LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — Creating energy through art is what Robin Lee Riddell wanted to do when she opened her gallery almost a decade ago. She draws inspiration from events in Laguna Beach and beyond.

Overcome with the amount of people dying from COVID, Riddell created an installation called "Shards: In Memoriam."

What You Need To Know

  • Dennis Bannister, a South Carolina resident, flew to Southern California after he learned about a COVID memorial that included his wife and daughter
  • Robin Lee Riddell, a ceramic artist and owner of Coastal Eddy a Gallery in Laguna Beach, created "Shards: In Memoriam"

  • Riddell was overcome with grief upon hearing about all the deaths caused from COVID-19 that she created an art installation to honor and remember the lives lost

“I thought of shards because it’s a great metaphor. They’re the broken pieces of our lives. It’s sharp. It’s painful,” said Riddell, during an interview in September 2021.

Riddell wrote down thousands of names of people who lost their lives to COVID. One of the names the artist wrote down during our first interview in September was Shirley Bannister. She didn’t know who Bannister was or what her life was like, except for the fact that she passed away due to the coronavirus.

Shirley was the chair of the department of the nursing department at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina. She earned her nursing degree at the college and returned later in life to teach. 

We also found Dennis Bannister, husband of 30 years to Shirley. The pair had one child, Demetria.

Demetria was an elementary school teacher who had a passion for singing and making a difference in her students’ lives. Both loved being educators.

Dennis was touched to learn his wife’s name was included in the memorial.

“Something touched me in my heart that made me want to come and visit this wonderful place and to meet the lady who brought the story to life,” Dennis Bannister said.

Four months after the interview, Dennis flew from South Carolina to Los Angeles. During the trip he drove up to Laguna Beach to Riddell’s gallery.

“When I saw this display, I had to come and see it for myself in person,” Bannister said. “Thank you for what you’ve done for me and so many other people. Thank you. That’s all I can say. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Before leaving, Bannister added yet another name, his mother-in-law, Luthor Cook, beside the two loves of his life.

Riddell started the memorial when the country reached a hundred thousand deaths. Today, there are more than eight hundred and sixty thousand lives lost.

“The fact that Dennis was so moved, moved me. I don’t even know if I can express it,” Riddell said.

"Shards: In Memoriam" draws a painful energy, but Riddell hopes survivors like Bannister will see the beauty in its remembrance.

For more information on the gallery, click here.