The first book from Raleigh gallery Artsuite, SAVED: Objects of the Dead pairs images by Jody Servon with prose poems by Lorene Delany-Ullman.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre
For many, February is a time to shower our loved ones with sweets and flowers. But for others, it can invite reflection on those who are no longer with us. The book SAVED: Objects of the Dead opens up just this sort of dialogue. It’s the first publication by Artsuite, the Raleigh-based gallery platform founded by Marjorie Hodges and Allen Thomas in 2020. “We are always exploring creative ways to con- nect people to meaningful art,” says Hodges. “One of those ways is through beautiful and accessible art books.”
Published last month, SAVED features images of cherished items that belonged to late loved ones — from a teacup to a pinecone to a camera — taken by North Carolina photographer Jody Servon. Servon, who is also a professor at Appalachian State University, has shown some of this work in more than 25 exhibitions and various literary journals. Each photograph is paired with a prose poem by Lorene Delany-Ullman, a California-based poet. The two started this project in the late 2000s, after each lost their father.
Thomas connected with the duo more than a decade ago as Servon and Delany-Ullman were collecting artifacts for their project. “Jody had read an article in which I spoke about how my mother died when I was young, and my best friend died at 22,” Thomas says.
“We agreed that photography can become a way to freeze time.” Servon photographed a ring that Thomas had saved after his mother passed — “a big blue moonstone that’s very special to me” — and Delany-Ullman interviewed him. The ensuing poem and photograph were so special that he bought prints for himself and his relatives to hang in their homes; they are also in the book. “I didn’t realize they would include my mom’s ring, but it makes me so happy to see it,” says Thomas.
SAVED features essays by Cora Fisher, Sonya Clark, Alex Espinoza, Erika Hayasaki, Swati Khurana and Leslie Gray Streeter, all notable writers on the subjects of grief. “As the writing came in, we realized, wow, these people get it. It’s not about death, but about how objects carry memories, and how we can honor them,” says Thomas.
Thomas and Hodges hope that SAVED can be an inspiration for readers who have lost loved ones. “The human experience of life, death and memory is challenging,” says Hodges. “We hope this book will offer comfort to all of us who have experienced grieving.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.