Artist Confronts Grief in Innovative Exhibition

  • October 17, 2022


Date: October 17, 2022
Contact: Peter Bruun - - 410-916-3752

Artist Confronts Grief in Innovative Art Exhibition

DAMARISCOTTA, Maine – In a state-of-the-art online exhibition, Damariscotta artist Peter Bruun combines art, writing, and music to share his journey from the overdose death of his daughter through his search for healing. He hopes the exhibition can help those struggling with grief or loss of their own.

The project – named Bibliography and now available on his studio platform, – was a long time coming.

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

On a sunny February morning in 2014 Bruun, then living in Maryland, got the call every parent dreads: His 24-year-old daughter Elisif, 3 months sober and seemingly thriving in a supportive wellness community, had relapsed, overdosed and died.

In the shock and pain that followed, he turned to art activism.

Within a year Bruun founded The New Day Campaign, an initiative using art and public engagement to challenge stigma and discrimination associated with substance use and mental illness. The Campaign kicked off in 2015 by presenting 16 art exhibitions and 63 events over 3 months, reaching thousands in Baltimore. For the next few years, he delivered programs throughout Maryland, bringing advocacy, public education, and healing to dozens of communities.

The impact of his far-reaching efforts was recognized by Michael Bloomberg at the inaugural Bloomberg Public Health summit in 2018, where Bruun was one of 10 activists in the nation honored as an innovator in the field of addiction.

Using Art to Heal

Bruun also made art for his own healing after his daughter’s death.

After that fateful call in 2014 he immediately had visions of paintings he knew he had to make. When he moved to Maine five years later, he was finally able to return to his own art practice after years of serving the public.

Bruun read constantly in his new solitude, turning to literature for wisdom and solace. After a flash of connection and inspiration, he made a drawing incorporating a passage of text that for him profoundly resonated with his situation of loss. He continued the practice of making drawings from evocative writing for the next several years.

A New Kind of Exhibition

Bibliography centers on nine of those drawings, each the focus of its own “chapter” in the exhibition, which is arranged to tell the story of the past eight years – that of a father trying to survive unimaginable loss. Each chapter moves from drawing to writing to a video montage (a close-up “tour” of the art set to music created by collaborators he invited to respond to the work).

This layered collaboration of artists is one thing that makes Bibliography unique. Another innovation is the depth it offers: rather than simply showing the art as a gallery visit would, this exhibition moves the viewer in a narrative arc with art, writing, video and music. It is a multimedia experience that unfolds in ways which would be challenging (if not impossible) to do in a conventional gallery setting.

Bruun says the project has brought him catharsis.

“Making Bibliography delivered release and relief. In confronting the grief, pain, and confusion that haunted me, I got myself free of their disabling grip. I can bear my sorrow now, and joy is no longer elusive.”

Others’ words helped Bruun heal, and he hopes visitors may get something similar from what he is offering. Early responses to Bibliography suggest they will.

One viewer marveled that it was “so personal and yet so enmeshed in the broader experience of living and all that means.” Another noted that the exhibition gave her “beautiful and true emotions and memories that I will carry with me.” And an industry expert declared, Bibliography is inspiring. If there are others doing what Bruun is doing, I don't really know about them.”

Bruun is grateful for the exhibition’s positive reception, though it was the making of the work that sustained him during hard days.

“I felt isolated for so long; grief and loss are not things people want to talk about. But when I saw what I was going through echoed in others’ writing, I felt connected to a wider human experience. That helped me out of a dark tunnel, and it’s what I hope to offer others here.”

Bibliography is a reminder that no matter how isolated we feel, connection with art (and each other) can sustain us, wherever we are in the world.


To visit the exhibition, go to:


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Peter Bruun

79 Abbie Lane
Damariscotta  ME  04543