Spring Hurlbut is committed to making contemplative work that speaks unsentimentally about the inevitable mortality that awaits us. Through site-specific architectural works, large-scale installations, video and photographic projects, she draws attention to the ephemeral nature of life, allowing for an open-ended reflection on loss.
In the mid-1980s Hurlbut began research into the origins of ancient Greek architectural ornament, resulting in a series titled Sacrificial Ornament. Inspired by classical moldings, Hurlbut replaced abstracted design elements that decorated capitals and friezes with organic forms such as cast bones, cast cow’s tongues and eggshells, disclosing the sources of classical motifs which originally referenced sacrificial rites.
In 1998 Hurlbut showed the haunting work, Le Jardin du Sommeil, a collection of over one hundred vintage and antique French children’s cribs and beds. The high infant mortality rate associated with the period of the beds’ manufacture underscores the precarious nature of life. This led to one of Hurlbut’s most memorable installations The Final Sleep/Le Dernier Sommeil 2001, an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum using white and transparent artefacts and specimens from different departments of the ROM’s collection. In this installation Hurlbut subverts the conventions of scientific and encyclopedic museological display by presenting an alternative interpretation. Her use of a monochromatic theme creates a non-hierarchical relationship between all the objects presented. All things are equal in repose.
In early 2000 Hurlbut received a portion of her father’s ashes from her mother. She decided to photograph his cremated remains, marking the beginning of the photographic series, Deuil (to mourn). Working with her father posthumously felt like she was in a conversation with him. This experience gave her some measure of solace. She continues to work with the ashes of individuals, both human and animal. She considers her photographs to be posthumous portraits that represent the transformation of the body. The ash works are made possible through the promised loans negotiated directly with living individuals who want to be memorialized, or the consent of the family members of the deceased.
Hurlbut has exhibited extensively nationally, as well as in New York, England, Mexico, France and Germany. Her work is in the collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery among others.
Spring Hurlbut is based in Toronto and is represented by Georgia Scherman Projects, Toronto.