“Gone & For Ever” urns on display this spring | The Triangle
Arts & Entertainment

“Gone & For Ever” urns on display this spring

The Clay Studio’s upcoming exhibition “Gone & For Ever” opens on April 29 and will showcase nine two-foot-tall ceramic funerary urns created by artist Alex Stadler. Here is what you should know about the incredible story behind this must-see exhibition. 

While the urns are impressive works of ceramic art on their own, together they tell the story of a broader act of remembrance accomplished through performance art and archival work. The ceremonial performance “Gone and For Ever” was the culmination of a massive multi-disciplinary project undertaken by Alex Stadler in conjunction with the William Way LGBTQ Community Center in Philadelphia. The project itself, entitled “Remembrance,” began as an archival effort to document the history, legacy and stories of Philadelphians during the time of the HIV/AIDS crisis. In the process of conducting recorded interviews with those who lived and fought through the crisis, one story, in particular, struck the archival team at William Way and Alex Stadler inspiring the archival project’s expansion. An interviewee, one of the few funeral directors during the crisis who was willing to tend to the bodies of AIDS victims, shared that his funeral parlor still housed many cremated remains that had been unclaimed by the victim’s family members or loved ones. The William Way archival team, and Stadler, knew they had to do something to memorialize these forgotten victims.

In an interview discussing the performance, Alex Stadler spoke to The Clay Studio’s curator, Jennifer Zwilling, saying, “I thought, well we can solve the problem of these unclaimed people and we can [also] solve the problem of these unclaimed memories because that’s unfinished business. Really, societally we still have not dealt with the way that we turned our back on these people and showed a profound absence of compassion.” And so, the initial archival undertaking became a much broader artistic project with the goal of remembering those lost to the AIDS crisis, many of whom were never properly memorialized. 

After receiving grant funding from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, “Remembrance” was presented to the public in May and June of 2022 at the William Way Center. The series included exhibitions of archival and interview materials, a theatrical production, listening sessions and the ceremonial procession. The series concluded with Stadler’s performance “Gone & For Ever” which began outside the William Way LGBTQ Community Center. The ceremony consisted of music, performances and readings of poetry written by authors who died during the AIDS crisis. The urns — containing symbolic ashes of burnt paper with the names of the unclaimed deceased, as well as names of other passed loved ones collected by Stadler via online submissions — were then carried in procession from the William Way Center to The Church of Saint Luke and the Epiphany where the urns were blessed by multi-denominational faith leaders. The procession also included; Handmade ceremonial shrouds by textile artist and sculptor Liz Collins, a musical piece composed by Kinan Abou-afach and original costuming by Claire Fleury and The Henry. 

The urns — which will be the centerpiece of The Clay Studio’s exhibition — are a reflection of Stadler’s graphic style seen in his other ceramic and illustrative works. Inspired by the work of Matisse and Betty Woodman, Stader wanted to play with the three-dimensionality of two-dimensional shapes. In his interview, he describes that the goal for the urns was to create, “an almost brutalist or Mayan-level of visual and physical gravity, and at the same time a winged quality that presented the idea of something open to the sky.” 

The nine ceramic urns will be exhibited at The Clay Studio alongside a documentary film of the project. “Gone & For Ever” will open at The Clay Studio on April 29 in their Jill Bonovitz Gallery accompanied by the exhibition “Pride Pots: Community Conversations. The exhibition promises to re-cap the “Remembrance” project and the “Gone & Forgotten” performance to further memorialize victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, their families and the artists who dedicated their talents to the cause. 

To learn more about the exhibition at The Clay Studio, visit:


Or visit the William Way LGBTQ Community Center’s web page detailing the project