The Grief Gallery




She Was Asian-American

The Grief Gallery presents She Was Asian-American, originally launched during NYCxDESIGN, New York City’s annual design festival, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2022.

This edition of The Grief Gallery features photographs, belongings and stories of Asian-American women, including curator Charlene Lam’s Chinese-American mother and other family members.

Young woman in suit jacket and dress, 1960s, seated in airport, nervously holding her purse and looking at the camera

Coming to America

This is my mom, coming to America from Hong Kong at the age of 15. She’s at the airport during a stopover in Canada, looking nervous and very ladylike.
It strikes me profoundly how my mom immigrated to America as a teenager in the early 1960s and became a proud Chinese-American New Yorker, navigating many journeys and balancing many identities.

A Long Journey

If my mother was still alive today, she would be 75 years old. If she was still alive today, living in NYC, I’d be worrying about her being pushed or punched on the street. 
That’s the unfortunate reality of many Asian Americans, especially those in certain areas like NYC. Still. This has been the case for the last couple of years. Grief can be multilayered and complex, and it’s odd to have this bittersweet feeling of being grateful that my mom is “safe” in this respect.

Soy Sauce bottle on gallery plinth
Soy Sauce bottle on gallery plinth

American Girl

Young Asian woman pictured with the 1964 World's Fair Unisphere in Queens, NY

My mom at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, NY with the Unisphere in the background.

Young Asian woman in dress standing next to Buick car 1960s

My mom’s after-school routine: Ironing with her siblings in the family’s Chinese laundry, NYC.

Young Asian woman in dress standing next to Buick car 1960s

My mom Marilyn next to the family Buick in Queens, NY, 1967.

Items I Found in My Mother’s House

Soy Sauce bottle on gallery plinth
Tomato pin cushion

The classic tomato pin cushion, possibly my grandma’s (my pau pau)

Red vintage travel bag in a gallery

Vintage travel bag, possibly belonged to my great aunt (my yee pau)

One of many Hello Kitty-related McDonald’s toys, definitely my mom’s

Soy Sauce bottle on gallery plinth


The Grief Gallery monthly gathering

Next gathering: Wednesday May 29th, 2pm ET (NYC) / 7pm UK time

Part of the Reimagine End of Life Event Calendar



The Grief Gallery in Toronto

Part of the DesignTO Festival in Toronto, Canada, January 2022

During Toronto’s annual design festival, The Grief Gallery welcomed visitors to acknowledge personal and collective losses through the contemplation and celebration of objects: the belongings of loved ones lost. 


Part of NYCxDESIGN, November 2021

An online exhibition exploring the role of the camera in processing grief and loss during New York City’s annual design festival. Three New York creatives who have lost loved ones share their photography-based projects.

The Grief Gallery: Commissions

Part of the London Design Festival and Shoreditch Design Triangle, September 2021

Visitors are invited to explore these universal themes through creative work commissioned in memory of loved ones.


Contribute to

The Grief Gallery’s Collection


What objects and belongings did you keep after a loved one died?

Contribute your selected object and stories to The Grief Gallery’s online collection (ongoing).


Why a Grief Gallery?

When my mom died 11 years ago, I was working as an independent curator in London. My pop-up exhibitions showcased the work of designers, makers and artists, under the names Creative Clerkenwell and The Creative Edit.

When it came time to pick out an urn for my mom’s ashes, I commissioned a custom porcelain urn from an East London ceramicist whose work I loved.

That was the start of my work as a Grief Curator. Over the years, I’ve commissioned illustrations, paper art and photoshoots in memory of my mom and others’ loved ones. I’ve presented exhibitions in London and Brooklyn about grief and loss.

Channeling my grief into creating and commissioning work from designers and makers has been an incredibly rewarding and healing experience.

After an extended period of grief and loss on many levels, I invite visitors to explore the universal themes of grief and loss through this creative lens. Out of darkness and pain, we can craft beauty and create meaning.

– Charlene Lam, Curator and Founder, The Grief Gallery


Why a grief gallery? Learn More

The Grief Gallery was founded by curator and grief coach Charlene Lam.

Interested in learning more about grief coaching? Get in touch to book a complimentary call.





Join us for The Grief Gallery's monthly grief gathering the last Wednesday of the month.

More grief events from Charlene and The Grief Gallery

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