Joyce Burstein began the epitaph project in 1995 by securing a mortgage for a plot at Hollywood Forever, an historic cemetery in Los Angeles known for housing the remains of Rudolph Valentino and other silent film era stars.
The public artwork exists as a tombstone carved from slate like a chalkboard and is accompanied by a bronze box containing chalk. Passersby are invited to write an epitaph on the stone. Burstein collects these sometimes profound or irreverent compositions with a photograph.
The project has expanded to include two multi-media presentations, a website, an installation, and the present book, of more than 300 selections, featuring an essay by Peter Lamborn Wilson.
This ongoing project enlists the help of all spectators in a process of self-discovery about death and life, as one does not exist without the other.