved on, it’s more of a happy time. I’m not crying while I’m painting anymore,” she said.

She entered her work in ArtPrize 2014, hoping to show others who have experienced loss that they are not alone, and that there are ways to cherish and grieve that lead beyond survival to growth.

“If you let tragedy completely ruin your life, then it’s really just tragedy,” Morgan said.

Morgan said people on Facebook have been asking her if her art is for sale. Many of them, she said, are people who have lost a child. She said she is considering selling to a few of them.

“It helps me to see Jayce’s legacy being continued,” she said.

Morgan’s collection of paintings, entitled “A Mother’s Grief,” is displayed at the Courtyard by Marriott on Monroe Avenue NW.

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