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'Loved and Lost Memorial Bench' construction on schedule

Christina Whiting

The creators of the Loved and Lost Memorial Bench gave a live, virtual tour of the project on Thursday, which is still in progress at the studio of Homer artist Brad Hughes.
    The bench will remember those who’ve been lost to abduction or murder. It was conceived by Sara Berg in the wake of the disappearance of her daughter, Anesha “Duffy” Murnane almost two years ago.
    Berg has been intimately involved in the design of the artwork.
    “Oh, this has been really very, very helpful. Before this bench got started we had a long winter of misery and then isolation with the Covid. And then we got going on this and it gave us some hope,” Berg said. “It gave us some focus.”
    The bench depicts men, women and children, and even one dog, grieving over the loss of loved ones.
    “We’re just getting to know them. They’re turning into real people and it’s really pretty exciting,” she said. “They’ve really evolved and they’re continuing to evolve, and I feel like naming them all.”
    The large model is sculpted out of 250 pounds of modeling clay, so it cannot be fired to preserve it. A fiberglass mold will be made from the clay sculpture, which will allow the bench to be recreated any number of times. Berg hopes to fund benches all around the state, because, she said, hundreds of other mothers in Alaska have lost a child, too.
    Hughes said the project has combined his passion for fine art with the aspect of working with a client.
    “I work with people by sitting down with them. And trying to get them to tell me what it is they’re trying to say. And then I draw and work with them and I come back and we have a dialog. Sara and I had one that lasted for weeks, because Sara is in a state I’ve never been in, and is suffering from something that I can’t even comprehend. So my original ideas were off the mark, and Sara and I were able to go through that,” Hughes said. “So to me, this is what I do for my professional living, and I do fine art when I can. It’s nothing unusual at all, except for the subject matter and the level of emotional authenticity about pain and suffering, loneliness and loss. I’ve never done anything that’s had this kind of tone before.”
    The Loved and Lost Memorial Bench will be placed outside the Homer Public Library when it is completed this fall. A community dedication has been postponed until next year due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

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