Remarkable Presence

Remarkable Presence

On view July 12

Jen Urso, Remarkable Presence, 2021, multimedia installation of 20,000 printed and die-cut recycled paper, 45 pop-up suitcases: inkjet print on index cards, glue, marker, repurposed household shelves. Suitcase installation, 25 x 13 ft. Each suitcase: 3.875 x 3.125 x 1 in.

Remarkable Presence is an immersive art installation and AR experience that includes thousands of small, paper suitcases, representing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in Arizona.

As of July 2022, over 30,000 people in Arizona have died of COVID-19. They were people with family and friends, children, pets. People who mentored others and changed lives. They are gone, and all of their belongings and memories are left with the people involved in their lives.

During the COVID pandemic, Jen Urso’s own sister was dying of cancer. Urso began going through her belongings with her while she was still alive and then again after she died. There were objects, mementos, projects half-done and work from the past, tucked away in boxes and suitcases. All of these things she kept were now Urso’s to decide on what to keep, give to other friends, donate, recycle or put in the trash. They would become someone else’s things to go through again in the future. She imagined all of the things her sister owned and had ever created being packed tightly into a suitcase and then bursting out of it when opened.

Paper suitcase open at an angle

Arizona COVID death 4/27/20, Age 71

Honoring the Victims

As Arizona came to lead the world with the highest COVID-19 infection rate, over a hundred people were reported dead each day. For each one of those people, there was a family devastated, like Urso, who was faced with going through their loved-one’s belongings and making decisions.

Urso decided she needed to make something that represents and honors each one of these individuals. So, she began making a paper suitcase for every person in Arizona who has died of COVID. Some of these are pop-up suitcases that include information from over 450 obituaries related to COVID in Arizona.

The suitcases were initially installed at the Walter Art Gallery in Scottsdale but also in other satellite locations where Urso hosted public events to distribute the suitcases. The community was invited to receive a suitcase at these events with the agreement to emotionally tend to that person’s memory and belongings.

Urso hopes that these events and this work will be an opportunity for us to share in the grief we’ve experienced over the past year and a half. She hopes it will give people the chance to think or talk about the person they miss.


For more information about the Remarkable Presence project click here

About the Artist

Jen Urso is a multidisciplinary artist creating works that utilize public interventions, performance, drawing, mapping and technology to honor a sensitive approach to our environment and community that respects the unseen and unspoken. Her work typically takes place in the public via occupation, immersion and discovery.

Jen has exhibited and performed across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. In addition to creating work, Jen has curated exhibits, published reviews and writing, and runs her online content and strategy business Steady Glow Digital, which focuses on environmental sustainability in marketing.

Jen is a passionate runner, gardener, reader, thinker, questioner and mother. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art from Carnegie Mellon University. She lives and works in Phoenix, AZ.

To learn more about Jen Urso and her work click here. 

Urso will be speaking during the panel conversation for The Color of Care
screening, to find out more click here.