Date of Award

Summer 8-27-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Van Aken, Sam


Appalachia, climate change, eco-anxiety, ecological grief, extinction, Kentucky

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts


This thesis considers the potential of grief and mourning to foster meaningful engagement with global ecological crises. I explore this potential through my own studio practice, positioning artworks and creative processes as vehicles for articulating collective experiences of loss, anxiety, and bereavement. To create these artworks, I draw from scientific knowledge, regional folkways, geologic history, and intergenerational experience with an emphasis on local culture. By forming sustained confrontations with the negative emotions of ecological destruction and loss, I advocate for the acceptance of grief as a reality of our time and as a possible means of imagining different ways of being in a permanently transformed world.


Open Access

Included in

Fine Arts Commons



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