They say all dogs go to heaven, and thanks to an artist
these abandoned shelter dogs’ ashes can live on as entire galaxies of stars.
Shannon Johnstone's art project seeks to honour animals that
have died with no-one to mourn their passing other than perhaps a few shelter
The artist, from North Carolina, USA, has developed a
beautiful series of works, which she calls "Stardust and Ashes". She
was motivated by the tragic impact of animal overpopulation.
The inspiration for her series and style came last year, on
Ash Wednesday, when Shannon created a constellation-like work using her
father's ashes – a fitting way to remember someone, she thought.
The 44-year-old from Raleigh says she couldn’t help thinking
about all the pets that go into shelters and never come back out.
"The humans they belonged to don’t mourn for them. They
die and it’s as if their existence didn’t matter.
"I longed to create something that might memorialise
them, something that might say, ‘I didn’t know you. But I am glad you were
here. And one day I will be ashes with you.’
"This is how Stardust and Ashes came about."
Thanks to her previous work with animal shelters in Carolina,
Shannon knew that some of them used crematoriums for disposing of euthanized
animals, rather than landfill.
Shannon says it takes between three and four hours to create
one work. Her works are printed on fabric rather than paper, and in order to
make the galaxy-like images, she uses her breath and fingers to manipulate the
ashes into place.
She’s made more than 70 works in her ongoing series, which
was started last summer.
The intention, Shannon says, is for people to initially
stop, stare and not realise what they’re looking at, before thinking harder
about the revealed subject matter.
"After learning what they’re looking at, I hope people
give their cats and dogs and loved ones a little extra love.
"If I dream bigger, I hope that after looking at this
work, people will go to their local animal shelter and ask to meet the animal
who’s been there the longest.”
For the past five years, Shannon has also worked on a
project called "Landfill Dogs," which features shelter dogs that have
been passed over and now face euthanasia.
Of the 192 dog she’s photographed as part of this project,
165 have found homes or been sent to rescue.
"I’ve been overwhelmed by the way people have
gravitated to this work and supported it.
"It feels brand-new for me, and premature to be sharing
since I’m still in the process of creating it.
"But at the same time, I wanted to invite others to
experience this with me, and perhaps mourn and celebrate life with me.
"So even though I made this work for myself, and to
heal my insides, I’m honoured and humbled that it’s touched others as well
despite the heavy nature of the topic."