Boxes to Die For

Written by Chelsea Van Voorhis on .

Boxes to Die For, now showing in the Messler Gallery, is an exhibition of artist-made urns and coffins curated by Jennifer Anderson, from San Diego, CA, and Graeme Priddle, from Asheville, NC. Below are stories behind some the pieces, told in the makers’ own words. To see the entire exhibition, please visit





“Egrets, I’ve Had a Few” by John Van der Kolk

The collector who purchased “Egrets, I’ve Had a Few” wrote; “I love the lighthearted take on death as a journey, and the sense of adventure as the egret spirits embark on their next adventure; the egrets are focused, keenly interested in what’s over the horizon. All (but one) seem calmly knowing, like they’ve made the trip. The companions are reassuring, with the message of “don’t worry, we’re in this together,” which is, of course, true for all who live and ultimately die.”




boxestodiefor3“Art Box Casket” by Tim Wigmore.

“These panels (created by friends and family) are designed as wall-hung artworks to enjoy throughout my life, reminding me of my mortality and inspiring me to be present. When the time comes for my funeral ceremony, the panels can be assembled and locked together on a stretcher-type base to form my casket. Rather than bury these art pieces with me, the casket panels will be demounted and dispersed among my friends and family. I intend the panels to be heirlooms.”  


boxestodiefor4“Untitled” by Chance Coalter

“We have no control over the inevitability of death, all we can do is enjoy the life we have, striving to be vivacious as we grow older, and to foster vitality in the world around us.”



boxestodiefor6“The Cocoon” by Elizabeth Spotswood Spencer

“The Cocoon is a visual appreciation of transformation, life, death, and the refuge of change.”


boxestodiefor7“Gerry and Pearl” by Douglas Finkle

“This urn was designed for my Uncle Gerry and Aunt Pearl, who never stopped learning. The urn’s reference to a geological classroom globe is an attempt to capture at least some of their essence. I don’t know that it reflects, for example, my Uncle Gerry’s unique sense of humor or my Aunt Pearl’s nurturing kitchen, but I am confident that it is a memorial that speaks to their passions.”


boxestodiefor8“Simple New England Pine Coffin” by Mason McBrien

“Made entirely by hand, I use period authentic hand tools and traditional methods. There is a gentle, unhurried serenity found in craftsmanship with hand tools. This lends itself to the almost spiritual nature of this object.”


boxestodiefor9“I’m Not Worth Dying For” by Curt Theobald

“Most of us have lost someone dear to us. The impact of a person’s life is not only measured by their years on earth but more importantly, by the lives they have touched and the memories and influence they leave behind.”


boxestodiefor10“Abebuam Adekai (Boxes of Proverbs), Cocoa Pod, 2018” by Eric Adjetey Anang

“My art is inspired by abebuam adekai, the designed, personalized coffins that were first created in the '50s by my grandfather, Seth Kane Kwei. It consists of designing and building wood coffins that celebrate the life of the deceased by reflecting key aspects of it: a coffin in the shape of a fish or a boat for a fisherman, a wooden hand plane or hammer for a carpenter, a gun for a soldier, a bible for a pastor.”


boxestodiefor11Pictured on the left “In Memory of a Friend” by Graeme Priddle

“I found these two cigar boxes recently at a junk shop, they were his two favorite brands. These boxes are now full of memories of times we spent together and a small urn to hold ashes, a little of mine will go in there someday so a part of us will always be together.”