Exhibition: This is How We Remember

Left, Kept and Created

Part of NYCxDESIGN Design Days 2021

The belongings of loved ones lost are captured in a series of illustrations by Brooklyn-based painter and designer Yeesan Loh commissioned by curator Charlene Lam of The Grief Gallery.


Her Favorite Purses

Blue clutch from Virginia’s mother Chicha.
Yellow crossbody bag from Charlene’s mother Marilyn.
Brown satchel from Linda’s grandmother Rosiné.



The Purse owned by Rosiné, Linda’s grandmother

“My grandmother was a brave woman. This purse represents so much of her and her survival skills. Her purse is no longer [just] a purse. It traveled from Estonia to German displaced persons (DP) camps to Ellis Island. It’s everything she did and experienced to get her children to America.”

Virginia’s Mom, Chicha

“No memory of my mom could be without her collection of jewelry and handbags, and the special song she had just for me. I learned beauty and elegance from my Mom. … In some, elegance might seem frivolous and weak, yet my Mom Chicha was an elegant, strong and courageous person.”

Read more from Virginia about her mama Chicha


Their Projects in Progress

The model glider Helen’s father was restoring.

100 days of jokes in the mail from Craig’s mother Lenore to her grandkids.

Sculpting tools left by Vic’s father.



Glider from Helen’s Dad

“My Dad Paul was a glider pilot in his spare time. I spent many weekends at the gliding club, going up in the air and reveling in the silence that engineless flight brings. This model glider was given to him to restore by a friend just before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He started the process but sadly wasn’t able to finish it. After he died, his friend took it back and finished the restoration. It now has pride of place on the wall of his house and serves as a reminder of the joy he experienced from gliding.”

– Helen

Letters from Craig’s Mom

“For the first 100 days of quarantine, my mother would send both of my kids a letter. Each letter was handwritten and contained one joke. She’d take a sticky note and place it over the punchline so the kids had a little more mystery. She was being treated for cancer at the time …”

Read more from Craig about his mom Lenore


His Collection of Pens

Pens that belonged to the artist’s father.

“I chose to keep my dad’s pens because that was something he used on a daily basis. I have always had a love for writing myself, so they feel like appropriate objects to remember him by …. like an extension of him.

I’d like my dad to remembered by those who had the honor of having known him as one of the kindest and most generous persons. Aside from his wonderful sense of humor and intelligence, he was also an OG feminist who strongly supported women’s autonomy and independence.”

– Yeesan Loh




Their Cooking Tools

Pans and pots, serving spoons and spatulas, plates and platters. Memories of meals made and shared.

“I kept my dad’s beloved Laguiole, a knife manufactured in his birth region in France. This knife followed him everywhere and it was in his hand all the time.

My dad was an epicurean, a man who lived life fully. A man for whom sharing great food and delicious wine over dinner with friends and family was pure happiness.”

– Claire




Things They Wore

Glasses and Gloves. Lipsticks and Lockets.
Ruffly hats and faux fur hats from beloved aunts.
Hats and belts, shirts and jackets
, and so much more.




Stories from Visitors

Tia’s Nana’s Locket

“She left me her jewellery and my favourite piece is her locket. I can remember her wearing it when I was a toddler and she told me that I was so fascinated with it that I once bit it. The dent of the tooth mark can still be seen. I always struggled to get it open but I knew she kept a photo of me in one side and the other side was empty with a slip of slightly gaudy 70s paper.

She was from the Isle of Skye [in the UK] and always called me her “wee lamb chop”. She looked after me during summer holidays because my mum had to work. She couldn’t handle my mixed raced hair so one day she took me to her blue rinse salon and had it all chopped off. Mum was furious but I thought it was funny. I loved my Nana very much.”

– Tia about her Nana

Have your own objects and stories to share for the virtual gallery? Submit them for consideration


About the Exhibition

After a year of great loss, New Yorkers and NYCxDESIGN Design Day visitors were invited to explore the themes of grief and memory through the contemplation and celebration of objects, the ones left by the people we’ve lost and kept by those of us left behind.

For the exhibition, the belongings of loved ones lost were captured in a series of commissioned illustrations by international and NYC designers. Brooklyn-based painter and designer Yeesan Loh presents a new series of illustrations, created in collaboration with Grief Grit Grace.

This exhibition builds on a series of illustrations I commissioned in memory of my mother after she died. When is a pen no longer just a pen? When it belonged to a loved one. When there is meaning attached to it.

We choose specific objects to keep from the people we’ve lost because of the meaning and memories we associate with them. Objects become artifacts. Belongings become starting points for stories.

By commissioning artists and designers to illustrate specific objects, we create a level of abstraction that helps connect personal meaning with the universal experience of loss.

Visitors are also invited to contribute their own objects and stories to the virtual gallery.

The original watercolor paintings were exhibited in Brooklyn, NY at the IC Store by WantedDesign at Industry City in May 2021.

– Curator Charlene C Lam

Illustrator Yeesan Loh and curator Charlene Lam at the pop-up exhibition in Brooklyn, NY at the IC Store by WantedDesign

This exhibition was part of NYCxDESIGN Design Days. In May 2021, in lieu of its annual design festival, NYCxDESIGN presented a series of Design Days taking place May 13–18, showcasing New York City’s talented design community.


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