‘Sad shorts’, how one Shreveport artist turned grief into art – Shreveport Times

September 16, 2011,  was just a normal Friday when Kathryn Usher lost her husband of 25 years to an opioid overdose. 

This day would shape every moment of the next 10 years for Usher. 

Now, she has turned her grief into artwork that honors the life of her husband.

“I hate that now when I tell my grief and widow story that it has to be tied into, he died of a drug overdose,” Usher said. “He was so much more than that last action he took.”

Usher has created a five-minute short film called “The Bears We Wrestle” that takes the viewer through the life of Charles Fontane who was not only a dad, a husband and a community member but a man to be remembered. 

The images within the film were taken by Usher and are on an animation loop of Fontane’s life in all the roles he played. 

“The Bears We Wrestle” also incorporates the personal bears Usher faced during her grieving time. Usher says was cyber harassed for eight years following her husband’s death and she uses art not only to display her grief but the world of cyber harassment. 

“It’s an interesting thing this technology and I think we’re still trying to figure out how to wrestle this bear,” Usher said.

Process of Art

Usher started performing in the arts in high school starting her creative career off in radio broadcasting. She would move her passions for the arts into blogging and filmmaking in the ’90s when jobs were eliminated in radio. 

“I had to make a living to support my family and so I had to look for other means. One way I did that was by working with the Shreveport Regionals Art Council and doing arts and education,” Usher explained.

She would go to classrooms and work with students and teachers to incorporate art whether it was visual art, writing or performing because filmmaking incorporates all those aspects. As time progressed and technology began to enhance Usher found herself in the world of blogging which subsequently lead her to filmmaking.

She began blogging after she saw the work of Robert Trudeau who would blog on the Shreveport art community. 

“I realized that blogging was something that I could do that was very low cost especially with a digital camera, so I created several blogs,” Usher said. 

These blogs would later inspire her short film. 

Art on display

Sunday, Sept. 19, Usher will debut an art installation on Texas Avenue celebrating the life of Fontane. Her new works are printed by image transfer onto ordinary white flour sack towels, the kind used in many homes for drying dishes. 

The outdoor installation is called “Sad Shorts” because for the first year of her widowhood Usher wore one pair of her husband’s brown cargo shorts. 

“I had a pair of my husband Charlie’s cargo shorts and I wore them every day for a year after he died and my daughter called them my sad shorts,” Usher said. “She said she kind of knew things were getting better when I was not wearing my sad shorts.”

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Kathryn has opted for an outdoor experience, so viewers can socially distance themselves as they walk or drive along with the half city block installation. 

The opening is from 2 PM – 4 PM Sunday, Sept. 19. The work is installed on top of Usher’s 2017 mural “Non-Binary” located at 864 Texas Avenue, directly across from Caddo Common Park. 

The images themselves are taken from the animation loops in her new film “The Bears We Wrestle”, which is a five-minute animated short. “The Bears We Wrestle” has yet to be released and Usher hopes to enter that film in the short film prize circuit.