Date of Award

Spring 6-2015

Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Beverly Naidus

Second Advisor

Theodore Johnstone


Informed and inspired by the sudden passing of my uncle, Mourning Wave is a physical manifestation of my own experience with grief as it relates to the natural environment. My own personal grief opened the door to experiencing collective grief. Constructed as a wave-shaped altar composed of discarded plastic, Mourning Wave aims to highlight the role of oceanic plastic debris in relation to the damage being done to the environment by humans. The wave is painted black, a traditional color of mourning. Colorful discarded plastic lies within the crest of the wave. This debris was collected several times as a performative act. The photos that accompany the work document the wave’s journey and growth. Despite the large amount of literature dedicated to grief, loss, rituals, altars, and the natural environment as individual topics, an interdisciplinary synthesis of these subjects is both absent and urgently needed. Hence, the intent of this project and its accompanying research is to illuminate the ways in which rituals and altars can be used to enhance and transform our experiences with grief and loss, bringing new meaning to our lives. Upon viewing the altar, it is my hope that observers will discover and discuss their fears, thoughts, and concerns about the ecological crisis, while also inspiring them to work towards protecting the environment.

Keywords: Grief, loss, altars, rituals, plastic, and the environment.